Herbert River Cane Changer Launch



John Pickering addresses growers at the Project Cane Changer launch

John Pickering addresses growers at the Project Cane Changer launch

The sugarcane industry has a lot to be proud of since it first came to Australian shores in 1788. Recognised around the world for its history of innovation, the Australian sugarcane industry is renowned for its technological improvements and sustainable cane growing practices.

Recent years are no exception, with the introduction of a range of new advances in research and technology that continue to ensure that the industry responds and evolves to new challenges.

One of the most notable challenges the industry is currently facing is its association with the Great Barrier Reef. In particular, the assessment that run-off from cane farms through the use of nutrients, pesticides and herbicides, are adversely affecting the water quality running out into the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon. As a result, there is increasing pressure on the industry to document and demonstrate its response to this challenge.

Board members Jeff Cantamessa and Peter Sheedy

Board members Jeff Cantamessa and Peter Sheedy

Project Cane Changer, a CANEGROWERS initiative, funded by the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, is a grower-led initiative in response to this challenge. The project seeks to work with growers to ‘set the record straight’ by demonstrating the industry’s positive response to farming practice change.

The logic behind the tagline of the project, ‘set the record straight’, is simple. Firstly, it is designed to build better public awareness of the positive steps the industry is routinely doing with respect to farming practices. Secondly, to demonstrate this positive response the project is calling on growers to enhance their written record keeping and participate in programs such as Smartcane BMP.

 “We are working with cane growers to tell their story and demonstrate the changes they are making on their land”, Project Leader Dr John Pickering said.

The project is being introduced to the Herbert across the coming months and key to its success is having as many growers as possible on board.

Further information about the project will be published in the rural section of the Herbert River Express in coming weeks.


The project launch which was held at Jeff Cantamessa's property

The project launch which was held at Jeff Cantamessa's property

Project Cane Changer was recently launched in the Herbert River. The initiative is open to all growers in the Herbert River district and was kickstarted last Monday at an informal launch.

Jeff Cantamessa, a director of CANEGROWERS Herbert River hosted the launch at his property with his wife Heather. Jeff is a third-generation farmer who has been farming since the late 1970’s and over the years he has seen the industry go through many changes.

“We believe it is important to get involved because Cane Changer seeks to help highlight the positive changes that growers and the industry have already made towards best management farming practices and will continue to do in the coming years”

It is for this reason that Jeff signed up to the project which seeks to document the efforts growers across the State are making on their farms to improve their farming practices.

Jeff’s family was one of the first to adopt laser levelling in his district. Laser levelling involves using specialist machinery to minimise soil compaction and help improve paddock surface drainage which reduces run-off into waterways.

“Over the years we have made many changes to our farming practices, for decades now growers across the district have been using green trash blanketing to reduce soil erosion into the waterways” he said, “on my farm in recent years we have gone to GPS guidance and use rate control on our fertiliser and chemical applications.”

Jeff and the growers of Herbert River are not the only ones who continue to embrace a range of new technologies and sustainable cane growing practices.

According to a recent survey by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, there was a 16% increase last year in the number of growers making changes to improve their farming operations, and/or decision-making and adopt best management practices. The top four improvements that were highlighted in the survey included: calculating nitrogen fertiliser rates, fallow management, placement of nitrogen fertiliser, and increasing row width.

Dr John Pickering, Cane Changer Project Leader, was one of the speakers at the Cane Changer launch and was clearly not surprised by these results. “What we have seen through Cane Changer is that most growers are open to change and are likely either already farming in line with BMP or are open to adopting new practices in the right context.”

During the launch Dr Pickering spoke about what is involved with the Cane Changer project.  One of the early strategies of Cane Changer asks growers to sign up to the project through a ‘Cane Changer Commitment’. The commitment asks growers to detail farming practices that they have changed over the years and commit to making further changes on farm in line with best management practices into the future.

The commitments are designed to highlight the positive changes that have been made over the years and provide evidence of the routine practices growers are undertaking, additionally they are a signal of positive commitment to further change.

Last month, the Minister for Environment, Steven Miles, signed his own Commitment demonstrating not only his on-going support for the project, but also signalling his commitment to recognising growers and the cane industry for their positive changes.

“There have been some fantastic results in just five months from the Cane Changer project with over 380 people engaged. We’ve seen large and small, corporate and family owned farms come on board,” he said in his media statement. “This shows a real commitment from growers and I applaud their efforts to manage their land in an environmentally sustainable way.”

Dr Pickering said that the main message to come from the launch was that the project is about better recognising growers for their proactive farming practices but in doing so, asking growers to commit to helping better document the industry’s changing practices through things like record keeping.

Behaviour Innovation