Drought on Fraser Coast leads to late start to crushing season

Drought on Fraser Coast leads to late start to crushing season



​MSF Sugar’s Irrigation Supervisor for Maryborough, Andrew Adams, assesses the crop following water shortages in the region.

​MSF Sugar’s Irrigation Supervisor for Maryborough, Andrew Adams, assesses the crop following water shortages in the region.

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The sugarcane crop in the Fraser Coast region suffered badly from weather conditions early in the year resulting in a late season start for Maryborough Mill and an expected season crush around 200,000 tonnes down on early predictions.

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The sugarcane crop in the Fraser Coast region suffered badly from weather conditions early in the year resulting in a late season start for Maryborough Mill and an expected season crush around 200,000 tonnes down on early predictions.

The 2017 crush at MSF Sugar’s Maryborough Mill is scheduled to start on Monday 24 July and once underway, the mill will operate 24 hours per day, 7 days per week with the season expected to run until October.

General Manager Maryborough Region, Stewart Norton, described the weather conditions over the 2016/2017 summer as ‘disastrous’ for the crop and said he expected sugarcane quality to have suffered from the drought conditions.

“Due to the continual drought early in the year, we are predicting a season crush of around 600,000 tonnes, well down from the previous season’s crush of 791,435 tonnes.

“The district had no significant rainfall from July 2016 to March 2017, a drought similar to the 2014 season.

“Fortunately, we have received useful rainfall since March and with continuing warm weather, the crop has started to grow again,” he said.

Mr Norton said growing conditions for the 100 growers supplying Maryborough Mill had been anything but ideal. A combination of 26 days with temperatures higher than 35 degrees Celsius and reduced water supply significantly affected reduced yields.

The water supply was impacted as both the Lower Mary Irrigation Scheme and the Fraser Coast Effluent Re-Use Irrigation Scheme were turned off during February due to low water storage levels.

“Despite two record droughts in four years, sugarcane growers supplying the mill remain confident and continue to expand the land area growing cane,” Mr Norton said.

Upgrades and maintenance undertaken by local contractors wherever possible were implemented during the off-season.

Last season a new shredder turbine drive was installed to improve both factory efficiency and reliability. Recent upgrades include a new boiler feedwater tank, replacement of a section of the chimney stack, start of an upgrade on the main control room, purchase of a front-end loader, along with refurbishment of a boiler dust collector, primary juice heaters and sugar bin.

Trials of a prototype cane trailer, designed to minimize cane spillage during haulage, will continue this season following modifications by the manufacturer.  The prototype, a B-Double trailer, uses an innovative design and new construction materials to provide bins which are higher and larger.

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