Setting Record Keeping Straight

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This Article was Originally Published in the Cassowary Coast Independent News on August 15, 2017

Cane Changer is a program for sugarcane farmers about setting the record straight. It’s about better telling grower stories and how the industry responds to challenges.

As part of the Project, growers are asked to sign a commitment recognising the new practices and innovations they’ve adopted on their farm, and state their intention to work towards a better future. For many, that future means better record-keeping and accreditation in the industry’s Smartcane BMP (best management practice) program.

Smartcane BMP is industry-developed and individually tailored, designed to drive each growers’ and the industry’s productivity while ensuring that farming practices are contributing to the health and sustainability of the Great Barrier Reef.

It is the sugar industry’s response to the challenges around water quality and the Reef.

Smartcane BMP modules are designed to improve soil health and nutrient management, drainage and irrigation management, and weed, pest and disease management. Also included is farm business management – including record keeping. Good records allow growers to keep track of the changes they’ve already been making, and see what additional changes could be made.

Matt Kealley, CANEGROWERS Senior Manager for Environmenta and Sustainability, believes record keeping is one of the most important tools for any grower on their farm. 

“Record keeping not only provides important information for growers to help them manage their farm business, but it can also provide important information to support growers in working towards accreditation in the Smartcane BMP program.”

By identifying farm practices that align with BMP, good record keeping makes achieving accreditation easier. Many growers report that their practices are already mostly aligned with BMP anyway, and that better record keeping allows them to demonstrate it.

“The process was simple and it was a big plus to be able to refer to the records later,” Innisfail board member Sam Spina said about achieving his accreditation.  He found that most of his practices were already in line with Smartcane BMP and that only minor changes were needed to achieve accreditation.

Record-keeping does not need to be a difficult process. There is no prescribed method for keeping records for Smartcane BMP accreditation. Growers can use existing paper record keeping methods, online tools or apps, or they can develop their own system. CANEGROWERS and the Smartcane BMP programme are continually finding ways to make farm record-keeping as intuitive and easy as possible for each individual grower, meaning everyone can develop a system which works best for them. There is a record keeping system out there for every grower.

Deb Telford, Innisfail’s Smartcane BMP facilitator says record keeping comes down to four simple steps- the who, what, when and where of farming.

  • Who carried out the farm task?

  • What fertiliser and herbicide was applied and what were the rates of application?

  • When was it done?

  • Where is the farm and the block where the application took place?

Wayne Gattera, a CANEGROWERS Innisfail board member, was surprised at the ease of record keeping in Smartcane BMP.

“The main thing that was easier than I thought was record keeping, because it was an area that was probably let down a bit in my business, whereas I’m now keeping very good records.”

The time and energy spent in maintaining records will be worth it not just in terms of monitoring farming practices, but also with providing direct evidence of what growers are doing to help with Reef water quality issues. It will help to set the record straight about the cane industry and its relationship with water quality.

If you would like to find out more about the project or how you can achieve your Smartcane BMP accreditation head to canechanger.com or contact your local CANEGROWERS office.