Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef is once again the excuse for extending Green control of all land and waters. Their current scare concerns the quality of water draining into the Coral Sea.
Their hidden agenda is to eliminate coastal agriculture, mining and commercial fishing. They would surrender the land to kangaroos, cassowaries, lantana, cane toads, wild cats and feral pigs and the seas to marauding sharks, cruising whales and aboriginal fishermen.
Reef Warriors will never be satisfied until pure water drains from farms, mines, ports and rivers along the Queensland coast. This is an impossible and misguided dream. Pure water is sterile and nothing flourishes in it.Vibrant offshore life needs winds, rivers and creeks to deliver minerals and nutrients into coastal waters.
Corals, shellfish and marine plants need calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, sulphur, carbon dioxide and trace elements to build their skeletons, shells and plant tissues.
Australian soils are leached and deficient in many minerals. Farmers know that farm crops and domestic animals need mineral fertilisers for healthy growth – so do potted plants, orchards and gardens; and so does all ocean life.
Many of these minerals are supplied naturally by erosion of rocks such as limestone, magnesite, rock phosphate, dolomite, basalt or granite. This is a slow process but mining, crushing or calcining of these rocks can speed things up, providing natural mineral fertilizer for farms, and any dust and river runoff provides free fertilizer for offshore marine life.
Seaweed and other marine plants need fertile muds delivered by flooding rivers and all marine animals welcome bits of dead animal life.
All natural fertilisers used for land plants will also benefit sea plants. Dust and smoke from bushfires, volcanoes, smelters and power stations can deliver natural nutrients such as oxides of nitrogen, sulphur and carbon (all essential for vigorous healthy vegetation) to soils and plants in surrounding areas. There is no danger as long as exhaust stacks or volcanic cones are high enough or remote enough to dilute these gases before they reach the ground.
The atmosphere, rain and surface waters are efficient distributers of dilute aerial fertilisers to land and sea plants. This is far safer and cheaper than manufacturing artificial fertilisers and animal supplements and then selling these products to farmers who sometimes over-apply.
The main run-off dangers to coastal waters are herbicide and pesticide residue and soluble artificial chemical fertilisers used in excessive quantities – this is real pollution and it must be controlled. Farmers have an incentive to control it – every bit that runs off is money wasted in purchase and application. Governments should stop employing green activists – we must restore a real department of agriculture employing experienced agronomists dedicated to helping farmers, not looking for ways to put them out of business.
One of the safest and most complete sources of trace nutrients for land and sea plants is coal – decomposed coal, coal dust, or emissions from coal combustion. Why so good? Because almost every element in coal came from plants and is needed by plants. In the coalfields, the outcrops of weathered coal seams can often be seen on aerial photos as bands of better soil and thicker healthier scrub.
Barrier Reef Water Warriors need a dose of reality and perspective. Since construction of the Burdekin Falls Dam, the mighty Burdekin River delivers far less sediment and nutrients into the Coral Sea. We can assist nature to restore some of this loss with aerial or aqueous mineral nutrients from mining and agricultural sources.
Coal mining and combustion provides many nutrients that benefit all plant and animal life. None are toxic unless artificially concentrated.
Viv Forbes is a geologist and economic analyst, who farms in Australia.