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Fertiliser run-off hurts the Great Barrier Reef. Now there’s an app for that

The free app, launched this week, shows data on nitrate concentrations from high-frequency automatic sensors deployed in selected coastal catchments.


The information is fed directly to the app allowing growers to monitor the concentration of nitrogen in local waterways in real-time.

Scientists hope with easy access to water levels, farmers will be able to better manage the connection between farming in the catchment and water quality.

“Sugarcane growers told us they wanted quick and easy access to water quality information, so they could find out what’s going on with their crops and make better decisions,” CSIRO agricultural scientist and project leader Dr Peter Thorburn said.

It also shows rainfall so farmers can easily see how the weather is affecting local water quality by tracking rainfall run-off.


Sugarcane grower Stephen Calcagno said the app would be a vital tool for farmers to see the impact of their farm management and help improve their practices and help the environment.

If successful, the monitoring program could be expanded to other waterways.

“Sugarcane is the first farming system we’ve looked at, but we could deploy it in any area where real-time water quality data could help inform agricultural practices,” Dr Thorburn said.

In September, the Queensland government passed legislation, which comes into place in 2024, to restrict how much sediment and fertiliser could be dumped into waters flowing into the Great Barrier Reef.

Limits will be set for how much run-off farmers, miners and sewer operators can dump into the 500,000-year-old reef under new minimum standards.

It will mean a reduction to the amount of nutrient, sediment and pesticide run-off into water catchments stretching up and down the Queensland coast.


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