Innisfail Board Rises to Meet Challenges

 

This article originally appeared in the Cassowary Coast Independent 8 June 2017

 

The Queensland Cane industry has a rich history of innovation. It is currently facing challenges around water quality and the sustainability of the cane industry. Run-off from cane farms, especially nutrients and pesticides, are linked to poor water quality affecting the Great Barrier Reef.

The Innisfail Board: Joe Marano, Alan Colgrave, Sam Spina, Victor Guarrera, Wayne Thomas, Wayne Gattera. (Pictured right to left)

The Innisfail Board: Joe Marano, Alan Colgrave, Sam Spina, Victor Guarrera, Wayne Thomas, Wayne Gattera. (Pictured right to left)

Responding to the challenge, the Innisfail CANEGROWERS board, chaired by Joe Marano, have just become the first CANEGROWERS board to become fully accredited in Smartcane BMP (Best Management Practice).

Smartcane BMP is a world-class best management program for sugarcane farming with specifically tailored modules designed to improve soil health and nutrient management, drainage and irrigation management, and weed, pest and disease management.

This voluntary program is industry-developed and individually tailored, helping to drive industry productivity while ensuring that practices on the farm are contributing to the sustainability and protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Innisfail board sees it as crucial that the industry gets on the front foot, adopting Smartcane BMP and leading the process of change. “If there is a problem, we will identify it and we will take action,” said Wayne Thomas, CANEGROWERS Innisfail Manager.

“By having all directors accredited it gives us the confidence to go to our members and encourage them to be a part of the program and take up the challenge,” said CANEGROWERS Innisfail Chairman Joe Marano . “You can see this in numbers across the district, we now have 42% of growers in our district accredited and 85% benchmarked.”

“Accreditation of our Board is a proud moment, not only within our district but also across all of Queensland," says Sam Spina, CANEGROWERS Innisfail Deputy Chair.

“Smartcane BMP has been designed for growers to make it as easy, accessible and efficient as possible,” Mr Spina said. “If growers want a system they can work with rather than be told what to do, then Smartcane BMP is for them”.

Mr Spina takes a different approach to keeping the records needed to support BMP accreditation, keeping a notepad with him whenever he is on farm, noting his fertiliser and chemical application throughout the day.

“The process was simple and it was a big plus to be able to refer to the records later” Mr Spina said. He found that the majority of his practices, as did most of the board, were already in line with Smartcane BMP and that only small changes were needed to achieve accreditation.

When the benefits of Smartcane BMP are understood, it becomes easy to see why participation in the program continues to grow across all cane districts in North Queensland.

“I worked out that I could reduce my fertiliser inputs, save money and still grow pretty good cane,” said board member Wayne Gattera.

Mr Marano believes that as market demand for sustainable sugar and the threat of government regulation increases, Smartcane BMP adoption is vital for the survival of the industry. Joe hopes one day to pass his farm onto his son Daniel and he wants to see a future for his son and for all younger growers in the industry.

“BMP is grower-driven, it means we can be in control. If we don’t take control of our own destiny, someone will take control of it for us. We want the industry to survive and to do this we need all growers to get involved.”

If you are a cane grower and would like to find out more about getting involved in Smartcane BMP contact your local CANEGROWERS office or head to canechanger.com to become involved.