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Rancher-researcher relationship key to Reef run-off

Published:28 November 2019

University of California, Davis Prof Ken Tate gave a presentation at the Central Queensland Innovation and Research Precinct in Rockhampton on 28 November.

Great advancements can be made in the reduction of sediment run off when researchers and farmers work together, according to American researcher Professor Ken Tate from the University of California, Davis.

Speaking at CQUniversity’s Rockhampton campus, Prof Tate gave an international perspective on efforts to reduce the impact of grazing on water quality.

Prof Tate has worked with producers on vast cattle ranches in the USA for more than 25 years to improve water quality and he says 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.”

Prof Tate’s lecture offered timely insights for Queensland researchers and producers given the ongoing debate over protecting the Great Barrier Reef and the recent introduction of further Reef regulations.

“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,” he said.

“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. 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.”  

The experience of Prof Tate and his UC Davis colleagues is invaluable, according to Associate Professor Mark Trotter from the CQUniversity Precision Livestock Management research team.

Dr Trotter has recently completed a Fulbright Scholarship in the US and hopes Prof Tate’s visit will open the door for further future collaborations between CQU and UC Davis.

“The UC Davis team has been working on this for so long that when I got to meet them in the US, I could immediately see some clear synergies with what is happening here in Queensland and an opportunity to work together.

“CQUni has made some great advancements in livestock management using on-animal sensors that I know Prof Tate is interested in as a means of providing more detailed information to help producers improve their land and animal management strategies.”

CQUniversity has been engaging with several leading US agricultural universities with a view to opening international student exchange and research collaboration programs.