Not your usual tour group: innovative farmers visit AIMS

Not your usual tour group: innovative farmers visit AIMS

Innovation in Agriculture Bus Tour participants visiting AIMS headquarters, Cape Ferguson,Townsville. Image courtesy of NQ Dry Tropics

AIMS was delighted to welcome a group of 46 Queensland farmers for a tour and science briefing in April 2016.

Organised by Natural Resource Management body NQ Dry Tropics, the Innovation in Agriculture Bus Tour provided the farmers with an opportunity to hear firsthand information about coral reefs and how environmental factors influence marine ecology.

As documented by 25 years of AIMS research on the Great Barrier Reef, runoff of sediment, nutrients and contaminants from agricultural land lowers water quality and compromises marine ecosystem health.

“Farmers in our region are aware of the impact of agricultural activities on the reef,” explained Tour Leader Fiona George, who is regional landcare facilitator for Terrain Natural Resource Management.  

“But sometimes they feel powerless as individuals. They don’t see how making small changes to farming practise can improve marine health.”

The tour was designed to give the farmers useful information in a relaxed and easy-to-understand format.

After listening to AIMS researchers, Fiona said the farmers felt they had received unbiased scientific information straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.  

“At the end of the trip, there appeared to be more of a feeling of collective responsibility towards the reef, from our farmer’s point of view,” Fiona said.

“The farmers seemed to better understand how everybody’s contributions came together to affect the reef, and to see it as a reef-wide thing rather than something confined by boundaries.”

During the tour, the farmers heard from AIMS scientist Dr Katharina Fabricius, who explained why and how monitoring of water quality takes place on the Great Barrier Reef.  

“Katharina was outstanding,” Fiona said. “She spoke very clearly, and in language we could all understand.”

“We learned how corals live, and how poor water quality can affect their growth.”

Senior Principal Research Scientist Dr Janice Lough also spoke to the touring farmers. Janice showed how corals can tell a story of previous weather patterns and major impacts – this is achieved through examining the times series of growth rings captured in coral cores.

After their science update, the farming group toured the National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) facilities, and learned how innovations in research and technology led to the development of this world-class research infrastructure.

Fiona said that the farmers attending this tour comprised a selection of the most forward-thinking and innovative farmers in her network.

Read more about the Great Barrier Reef catchment and how runoff influences coastal reef ecosystems in 'Catchments and Corals', a book by AIMS scientist Dr Miles Furnas