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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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Environment

ARTICLE – LAND MANAGEMENT PRACTICES IN THE GREAT BARRIER REEF CATCHMENT AREA

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most significant natural assets. It makes a major contribution to Australia's social, economic and environmental wellbeing.

To support the sustainable management of the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Government is working with land managers in the catchments that discharge into the reef in order to increase the adoption of management practices that will improve water quality. The primary purpose of the 2008–09 Survey of Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments was to provide benchmark data on these practices for each of the 28 river catchments draining into the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).

This information is one component in the evidence framework used to assess progress towards long-term improvement in reef condition. It complements other information on land management practices collected from industry, research organisations and regional bodies, along with biophysical data on water quality.

The Survey of Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments is the third ABS survey to collect information using a spatial, land-based area frame.

In the methodology underpinning the survey, the unit surveyed is a physical land holding that has been aggregated from land parcels under common ownership or management within an individual catchment. The usual approach used in ABS surveys of agricultural or natural resource management practices is to collect information directly from agricultural businesses and attribute the information collected to a specific area.

The advantage of this methodology is that it can be used as a spatial building block, with the land-based area frame and methodology used to integrate other information related to that piece of land. It also supports a diversity of spatial outputs, allowing the data to be presented in different ways.

The survey collected information from the land owner and/or manager of the holding on a range of land management practices applied to agricultural land. These were: soil testing for nutrients, fertiliser use, chemical use (including weed, pest and disease control), riparian management, surface water management and irrigation water management. Information was also collected on practices specific to particular agricultural activities.


LAND IN THE GREAT BARRIER REEF CATCHMENTS

The 28 catchments draining into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon (the body of water between the coastline and the reef) cover a total land area of over 38 million hectares across five Natural Resource Management (NRM) Regions. The land area covered stretches from the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area in the north to the Sunshine Coast in the south. Of this area, approximately 28.5 million hectares has been included in this survey, covering land used mainly for agricultural production by holdings with a predominant activity of sugar cane, horticulture, broadacre cropping or beef cattle grazing.

The outputs by land size were produced to test the hypothesis that land owners and managers had a different take-up rate of land management practices depending on the size of the holding.

The outputs by sub catchment have been produced to demonstrate to users of these data that it is possible to produce data at a relatively fine geographic level.


LAND FOR CROPS

Of the 17,104 holdings in the 28 GBR catchments, there were 8,264 holdings reporting that they had land that was mainly used for crops. This included land used for sugar cane, grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, cotton, grapevines and nurseries. It also included holdings with land that was left fallow between crops.

The area of land used for crops was categorised into three size groupings: small (less than 50 hectares, 3,574 holdings), medium (50 to 150 hectares, 2,987 holdings) and large (greater than 150 hectares, 1,703 holdings).

The survey results show that holdings of different sizes differed in take-up of a given land management practice. Generally, larger holdings were more likely to adopt a given land management practice than smaller holdings.

When planting and applying chemicals, 59% of the large holdings avoided this activity in periods of high rainfall risk or irrigation schedule. Only 28% of the small holdings and 36% of medium-sized holdings with cropping land avoided this activity during such periods. Proportionally more of the larger holdings (39%) changed their farm layout to industry best practice to avoid ‘off-farm’ chemical loss than the small and medium sized holdings (20% and 36% respectively).

Over half (52%) of the large holdings used contour banks, diversion banks or constructed waterways to manage surface water run-off. Less than a third (30%) of the small holdings and 39% of the medium-sized holdings undertook this practice.

Using mechanical cultivation as an alternative control method for controlling weeds, pests or diseases was a practice undertaken by 70% of the large holdings, 67% of the medium-sized holdings and 42% of the small-sized holdings. Proportionally more of the larger holdings (43%) rotated their chemical groups to avoid resistance than the medium and small holdings (29% and 26% respectively). Similarly, a higher proportion of the large holdings (37%) varied the selection of their crops or breeds as an alternative control method for controlling weeds, pests or diseases than the medium and small holdings (26% and 17% respectively).

Although relatively small in number, 3% (111) of small holdings used the National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic produce compared to 2% (63) of the medium-sized holdings and 2% (34) of the large-sized holdings.

Table S2.1 provides additional data relating to land used for crops.


S2.1 HOLDINGS IN THE GREAT BARRIER REEF CATCHMENT USING LAND FOR CROPS(a)

Holdings with land area used for crops

Less than 50 ha
50–150 ha
150 ha or more
Total

Number of holdings
no.
3 574
2 987
1 703
8 264
Surface water run-off management practices
Recycling pits or sediment dams
%
11.5
27.8
36.3
22.5
Furrow management(b)
%
18.4
23.0
27.8
22.0
Grassed or rubble spoon drains
%
27.9
39.6
41.2
34.9
Contour banks, diversion banks or constructed waterways
%
29.7
38.7
52.3
37.6
Maintained at least 40% ground cover in riparian areas and/or constructed waterways
%
31.8
34.7
39.9
34.5
Ensured at least 40% ground cover remained on paddocks at the end of the 2008 dry season
%
40.1
38.7
44.9
40.6
Other water run-off practices
%
12.9
13.3
17.7
14.0
Water run-off practices not required on the holding
%
14.0
9.1
2.4
9.8
Holdings not responding to this question
%
7.2
7.4
4.7
6.8

(a) Including sugar cane, grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, cotton, grapevines and nurseries.
(b) Including banking ends, ripping and modifying furrow shapes.

Source:
Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments, Experimental Estimates, 2008–09 (4619.0.55.002).


