Sugarcane farmers in far north Queensland can now monitor for fertiliser runoff in real-time by using a CSIRO-developed smartphone app.

The apps uses the CSIRO’s data analytics and deep learning systems to process data from high-frequency sensors in coastal catchments.

The output is available to farmers via the app, showing them the concentration of nitrogen in the catchments. It also shows rainfall, so farmers to see how weather is affecting local water quality.

This might help farmers reduce wastage of fertiliser and reduce fertiliser runoff into the Great Barrier Reef.

New ways to “predict water quality in the days or weeks ahead based on artificial intelligence” are also in the pipeline, according to the CSIRO.

It is building a suite of apps for sugarcane growers. This will enable “fine-tuning which parts of a crop might need more or less fertiliser, and comparing different fertiliser application rates on crop performance and environmental impact before they even plant,” the CSIRO announced.

“Sugarcane is the first farming system we’ve looked at, but we could deploy it in any area where real time water quality data could help inform agricultural practices,” stated CSIRO agricultural scientist and 1622WQ project leader Dr Peter Thorburn.