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Developing sustainable banana production systems: A case study from tropical Australia

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Bagshaw, J. and Lindsay, S. J. (2009) Developing sustainable banana production systems: A case study from tropical Australia. Acta Horticulturae, 831 . pp. 23-30. ISSN 05677572 (ISSN); 9789066054295 (ISBN)

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Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2009.831.2


The north Queensland banana industry is under pressure from government and community expectations to exhibit good environmental stewardship. The industry is situated on the high-rainfall north Queensland coast adjacent to two natural icons: the Great Barrier Reef to the east and World Heritage-listed rainforest areas to the west. The main environmental concern is agricultural industry pollutants harming the Great Barrier Reef. In addition to environmental issues the banana industry also suffers financial pressure from declining margins and production loss from tropical cyclones. As part of a broader government strategy to reduce land-based pollutants affecting the Great Barrier Reef, we facilitated formation of a pilot banana producers group to address these environmental and economic pressures. Using an integrated farming systems approach we worked collaboratively with these producers to conduct an environmental risk assessment of their businesses, and then to develop best management practices (BMP) to address environmental concerns. We also sought input from technical experts to provide increased rigour for the environmental risk assessment and BMP development. The producers' commercial experience ensured new ideas for improved sustainable practices were constantly assessed through their profit-driven 'filter' thus ensuring economic sustainability was also considered. Relying heavily on the producers' knowledge and experience meant the agreed sustainable practices were practical, relevant and financially feasible for the average-sized banana business in the region. Expert input and review also ensured that practices were technically sound. The pilot group producers then implemented and adapted selected key practices on their farms. High priority practices addressed by the producers group included optimising nitrogen fertiliser management to reduce runoff water nitrification, developing practical ground cover management to reduce soil erosion and improving integrated pest management systems to reduce pesticide use. To facilitate wider banana industry understanding and adoption of the BMP's developed by the pilot group, we conducted field days at the farms of the pilot group members. Information generated by the pilot group has had wider application to Australian horticulture, and the process has been subsequently used with the north Queensland sugar industry. Our experiences have shown that integrated farming systems methodologies are useful in addressing complex issues like environmental and economic sustainability. We have also found that individual horticulture businesses need on-going technical support for change to more sustainable practices. One-off interventions have little impact, as farm improvement is usually an on-going incremental process. A key lesson from this project has been the need to develop practical, farm scale economic tools to clarify and demonstrate the financial impact of alternative management practices. Demonstrating continued profitability is critical to encourage widespread industry adoption of environmentally sustainable practices.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Horticulture and Forestry Science
Keywords:Best management practice Economic tools Environment Environmental risk assessment Integrated farming systems
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural economics
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Special aspects of agriculture as a whole > Sustainable agriculture
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Methods and systems of culture. Cropping systems
Plant culture > Fruit and fruit culture > Culture of individual fruits or types of fruit > Bananas
Agriculture > By region or country > Australia > Queensland
Live Archive:03 Nov 2022 04:29
Last Modified:03 Nov 2022 04:29

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