‘Digital agriculture’ helping farmers reduce impacts of cropping on the Great Barrier Reef

Peter J. Thorburn1, Peter Fitch2, YiFan Zhang1, Yuri Shendryk1, Tony Webster3, Jody Biggs1, Martijn Mooij4, Catherine Ticehurst2, Maria Vilas1 and Simon Fielke5

1CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Brisbane, 306 Carmody Rd, St Lucia, Qld, 4067, Peter.Thorburn@csiro.au,
2CSIRO Land and Water, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT, 2601,
3CSIRO Agriculture and Food, PO Box 12139, Earlville BC, Qld, 4870,
4CSIRO Data61, PO Box 10522, Brisbane Adelaide St, Qld, 4006,
5CSIRO Land and Water, 41 Boggo Rd, Dutton Park, Qld, 4102


Nitrogen (N) losses from sugarcane production need to be reduced to help protect the health of the Great Barrier Reef. This challenge comes at a time when digital technologies are becoming more accessible and thus can be harnessed to improve N fertiliser management. We are developing ‘apps’ and advanced analytics to provide farmers with high quality information on: (1) water quality in their local creeks and rivers; (2) the magnitude of risk to production posed by lower N fertiliser rates; and (3) the abatement of N loss associated with those lower N rates, to help farmers potentially access payments from environmental schemes. We are also developing new ways of remotely sensing sugarcane crops so farmers can evaluate better the impacts of changed management on crop performance. This information will facilitate improved agronomic management leading to reduced impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.


The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia. It has approximately 500 active members drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector.

Photo Credits

David Marland Photography david_marland@hotmail.com Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University

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