Burdekin growers and natural resource management body NQ Dry Tropics are collaborating together to transform invasive weed species into a nutrient-rich compost to improve soil health on local farms.
Five local farmers are taking part in the compost trial project by opting to host compost piles on their properties.
Clare canegrower Heath Salter is one of those farmers.
Mr Salter said he hoped the compost would reduce the need for chemical fertiliser on his crop.
"I'm looking forward to applying the compost to areas with poorer soil, which will hopefully increase the water and nutrient-holding capacity and grow the best cane possible with the least inputs," he said.
The project is headed by NQ Dry Tropics wetlands team leader Scott Fry who said work had already commenced with an amphibious excavator and shoreline conveyor working side by side to remove aquatic weeds at Merryplains Creek in the Home Hill region.
Mr Fry said removal of the weeds from the creek enhanced wildlife habitat, improved water quality to the Great Barrier Reef, and protected infrastructure from flood impacts.
"For more than a decade, spraying has been the cheapest primary form of control, however, this can cause several issues, aside from the increasing cost of herbicide," he said.
"Aquatic weeds are full of nitrogen, and their root systems trap sediment, so as they decompose and sink, oxygen is drawn from the water and nutrients are re-released, which reduces habitat for native fish, although tilapia can still thrive.
"The sediment attached to the roots silts up the creek, filling it up from the bottom and reducing its water holding capacity, increasing the likelihood of flood damage to surrounding infrastructure and properties.
"During heavy rains these nutrients and sediments are flushed down into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, where they impact seagrasses and corals."
Mr Fry said some sprayed weeds did not have time to sink before being bound together by secondary infestations of sedges and paragrasses, which led to thick dense stands of floating weed mats growing hydroponically.
Within the project, the amphibious excavator moved between creeks to break up dense infestations of water hyacinth, hymenachne and other invasive species.
Whilst the shoreline conveyor was designed to capture weeds with its paddle and transport them into waiting trucks to be turned into compost to improve soil on the local farms.
Mr Fry said the trial project consisted of removing the weeds, composting them and later putting the matter back on the paddock.
"The compost holds onto a lot of nutrients, so they aren't lost to deep drainage, which benefits both farmers and the waterways," he said.
A new shoreline conveyor was also in the works for the project.
"We are currently testing and refining a new shoreline conveyor, designed and built in the lower Burdekin by engineer Karl Vass, that will make it quicker and easier to transport the weeds from creek to paddock," Mr Fry said.
"The conveyor is self-loading and transports the weeds along a belt, dropping them into a waiting truck so they can be taken to a local farm for composting.
"It will be a game changer because it will save time and reduce double handling that occurs when the weeds are just dumped on the creek bank."
"We could have bought something similar off the shelf from overseas, but we wanted to put the money back into the local economy."
The composting trial is part of the Reducing Burdekin Sediment project, which is funded by the Queensland Government's natural resources investment program.
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