RRRD004 Advanced drip and optimised furrow irrigation to minimise sediment, nutrient and pesticide losses to the environment through deep drainage and runoff from sugarcane and banana industries of wet tropics in northern Queensland


Project Leader

David Midmore
Central Queensland University

Project Leader

Surya Bhattarai
Central Queensland University









go Straight to the publications for this project

Project Overview

The on-farm action research investigated an irrigation intervention (optimization of furrow irrigation and advanced drip irrigation systems) for sugarcane and bananas, that was consistent with enhancement of on-farm water use efficiency and nutrient use efficiency, and that limited the dispersal of pesticides away from the paddock. The sugarcane sites incorporated two major soil types (in the Burdekin and in Bundaberg) and one soil type for banana (in Bundaberg). Our aims with water management were consistent with developing resilience in the farming systems in the face of climate change.

Project Deliverables

  • Knowledge of the conditions at which there will be a measurable reduction in the sediment loss in runoff and movement of nutrients and pesticides in run-off and deep drainage from different Irrigation methods (sugarcane and banana).
  • Estimation of the measurable difference in the quality of runoff and how that relates to the changes in the irrigation management system (comparison of furrow with drip irrigation in the first year, followed by optimizations in next year).
  • Understanding of the role of innovative irrigation practices (e.g. minimization of soil surface run-off, deep drainage) and how this delivers long term positive impacts on soil stability through effect on soil physical, chemical and biological properties that reduce runoff.
  • How waterwise irrigation innovations and soil management practices, tested and proven to be better than current practice at the plot and paddock level, can be translated to farm and catchment levels with appropriate extrapolation and modelling techniques.
  • An understanding of the key factors for adoption of Best Management Practice for irrigation, including the design of a decision support system, an analysis of socio-economic drivers and resistance for adoption, and a test of fit under a triple bottom line matrix for different methods that substantially reduce sediments and runoff loads.

PROGRESS UPDATES for this project are summarised here

Study Areas

Lower Burdekin (sugarcane), Bundaberg (sugarcane and bananas)

Associated Reef Rescue R&D Research

Related External Research

Paddock to Reef Program
  • APSIM modelling and load estimation
  • Sharing of others research sites, optimizing use of instrumentation and investing in quality data collection (value adding)
Reef Rescue WQ Grants
  • NQDT, Reef Catchments & Terrain NRM
Reef Protection Research and Development Program
  • Wet Tropics, Burdekin & Mackay Whitsunday sites
Other Programs
  • Linking CQU current research on drip irrigation with number of industries (NPSI, HAL, Woolworths funding).
  • Collaboration between CQUuniversity, Netafim, JCU, CSIRO, DERM, DEEDI, BBIFMAC, NQ Dry Tropics, Canegrowers Australia

Enhancing the participation of growers, industry & locally based organizations and expertise (e.g. Tom McShane)

Publications From This Project

The Research Outcomes Report for RRRD004 is available for download via the Final Report page. This report should be cited as:

Bhattarai, S.P. and Midmore, D.J. (2015). Advanced drip and optimised furrow irrigation to minimise sediment, nutrient and pesticide losses to the environment through deep drainage and run-off from sugarcane and banana industries in northern Queensland. Report to the Reef Rescue Water Quality Research & Development Program. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited, Cairns (41pp.). ISBN: 978-1-925088-74-8.

Several presentations of the project results have been delivered at Reef Rescue R&D forums; visit the Events page to download the presentations.