ACADEMICS may well emerge as the bridge between factions on either side of the sediment run-off debate, according to a US researcher.
Professor Ken Tate, University of California, Davis, is widely regarded for his work as a specialist in rangeland watershed science and believes "great advancements" are within reach if researchers and farmers work collaboratively.
Visiting CQUniversity in Rockhampton on November 28, Professor Tate gave an international perspective on efforts to reduce the impact of grazing on water quality.
He said universities may hold the key to finding solutions.
"I see a key role for universities to not only do the research and release the data but help people have meaningful discussions to find solutions to problems (off sediment run-off)," he said.
"We're always looking for win-win scenarios and often by focusing on soil quality or pasture cover the result is actually a more profitable farm business."
Over the past 25 years Professor Tate has worked alongside cattle producers on methods to improve water quality and admits great things happen when industry and scientists work in unison.
"It's imperative to have trust between all the parties involved and by building those relationships we've been able to see some huge improvements in run-off reduction on our trials in California," he said.
"We've had our best results when we haven't just come onto a ranch, recorded data and left, but when we worked with the ranchers to identify run-off issues and helped them solve the problem."
Associate Professor Mark Trotter, of CQU's Precision Livestock Management research team, hopes Professor Tate's visit will be a precursor to similar collaborations with UC Davis.
"CQUni has made some great advancements in livestock management using on-animal sensors that I know Professor Tate is interested in as a means of providing more detailed information to help producers improve their land and animal management strategies," Mr Trotter said.
Professor Tate's visit was also rated timely as the debate continues around the so-called reef regulations, which have caused concern and sparked widespread criticism.
According to the State Government the reef regulations address land-based sources of water pollution flowing to the Great Barrier Reef. This includes agricultural and industrial sources of nutrient and sediment pollution from each of the six reef regions - Cape York, Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary.
Professor Peter Ridd has rubbished suggestions the Great Barrier Reef has been damaged by run-off. On their website, Canegrowers claim the regulations are an "affront to the thousands of growers who have and are changing their farm practices, being innovative and taking responsibility" for their impact on the environment.
"The issues around farmers and graziers working within regulations set for them by the government occur in the US as well and what we have tried to do is bring those opposing sides together," Professor Tate said.