Farm viability hit by Qld's reef laws

Soil tests offer 'better reef protection'

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New restrictions on fertiliser use are eating into the long term viability of smaller cane farms.

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TESTING TIMES: Maidavale cane farmer Russell Giddy says soil analysis is a more accurate way of determining fertiliser requirements, rather than a legislated figure.

TESTING TIMES: Maidavale cane farmer Russell Giddy says soil analysis is a more accurate way of determining fertiliser requirements, rather than a legislated figure.

NORTH Queensland cane farmer Russell Giddy says new restrictions on fertiliser use are eating into the long-term viability of smaller cane farms.

Mr Giddy and his wife Kathryn produce 7000 to 7500 tonnes of cane from their 53-hectare farm at Maidavale, on arguably some of the Burdekin's best country, aptly known as the gold mile.

"We're only small farmers so we try to produce as much tonnage as we can," Mr Giddy said. "We found chasing tonnage rather than CCS (sugar content) is the most profitable strategy for us."

The Palaszczuk government introduced new laws in September, aimed at protecting the Great Barrier Reef by reducing the amount of sediment and nutrients entering the reef lagoon.

Those laws restrict the application of nitrogen to no more than 210kg/ha regardless of tested requirements of the crop.

"I'm not saying controls aren't needed because you will always find a cowboy in every industry," Mr Giddy said.

"But soil analysis seems to be a far more accurate way of determining how much fertiliser is needed, rather than a set figure.

"We don't let anything - water or fertiliser - leave this farm, let alone allow it to reach the reef. Every input costs money and on a small farm like this we just can't afford to let anything go to waste."

The Giddy's farm is planted to KQ228, Q208 and Q240 varieties of cane, which is sent to Wilmar's Pioneer mill for processing.

Mr Giddy, now aged 75, began work in the cane industry as a 16-year-old.

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