About 20 harvesters supplying Macknade Mill are participating in a groundbreaking trial this month (August) which could see more Herbert River district cane being turned into sugar.
The large-scale harvesting trial will run over a three-week period, beginning on Sunday August 13 and is being run by Sugar Research Australia (SRA) and Herbert Cane Productivity Services Limited (HCPSL).
In the middle week of the trial all harvesters supplying Macknade Mill will be required to have pour rates off the elevator at, or less than, 80 tonnes per hour. This rate is significantly lower than what is believed to be the current industry average.
The aim of the trial is to collect localised data on how harvester operation impacts the amount of sugar ultimately produced.
Herbert Cane Productivity Services Limited Manager Lawrence Di Bella said there had been considerable discussion over recent years about how to recover more cane from the paddock through minimising harvester losses.
“This is the first time all industry sectors in the Herbert have come together to obtain some real, hard data on this issue,” Mr Di Bella said.
“The trial involves not only the productivity board and SRA, but Sugar Research Institute, Wilmar Sugar, Herbert River CANEGROWERS and Herbert River harvesting operators.
“It will enable us to objectively assess the quality of cane delivered to the mill and measure the gain of improvement in cane and sugar quality to the grower, the harvesting operator and the miller.”
SRA Harvesting Project Leader Phil-Anthony Patane said, “We would like to see if we can reduce extraneous matter in the cane supplied to the mill, while recovering more cane from the field.”
He said a similar trial was conducted in the Isis Mill area, near Bundaberg, last year.
“The Russo family from Isis has seen big improvements to their harvesting efficiency this season after introducing a number of changes from last year’s trials.
“Michael Russo at Isis saw a CCS improvement of 0.69 units immediately after making harvesting changes.”
Isis Mill Cane Supply Manager Paul Nicol said: “We saw an increase in bin weight immediately, which reduced trips to the siding by 24 per week, so we are talking about gains that paid for themselves in just one week.”
CANEGROWERS Herbert River and the project team met this week (Wednesday, August 2) to discuss the objectives and protocols for the harvester optimisation trial.
Representatives from all Herbert sugar industry sectors agreed the trials were needed to determine whether changes to harvesting practices could boost productivity and profitability for the local industry.
Herbert CANEGROWERS Director Vince Russo said: “We need the support from all sectors of the industry for this project. The whole industry needs sound data to base its decisions upon.”
Wilmar Sugar Herbert Regional Operations Manager Adam Douglas said Wilmar and other project partners were making a significant investment in money, time and resources to ensure that sound data was collected across the whole value chain.
“When the dust of the 2017 harvest is settled, the industry needs to have a mature discussion about growing the pie for the whole sugar industry and the broader Ingham community.”