RRRD037 Pesticide dynamics in the Great Barrier Reef catchment and lagoon: management practices in the sugarcane industry


Project Leader

Jon Brodie
TropWater, James Cook University



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Project Overview

Pesticide runoff from agricultural lands has been recognised as a serious threat to the health and productivity of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and is considered a priority pollutant for management in the GBR catchment area. While it is clear that some pesticides have higher runoff potential than others due to their individual physiochemical properties (e.g. half life, solubility), a rigorous mass balance approach of individual pesticide chemicals is required to better parameterise/validate predictive models such as Source Catchments and How Leaky? to improve the accuracy of load calculations. In addition, the benefits of promoted 'A class' practices to reduce the amount of pesticide runoff are largely unquantified. These links are critical in the management of application rates of certain pesticides in the GBR catchments and to inform/validate modelling within the Reef Rescue Water Quality (WQ) grants and monitoring and evaluation (P2R program) components.

This project (working with RRRD038) will collaborate with key research scientists and extension officers from many organisations across several major GBR sugarcane regions to address these major unknowns of pesticide dynamics. In addition, the project will value-add to several plot-scale trials within the P2R program to help evaluate the effectiveness of the Reef Rescue WQ grants program. It is envisioned that preliminary results from this project will be used to inform the current Reef Rescue WQ grants program, and priorities for Reef Rescue 2 and Reef Plan 2014.

This Project Will Deliver

  • Determination of the half lives in soils (and other key properties) of key pesticides used in the GBR catchment area for use directly in modelling for the P2R program.
  • Investigation of the potential water quality and agronomic benefits of alternative herbicide products (to those currently used) used in sugarcane including Balance, Flame, Soccer and Krismat.
  • Determination of the water quality benefits of improved practices to reduce pesticide runoff (Shielded sprayers, banded sprayers etc.).

PROGRESS UPDATES for this project are summarised here

Study Areas

This information is coming soon.

Associated Reef Rescue R&D Research

  • Joint project with RRRD038.
  • Incorporate outputs on monitoring herbicides from RRRD058. Knowledge of pesticide toxicity gradient useful for risk assessments.
  • RRRD004 pot trials for pesticide application via dripper irrigation.

Related External Research

Paddock to Reef Program
  • Monitoring - joint sites/objectives
  • Modelling - input data requirements
Project Catalyst
  • Potential links to sites in Wet Tropics, Burdekin & Mackay Whitsunday sites
Reef Protection Research and Development Program
  • Wet Tropics, Burdekin & Mackay Whitsunday data & potential project examining pesticide trapping in vegetation and the alternative herbicides and weed control practices.
  • Project 4.2 The chronic effects of pesticides and their persistence in tropical waters (Negri et al)
Other projects
  • Atrazine enzyme degradation project (CSIRO)


Publications From This Project

The Research Outcomes Overview Report for both RRRD037 and RRRD038 is available for download via the Final Report page.

This report should be cited as:

Several Research outcomes under both RRRD037 and RRRD038 are also available:

The Research Outcomes Report for RRRD037: Pesticides in the sugarcane industry: an evaluation of improved management practices is available for download via the Final Report page. This report should be cited as:

The Research Outcomes Report for RRRD037: Pesticide exposure within the Barratta Creek Catchment is available for download via the Final Report page. This report should be cited as:

Other Publications associated with this Project

  • Lewis, S.E. Smith, R. Brodie, J.E. Bainbridge, Z.T. Davis, A.M. Turner, R. 2011. Using monitoring data to model herbicides exported to the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. In Chan, F., Marinova, D. and Anderssen, R.S. (eds) MODSIM2011, 19th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation. Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, December 2011, pp. 2051-2056. ISBN: 978-0-9872143-1-7. www.mssanz.org.au/modsim2011/E5/lewis.pdf
  • Davis, A.M., Thorburn, P.J., Lewis, S.E., Bainbridge, Z.T., Attard, S.J., Milla, R., Brodie, J.E. 2012. Herbicide run-off dynamics of furrow irrigated sugarcane farms and associated drainage systems on the Burdekin River Floodplain, north-eastern Australia. Agriculture, Ecosystems and the Environment.
  • Davis, A.M., Lewis, S.E., Bainbridge, Z.T., Brodie, J.E., Glendenning, L., Turner, R. 2012. Dynamics of herbicide transport and partitioning under event flow conditions in the lower Burdekin region, Australia. Marine Pollution Bulletin. Online. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.08.025
  • Lewis, S.E., Schaffelke, B., Shaw, M., Bainbridge, Z.T., Rohde, K.W., Kennedy, K.E., Davis,A.M., Masters, B.L., Devlin, M.J., Mueller, J.F. Brodie, J.E. 2012. Assessing the risks of PSII herbicide exposure to the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Pollution Bulletin.

 Relevant Publications

  • Kennedy, K. Schroeder, T., Shaw, M., Haynes, D., Lewis, S., Bentley, C., Paxman, C., Carter, S., Brando, V., Bartkow, M., Mueller, J. in press. Photosystem-II herbicides on the Great Barrier Reef- results from up to five years of monitoring and a preliminary comparison with remote sensing derived water quality parameters. Marine Pollution Bulletin.
  • King, J. Alexander, F. Brodie, J. In review. Regulation of pesticides in Australia: the Great Barrier Reef as a case study for evaluating effectiveness. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.
  • Smith, R., Middlebrook, R., Turner, R., Huggins, R., Vardy, S. and Warne, M in press. Large-scale pesticide monitoring across Great Barrier catchments – Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program. Marine Pollution Bulletin. Online. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.08.010
  • Shaw, C.M., Mueller, J.F. and Brodie, J. 2012. Phytotoxicity induced in isolated zooxanthellae by chemicals extracted from Great Barrier Reef flood waters. Mar. Poll. Bull.
  • Brodie, J., Wolanski, E., Lewis, S., Bainbridge, Z. 2012. A review of the residence times of land-sourced contaminants in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon and the implications for management of these contaminants on the Great Barrier Reef catchment. Marine Pollution Bulletin.
  • Kroon, F.J, Kuhnert, K.M. Henderson, B.L. Wilkinson, S.N. Kinsey-Henderson, A. Brodie, J.E. Turner, R.D.R. 2012. River loads of suspended solids, nitrogen, phosphorus and herbicides delivered to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Marine Pollution Bulletin.
  • Waterhouse, J., Brodie, J., Lewis, S., Mitchell. A. 2012. Quantifying the sources of pollutants to the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Pollution Bulletin.