Mackay region canegrowers relish downpour despite lodged cane

Zoe Thomas
By Zoe Thomas
Updated May 2 2022 - 4:55am, first published April 27 2022 - 4:00am
Lodged cane on Racecourse grower Gerard Bugeja's farm who has received 120mm of rain since last Monday. Photo supplied.

Northern and western Queensland have welcomed recent significant rainfall with agricultural sectors relishing in the relief.

Widespread downpours have been shared in Facebook groups such as Who Got The Rain? with a group member posting falls of 260mm at Finch Hatton, west of Mackay, since last Tuesday.

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However, images of flattened sugarcane fields had many fearing it was not all good news for local sugar growers.

The North Queensland Register spoke with a local cane farmer based in the Mackay region to discuss the impacts.

Racecourse grower Gerard Bugeja welcomed the rain relief receiving 120mm on his cane farm since last Monday.

"We were really dry and hadn't had any flood rains to replenish the underground water supply," he said.

"This rain is having a two-fold effect, growing the crop and hopefully might put a little bit back into the underground aqua-farm."

Mr Bugeja was assessing the impact to his farm, but said only 10 per cent of his overall crop had been lodged due to the weather event.

"It is normally the early planted cane that falls over," he said.

"It's what we planted last year, so it grows the biggest and is normally affected the most."

Mr Bugeja said gusty winds and soft ground from rain caused the cane to fall over. Photo supplied.

Mr Bugeja said the combination of rain and wind had proved challenging.

"With gusty winds and the ground soft from the rain, the cane is unable to hold itself up, so it falls over," he said.

"If it dries up now the cane will continue to grow for us."

Mr Bugeja is expected to begin his harvest season in early June.

"Once it begins to dry out the crop will come up a little bit, but it will still make it difficult to harvest," he said.

"Sometimes if the crop is badly lodged it takes longer to harvest because the direction that the cane has been pushed over is the direction that we will have to harvest.

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"Otherwise if you go against it, the harvester won't feed it and will tear the crop out and once you tear it out, it won't regrow properly. "

Canegrowers Mackay Area committee chairman Joseph Borg said the rain was a welcomed relief.

"In and around the Mackay area this rain was desperately needed," he said.

"A lot of growers were irrigating and the crop in some areas was actually going backwards."

Mr Borg said the local region is believed to have received between 100mm to 200mm across the district with some isolated pockets receiving heavier falls.

"It's a godsend," he said.

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"We are around five weeks away from crushing starting, so the cane needed that boost to mature and this rain will help to finish it off.

"It is very, very welcomed."

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Zoe Thomas

Zoe Thomas

Journalist - North Queensland Register/Queensland Country Life

Northern based journalist at North Queensland Register and Queensland Country Life.

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