Sugar Industry Building a Sustainable Future

Dr Pickering during a recent workshop in Babinda.

Dr Pickering during a recent workshop in Babinda.

Queensland’s sugarcane industry is no stranger to taking on challenges and adopting new farming practices that improve yields, productivity and environmental outcomes. As many growers will tell you, it’s often the little things that can lead to the biggest improvements.

Growers routinely experiment with new ideas, quickly eliminating those that don’t work and preserving the ones that do. In the north, practices like green cane harvesting and trash blanketing are now commonplace, while practices such as minimal tillage, legume fallows and controlled traffic continue to increase in popularity.

By embracing best management practices on their farms, growers are not only increasing productivity, they are also helping to ensure positive environmental outcomes for the Great Barrier Reef.  

Minister Enoch signing a Cane Changer Commitment on Innisfail CANEGROWERS chair, Joseph Marano's farm.

Minister Enoch signing a Cane Changer Commitment on Innisfail CANEGROWERS chair, Joseph Marano's farm.


Project Cane Changer, a CANEGROWERS initiative funded by the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science, is seeking to highlight and share these positive on-farm changes. By working with growers, the project aims to boost recognition for the industry’s innovative history and pave the way for an even more sustainable future.

Project leader, Dr John Pickering, believes that the success of Cane Changer relies on taking a positive approach and seeking to understand individual growers.

“It is very clear that growers want the best for the environment and want the best possible future for their farms,” Dr Pickering said. “Cane Changer builds on the cane industry’s history of innovation and works towards building an even brighter future.”

To date, more than 180 growers from across the Wet Tropics have signed up to the project by completing 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.

These achievements were formally recognised by the Queensland Government’s Minster for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Leeanne Enoch, earlier this year when she signed her own Cane Changer Commitment.

In doing so, Ms Enoch committed to:

  • Acknowledge the ongoing efforts of Queensland growers for improving their farming practices, especially as they relate to the health of the Great Barrier Reef;

  • Recognise the importance of cane growers for the state of Queensland; and

  • Work collaboratively with the sugar industry for a better future both for the industry and the environment.

“Cane Changer is coming up with ways to better understand the factors that influence the adoption of best management practices, and how these can bolster the resilience of the cane industry,” Ms Enoch said.

Dr Pickering said the recognition was a sign of the support sugarcane growers have from the Queensland Government.

“Growers have been making significant improvements over the years to their farming practices to improve the water quality running out into the Great Barrier Reef,” he said. “It means a lot for growers across the state to have that support and acknowledgement of the changes they have made.”

“We hope to continue that into the future as we work with growers and share more stories of change from the sugarcane fields”

To get involved or find out more about the project head to, or contact your local CANEGROWERS office.