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4619.0 - Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments, Preliminary, 2008-09  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 22/12/2009  First Issue
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Burdekin NRM region

The Burdekin NRM spans 5 catchments and covers 14.1 million hectares of which 12.2 million is used mainly for agricultural production. Townsville is the major urban centre in the region, with several other large towns along the coast. The coastal strip also features significant levels of sugar cane production, some beef cattle grazing and horticulture activity. Inland, towards the Great Dividing Range, most of the land area is used for beef cattle grazing.


LAND USED MAINLY FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION, By Burdekin NRM region - 2008-09
AGRICULTURAL LAND USE AND SELECTED PRACTICES
Total Catchment area
Holdings in the catchment
Land used mainly for agricultural production
Land area over which herbicides were used
(a)
Fertiliser applied
Maintained at least 40% ground cover in riparian areas
Ha.
Number
Ha.
Ha.
Tonnes
Percent

Black River
105,684
36
21,414
1,143
825
26.4
Ross River
135,233
43
50,226
815
8
10.4
Haughton River
436,313
481
320,683
56,476
148,732
25.0
Burdekin River
13,046,134
932
11,546,982
101,690
43,153
29.0
Don River
358,125
212
297,742
7,013
8,521
23.4
Total Burdekin NRM
14,081,488
1,704
12,237,047
167,137
201,238
26.6

Source: Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments, Preliminary, 2008-09 (cat. no. 4619.0).
(a) Does not include any area that had herbicide applied using spot spraying.



The Burdekin NRM region is made up of the Black river, Ross river, Haughton river, Burdekin river and the Don river catchments and covers an area of approximately 14.1 Million hectares.

Black River catchment

The Black River catchment is a small catchment just north of Townsville. Land used mainly for agricultural production covers a relatively small proportion of the land area (20%), with only 36 agricultural holdings identified in the catchment. Beef cattle grazing was the primary agricultural activity. The total area grazed was 19,742 hectares, of which 2,625 hectares was grazing on improved pastures. There is a small amount of horticultural activity in this catchment.

Around two thirds (67%) of holdings reported the use of controls other than chemical or mechanical for controlling weeds, pests and diseases, the highest rate of any catchment in the survey. Examples of other controls include biological, break cropping and crop or breed variety selection.

Ross River catchment

The Ross River catchment is a small catchment, with a significant proportion covered by the city of Townsville. Land used mainly for agricultural production makes up 37% of the catchment, with 43 agricultural holdings, almost all of which grazed beef cattle.

Cattle were grazed over 49,726 hectares with only a small amount, (9,968 hectares) being improved pastures. Most holdings had no rivers or creeks and consequently reported low prevalence for riparian management practices.

Haughton River catchment

The Haughton River catchment lies immediately south and east of the Townsville urban area. Land used mainly for agricultural production makes up 74% of the catchment, with sugar cane growing and beef cattle grazing the dominant activities, though both horticulture and broadacre cropping are also present in significant quantities.

Very high rates of surface water run-off management practices were reported, with 85% of holdings undertaking at least one practice to manage surface water run-off. In particular, the proportion of holdings reporting using furrow management to manage surface water run-off (59%) was much higher than in any other catchment in the survey.

A total of 148,732 tonnes of fertiliser was applied in the catchment, with mill mud/ash (98,681 tonnes) and chemical fertiliser (26,219 tonnes) being the most commonly used. Of all the catchments in the survey, only Plane Creek ( in the Mackay Whitsunday NRM) reported a larger total quantity of fertiliser usage.

Nearly two thirds (65%) of holdings reported the use of controls other than chemical or mechanical for controlling weeds, pests and diseases, one of the highest rates of any catchment in the survey. Examples of other controls include biological, break cropping and crop or breed variety selection.

Of the holdings growing sugar cane in the 28 catchments, the Haughton River catchment, together with the adjacent Burdekin river catchment, were the only catchments to report significant rates of hot burning for trash management, with 66% of holdings in the Haughton River catchment reporting this practice. A total of 38,107 hectares was hot burned in this catchment, whereas most of the other cane growing catchments reported hot burning over areas that were less than 2,000 hectares.

Burdekin River catchment

The Burdekin River catchment covers over 13 million hectares and is the second largest catchment draining into the Great Barrier Reef after the Fitzroy catchment. The Burdekin river is one of Australia's largest rivers as measured by volume of flow. Its source is in the Seaview and Gorge Ranges and it discharges into the ocean at Ayr. Land used mainly for agricultural production makes up 89% of the catchment. Sugar cane growing and beef cattle grazing are the most common agricultural activities, with some broadacre cropping also present.

Considering the area of the catchment and the number of holdings reporting sugar cane production, fertiliser application was relatively low. In particular, less mill mud/ash (14,700 tonnes) and chemical fertiliser (12,086 tonnes) were used when compared to catchments with similar amounts of cane growing activity. The use of animal manure (12,100 tonnes), was more common than in other catchments.

The Burdekin River catchment, and the adjacent Haughton river catchment, were the only catchments in the survey to report significant rates of hot burning for trash management. A total of 15,716 hectares was hot burned in this catchment, with 63% of holdings growing sugar reporting hot burning of trash.

In this catchment 35% of holdings carrying beef cattle actively controlled stock access to riparian areas.

Don River catchment

The Don River catchment is the southern most catchment in the Burdekin NRM. Bowen which sits at the mouth of the Don River, is the largest population centre in the catchment. Land used mainly for agricultural production covers 83% of the catchment. Horticulture and beef cattle grazing are the main activities. The area sown for vegetables (4,880 hectares) is the largest area of all survey catchments.

In this catchment 58% of holdings reporting horticultural activity used alternate or cover crops, 40% reported having wheel spacing matching row spacing for all equipment, and 32% reported using permanent traffic lanes.

Just over half (51%) of the holdings in the catchment reported grazing cattle. The total area grazed was 286,967 hectares with grazing on 55,250 hectares of improved pastures.

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