Independent reports have been commissioned, with the support of the Australian Government, to evaluate the Fertcare® program, examine the need for user competencies and discuss a policy framework for sustainable fertilizer use.
An evaluation of the FERTCARE program
With funding from the Australian Government’s Coastal Catchment Initiative program, an independent review of the Fertcare program was undertaken in 2007. The aim of the review was to determine the extent to which Fertcare was influencing nutrient management decisions, after two years of operation. In summary, the report found:
The Fertcare program has been effective in improving the skills and knowledge of people who supply, apply or provide advice on fertilizers. In this way, Fertcare helps to reduce the ecological and human health impacts resulting from the industry’s products.
Fertcare training materials were developed with considerable input from technical and training experts from within the fertilizer industry and from government agencies. The training materials are demonstrably fit-for-purpose, and participants in the training courses report a high degree of satisfaction with them.
A statistically valid and repeatable survey conducted for the report, demonstrated conclusively that Fertcare training influences the advice provided to farmers about nutrient management.
Fertcare Evaluation Report pdf
Fertiliser Use competencies and Training
This report aimed to identify the key suite of skills and knowledge that a fertilizer end-user should have to ensure safe and efficient use. The report identifies the following broad categories:
- Product knowledge; product transport; product handling; product storage; product security; product application; product disposal; food safety; and environment protection.
In summary, the report found that the skill set identified was consistent with the water quality strategies tested. It found that developing new national competencies would assist agricultural industries in developing training on safe nutrient use targeted at end users. The report sets out a skill set of four units of national competency one of which is proposed as a new draft competency.
A Policy Framework for Sustainable Fertilizer Use and Management in the Great Barrier Reef Catchment
This project was also funded by the Australian Government’s Coastal Catchments Initiative and was overseen by a steering committee comprising representatives from the Australian and Queensland governments, agricultural industry bodies and the WWF.
The aim of the project was to determine the feasibility of establishing a regulatory framework to encourage the use of industry-based, best management practice programs for fertilizer use – such as Fertcare. In summary, the report found that:
- Industry programs are an important means of providing information about sustainable fertilizer use.
- Verified compliance with industry programs enables the assessment of compliance with regulatory requirements.
- Industry programs should not be viewed as the primary part of a policy framework for sustainable fertilizer use.
- Catchment strategies, farm nutrient management plans and the keeping and reporting of fertilizer use records are key elements of an effective policy framework for sustainable fertilizer use.
Any policy framework should also create a situation where fertilizer users want to make best practice fertilizer decisions.
The report also noted that industry-based programs can play a cost-effective role in securing the desired water quality outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef.
Under each category, the report identifies the key principles that should be followed by landholders, and then compares them with water quality strategies currently in place for: the Great Barrier Reef Catchments; the Peel-Harvey System in Western Australia; the River Murray and Lower Lakes in South Australia; and the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria. It also compares the skill set with existing national competency standards under the Australian Qualifications Framework.