HERBERT region cane growers and millers have attended a study tour of southern growing regions to explore the benefits of changing harvesting practices.
The 12 North Queensland participants visited the Rocky Point near the Gold Coast and Childers in the Southern Region earlier this month to see first hand how the adoption of optimised harvesting practices had reduced sugar losses in the field.
Herbert Regional Operations Manager for Wilmar Sugar Adam Douglas, said that the group was returning to the Herbert armed with more information about the impact of cane loss and extraneous matter on a farm’s bottom line.
“Our objective was to meet and collaborate with Rocky Point and Childers growers who have changed the harvesting practice,” Mr Douglas said.
“It has been an opportunity to learn about the potential to increase profitability by reducing cane loss and extraneous matter levels.”
Sugar Research Australia Adoption Officer for Harvesting Phil Patane, said that the trip was a chance to visit during the harvest season, which put everything into context for making harvest best practice work.
“Through research and demonstration trials, we know that there is potential to improve harvesting efficiency and therefore put more revenue into the value chain,” Mr Patane said.
“From trial results in 2017, it was identified that the industry could potentially obtain a 5.5 percent increase in harvested tonnes with no cane land increase and a $74 million increase in shared industry revenue if operating at harvesting best practice recommendations.”
Childers grower and harvesting contractor Michael Russo told the group he was now harvesting 105,000 tonnes of cane using best practice strategies.
“Some of the main changes have been slowing our flow rate down, changing the parameters on our primary extractor fan and slowing the fan down to suit different field conditions,” Mr Russo said.
“This has resulted in much better quality of cane supply going to the mill. For the grower it represents more profit because there’s less wastage in the field.”
Mr Russo said the changes had resulted in better yields, higher CCS and better ratoonability.
Herbert growers who took part in the tour said they were keen to learn more about how optimised harvesting practices could benefit the local sugar industry.
Grower-contractor Darren Reinaudo said growers needed hard data from local field trials to determine whether there were financial benefits to changing harvest practices.
“We need to measure the difference between the existing harvesting practices and the recommended best harvesting practices to understand whether the benefits in one area outweigh the costs in another,” Mr Reinaudo said.
“We’ve participated in a trial with Sugar Research Australia and we’re looking forward to working through the economic analysis from that trial.”
Mr Reinaudo said economics had been a core driver of current farming and harvesting practices.
“If SRA’s data demonstrates that there’s a better way, it’s important we all work together to improve our situation.”
Another grower-contractor Charles Girgenti said he was keen to participate in an SRA harvesting trial in order to get some solid data about the potential gains.
“Based on what we learned on the trip, the biggest benefits to growers are better CCS levels and reduced harvesting losses,” Mr Girgenti said.
“If I can send more tonnes of cane to the mill and get improved CCS, that’s a big win.”
Ingham grower Paul Marbelli said he had not had the chance to visit the Rocky Point and Childers regions before, so this was a unique opportunity.
“The trip has been interesting to see how other districts are doing things,” Mr Marbelli said.
“We can’t compare everything between regions, as there are unique conditions down here, but it has been interesting to learn how these farmers and contractors are dealing with their situations.”
The study tour was jointly funded by Wilmar Sugar and SRA.