Variety Management Group meets in Tully

Tully Variety Management Group members Greg Shannon and Peter Jackson trialing the group's small mill

Tully Variety Management Group members Greg Shannon and Peter Jackson trialing the group's small mill

This article was originally published in the Cassowary Coast Independent on 23 August 2018.

More than 50 cane growers from the Tully district met recently to learn more about new sugarcane varieties which have been proven to perform better locally.

The Tully Variety Management Group is a local industry initiative which involves local growers working with Tully Sugar Limited (TSL) to trial, under local conditions, some of the many new sugarcane varieties that are now available for planting.

Peter Jackson, a local Tully grower, hosted the evening and plays an active role in the Variety Management Group. He believes the group’s success is due to such strong support from local growers.

“This group is driven locally with a focus on productivity, profitability and environmental outcomes,” Peter said. “Growers are here off their own backs to learn from one another and find out what is happening in our industry.”

“It was great to see so many growers at our meeting recently, especially considering it is the busiest time of year with harvest and planting season in full swing.”

TSL’s Cane Productivity and Development Manager Greg Shannon leads the Tully Variety Management Group and was there to present an early season review of results from the 2018 trials, as well as discuss commercial results of varieties recommended from previous trials.

“Sugar Research Australia (SRA) does a great job breeding new canes and we have a lot to choose from now,” Greg said. “They provide growers with a thorough regional guide for the wet tropics, however, within each region there can be a range of different soil types and rainfall patterns that affects what grows best in certain locations.”

“The Tully Variety Management Group helps find the sub-district variation of these many new varieties and builds a local set of recommendations for them from both a potential CCS trend/ productivity, and a cane quality for milling point of view.

“With so many new varieties available now we are trying to fast track the adoption of the good ones for each sub-district by identifying them quickly and helping growers to reap the benefits.”

A highlight of the meeting was the unveiling of the variety group’s prototype mobile mill that will enable trial site samples to be processed in the field as they are cut. The idea to obtain this mobile mill came from the growers themselves this year.

“For the past five years we have cut and loaded the different cane variety samples in the field and bought them back to the TSL small mill lab where they are processed the next day,” Greg said. “With this machine we can test samples on the spot at the trial site, putting the results into an online calculator that SRA developed.

“Being able to do this on-site should mean we can run the trials more efficiently.”

The meeting also featured a presentation from Project Cane Changer, a CANEGROWERS initiative that is designed to increase the recognition of the sugarcane industry for its efforts to adopt practices that are better for the grower and for the environment.

Growers were presented with a Cane Changer Declaration, recognising their involvement in the project and highlighting the practices they have changed over the years to improve productivity and protect the environment.

“Growers have been changing for their whole lives and they continue to do so,” said project leader, Dr John Pickering. “Our data shows that growers involved in the project across Tully have changed more than 160 different farming practices over the last decade.

“Through getting involved in initiatives such as the Tully Variety Management Group and learning from one another, growers are helping to build an even brighter future for their industry.”

Tully grower Peter Jackson is presented with a Cane Changer Declaration by Dr John Pickering

Tully grower Peter Jackson is presented with a Cane Changer Declaration by Dr John Pickering