Farmers join forces for healthy waterways across South West WA

A record number of farms are working together to create healthy waterways across the southwest of Western Australia.

A record number of farms are participating in this year’s Healthy Estuaries WA and Soil Wise fertiliser management program, which is improving the health of our waterways while helping farmers make significant savings.

Water Minister Simone McGurk visited a regional workshop in Denmark, where landholders from the Wilson Inlet catchment received their soil test results.

The 257 participants in the 2023/2024 program could save an average of $12,000 per year on phosphorus fertiliser costs. This will reduce phosphorus fertiliser on paddocks where soil tests show they contain enough nutrients for the desired production.

It’s estimated the farms could collectively reduce the amount of phosphorus applied to their farms by 668,000 kilograms. It would also save $3,084,000 if they applied fertiliser based on their soil test results.

This allows farmers to redirect financial savings to other nutrient or soil acidity constraints on their farms, increasing their productivity.

Correct fertiliser application on farms also assists in minimising nutrient run-off into waterways and estuaries, reducing the risk of algal blooms and fish kills.

The fertiliser management program delivers training using national guidelines to provide expert advice on how to accurately sample soil for farmers who wish to sample their farms.

Workshops for farmers then support the interpretation of results and help farmers use this knowledge to develop an evidence-based fertiliser plan for healthy waterways.

Healthy Estuaries WA is a $25 million State Government commitment that focuses on improving the health of Peel-Harvey Estuary, Leschenault Estuary, Vasse-Geographe waterways, Hardy Inlet, Wilson Inlet, Torbay Inlet, and Oyster Harbour.

The fertiliser management program is a critical component of Healthy Estuaries WA. It is delivered through a partnership between the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD). The partner catchment groups include Wilson Inlet Catchment Committee, Torbay Catchment Group, Oyster Harbour Catchment Group, Lower Blackwood LCDC, GeoCatch, Leschenault Catchment Council, Peel-Harvey Catchment Council, and Southern Forests Community Landcare.

The program is also supported by Soil Wise. The National Landcare Program Smart Farms Small Grants fund it.

The Healthy Estuaries WA fertiliser management program was recognised as a finalist in the 2023 Premier’s Science Awards.

Expressions of interest for the next program round will open in May 2024 and can be submitted at the Healthy Estuaries WA website.

Comments attributed to Water Minister Simone McGurk:

“The fertiliser management program, through Healthy Estuaries WA, is an excellent example of the collaborative effort needed to address complex challenges like waterway health.

“This year, we have the largest group participating in the program.

“Farmers from 257 farms have been working with the Government and supporting stakeholders to conduct soil testing and attend a range of workshops and field days to assist them with making informed decisions about the fertiliser they apply.

“I commend their efforts to carefully manage nutrient inputs on their farms, which will ultimately improve the health of our beautiful estuaries and everyone in the community who enjoys and uses our waterways.

“The training empowers farmers with the information and support they need to optimise their nutrient management. It benefits our waterways and often increases their farm profitability.”

Comments attributed to Agriculture and Food Minister Jackie Jarvis:

“A record number of farmers are participating in this initiative, which will make their operations more sustainable and profitable.

“Refining nutrient use efficiency on farms will help growers to reduce input costs while maintaining productivity.”

Comments attributed to Warren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie:

“It’s great to see so many participants attend these workshops, which are a valuable source of information that benefits not only our farmers but our waterways and the wider community.

“This training will help equip farmers with the knowledge to make important decisions about the fertiliser they apply and potentially help them save thousands of dollars.

“I would urge farmers to give the soil testing program a go and help make a real difference.”

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