LAND FOR GRAZING

Of the 17,104 holdings in the 28 GBR catchments, there were 12,878 holdings reporting that they had land that was used for grazing (table S2.2). This comprised land used for grazing on improved pastures as well as grazing on other land. The other land included natural pastures and grasslands, rangelands, woodland and shrubland, forested areas, riparian areas and swamps and wetlands.

The area of land used for grazing was categorised into three size groupings: small (less than 200 hectares, 6,641 holdings), medium (200 to 2,000 hectares, 3,921 holdings) and large (greater than 2,000 hectares, 2,316 holdings).

The survey results show that holdings with different areas of grazing land did not demonstrate appreciable differences in the take-up of specific land management practices. Moderate differences were apparent for some specific practices.

There were proportionally more holdings of small sizes (12%) using recycling pits or sediment dams to manage surface water run-off than medium-sized holdings (11%) or large holdings (8%). Having grassed or rubble spoon drains to manage surface water run-off was utilised by 16% of small holdings, 8% of medium-sized holdings and 6% of large holdings.

Nearly 60% of large holdings ensured that they had at least a 40% ground cover remaining on their paddocks at the end of the 2008 dry season. By way of comparison, 42% of small holdings and 48% of medium sized holdings had at least a 40% ground cover remaining.


S2.2 HOLDINGS IN THE GREAT BARRIER REEF CATCHMENT USING LAND FOR GRAZING(a)

Holdings with land area used for grazing

Less than 200 ha
200–2000 ha
2000 ha or more
Total

Number of holdings
no.
6 641
3 921
2 316
12 878
Riparian management practices
Actively controlled stock access to riparian areas
%
25.8
20.8
30.7
25.2
Riparian areas fully fenced off and alternative water points established
%
14.1
12.5
16.8
14.1
Cattle ramps constructed into creek and river banks to minimise damage
%
4.1
3.7
3.9
3.9
No rivers or creeks on the holding
%
20.7
11.8
8.5
15.8
Did not have any of the identified management practices
%
47.9
61.8
56.4
53.7

(a) Comprises grazing on improved pastures and grazing on other land (including natural pastures/grasslands, rangelands, woodland/shrubland, forested areas, riparian areas and swampland/wetland).

Source:
Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments, Experimental Estimates, 2008–09 (4619.0.55.002).


HOLDINGS IN THE FOUR BURNETT RIVER SUB CATCHMENTS

Table S2.3 shows key findings for the four Burnett River sub catchments. The Burnett River catchment was used to demonstrate the versatility of using a physical land holding (the cadastral parcel) in the survey development. Because any holding selected in the survey could be assigned to one of the four sub catchments, data for the four sub catchments could be produced, even though the original sample was not designed to produce data at the sub catchment level.

There were 3,587 holdings in the Burnett River catchment. Of these, 1,067 holdings were located in the Barker and Barambah Creeks sub catchment, 806 holdings in the Boyne and Auburn Rivers sub catchment, 1,191 holdings in the Lower Burnett River sub catchment and 523 holdings in the Upper Burnett River sub catchment.


S2.3 HOLDINGS IN THE FOUR SUB CATCHMENTS WITHIN THE BURNETT RIVER CATCHMENT

Barker and Barambah Creeks sub catchment
Boyne and Auburn Rivers sub catchment
Lower Burnett River sub catchment
Upper Burnett River sub catchment
Total holdings in the catchment

Number of holdings
All holdings
no.
1 067
806
1 191
523
3 587
Holdings growing Sugar cane
no.
. .
. .
258
. .
258
Holdings undertaking Horticulture
no.
75
50
225
1
351
Holdings with Broadacre crops
no.
359
182
162
120
823
Holdings with Beef cattle
no.
960
745
874
485
3 064
Use of alternative control methods for weeds, pests or diseases – chemical
Rotated chemical groups to avoid resistance
%
8.5
14.1
20.3
17.1
14.9
Used chemicals the holding considered to be more environmentally friendly
%
17.3
21.8
22.0
22.9
20.7
Use of alternative control methods for weeds, pests or diseases – mechanical
Cultivation
%
30.0
22.6
31.7
29.7
28.8
Slashing
%
47.1
33.4
48.4
29.8
41.9
Mulching or matting
%
16.8
10.8
17.2
14.8
15.3
Use of alternative control methods for weeds, pests or diseases – other
Biological controls (a)
%
3.3
5.2
7.2
2.9
5.0
Practising good farm hygiene
%
29.2
29.1
35.4
46.5
33.8
Variety (crop or breed) selection
%
15.9
9.9
10.6
10.9
12.0
Break cropping
%
5.6
6.4
13.8
11.9
9.4
Controlled burning
%
16.8
14.8
21.8
29.4
19.8
Used NSOBP(b)
%
1.1
0.3
1.0
0.8
0.8
Did not use any of the listed alternative control methods
%
9.3
20.0
8.2
6.5
10.9
Holdings not responding to the question on alternative control methods
%
14.2
23.4
14.7
21.6
17.5

. . not applicable
(a) Introducing parasites, predators or pathogens as control methods.
(b) National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic produce.

Source:
Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments, Experimental Estimates, 2008–09 (4619.0.55.002).


Map S2.4 shows a spatial representation of holdings in the Burnett River catchment according to the percentage that considered nutrients introduced by fertilising prior to applying fertiliser.

Map S2.4 HOLDINGS THAT CONSIDERED NUTRIENTS INTRODUCED BY FERTILISING



Map S2.5 shows a spatial representation of holdings in the Burnett River catchment according to the percentage that rotated chemical groups to control weeds, pests or diseases.

Map S2.5 HOLDINGS THAT ROTATED CHEMICAL GROUPS TO CONTROL WEEDS, PESTS OR DISEASES



More detailed information can be accessed in Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments (4619.0.55.001) and Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments, Experimental Estimates (4619.0.55.002).

 

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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.


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