Environmentally Friendly

In May 2009 the growers of the Sweeter Banana Co-operative celebrated a milestone, with 24 members of the co-op plus the central packing shed achieving Environmental Accreditation to the standard of Freshcare Environmental.

The growers recognised that without environmentally sustainable growing methods there was a risk to the sustainability of the Industry and so a Caring for our Country Grant was applied for with the aim of developing an Environmental Best Management Guide and training of growers in sustainable farming methods, developing on-farm environmental plans and formal accreditation under a recognised Environmental Programme.

A local facilitator, Alexandra Harper from Dust Up Projects, was engaged to facilitate the program.

Activities undertaken during the course of the past year include:
• 26 growers attending training in Freshcare Environmental Management
• 5 day “Waterwise on the farm” training to ensure sustainable water use (very important in the dry Carnarvon climate)
• Visit and presentation from Eco-Pioneers, Frank and Dianne Sciacca from Eco Bananas
• Liaising with Shire, Government authorities and local Landcare groups on best practice for river and riparian zone
• Extensive soil and leaf testing
• The development of 27 on-farm environmental plans.
• External auditing of 24 farms and the central packing shed under the Freshcare environmental code.

The environmental plans are developed for each individual property through Sweeter Banana and outline all the management procedures in place to prevent environmental issues. This plan will need to be updated every year to reflect the ongoing environmental management to the property. The plan covers issues such as land and soil degradation, fertiliser and soil additives, waste management, water use and biodiversity.

Soil Management
Effective soil management can be the difference between a good crop and a bad one. When knocking out banana patches and establishing new patches Sweeter Banana prefer their members to disc the trash back into the ground and build up the organic matter in the soil.

Nutrient strategies
Leaf and soil test should be undertaken at least annually, at the same time each year, and these can be done through the Carnarvon Growers Association. By completing soil and leaf tests you can determine what specific nutrients your plants are lacking in as well as the pH level of the soil.

Soil degradation
In Carnarvon soil degradation generally occurs either due to flooding or wind erosion. To prevent soil degradation some options include trashing of old leaves which adds to the mulch cover around the bananas, crop nets or shade cloth as wind breaks or shade net houses for bananas. For wind breaks to work effectively they need to be placed on the southern or south west side of the crop and they need to be high in order to work. Trashing bananas is a very important practice as not only does it create essential mulch cover but it also removes dangerous leaf diseases early.

Water management

Eighty per cent of banana roots are found in the upper 50cm of soil so it is essential that there is always available soils water at the optimal level. Sweeter Banana recommends that all their members attended the Department of Agriculture and Food’s Waterwise training course which runs through the principles on efficient water use, assessing your soil and water resources and suitable irrigation systems for your property and crops. This course is beneficial to assessing whether you are utilising the right irrigation system for you property and if you are achieving the most out of your watering system.

Chemical use

Sweeter Banana has introduced a new logo which highlights our ‘spray free’ bananas. Unlike our counterparts in Queensland we do not apply chemicals directly onto bananas. To complete your environmental accreditation your use of chemicals need to be justified. This includes chemical application for nematodes as it is important to only apply a solution if there are Nematodes present and not just as a precautionary measure to prevent them.

To see how your plantation measures up on the carbon footprint calculator click here.

Page Last Modified: Thu 12 Nov 2009


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