Cane growers have their say

This article was originally published in the Herbert River Express on 9 January 2019

(Left to right): Raymond Cervellin, Toneya McIntosh, Maria Battoraro, Peter Sheedy, Michael Pisano, and Sam Moore at the workshops.

(Left to right): Raymond Cervellin, Toneya McIntosh, Maria Battoraro, Peter Sheedy, Michael Pisano, and Sam Moore at the workshops.

More than 20 growers from across the Herbert River district came together for a series of workshops to talk about farming practices and have their say about local industry issues.

As part of the sessions, growers were able to get real-time feedback about how their on-farm practices compared to other growers in their district and discuss some of the myths and misconceptions about industry programs such as Smartcane BMP.

CANEGROWERS Herbert River Chairman, Michael Pisano, kicked off the workshops with an industry update calling for growers to consider getting involved in industry programs to help ‘Set the Records Straight’ about the sugarcane industry.

“Growers are always changing the way we do things to improve our productivity and protect the environment,” he said.

“It’s important that we demonstrate this to ensure the sugarcane industry continues to have strong community and Government support.”

“What programs like Smartcane BMP and Cane Changer are doing is setting the record straight by sharing these stories with the wider community.”

Herbert River Smartcane BMP facilitator Maria Battoraro led the sessions with Smartcane BMP officer Raymond Cervellin, and said that growers found it useful to see how their practices compared to other growers in the district.

“It generated some great discussion,” Ms Battoraro said.

“Across the four sessions we found that the majority of Herbert growers reported already using practices that were in-line with and above industry best practices.”

Smartcane BMP is the sugarcane industry’s best management practice program that allows growers to demonstrate their use of on-farm practices that benefit their productivity while protecting the environment.

The second half of the workshops were run in partnership with Project Cane Changer, presenting growers with the opportunity to have their say on local industry issues.

Project Cane Changer is a CANEGROWERS initiative that is seeking to highlight the positive changes taking place throughout the industry and work with growers to continue to build a sustainable future for their industry.

Growers are invited to participate in the project by signing a Cane Changer Commitment, which documents the on-farm changes they have made in the past and recognises their commitment to continuing this into the future.

More than 60 growers have signed up to be part of the project in the Herbert River region since the project’s launch.

“A lot can change over the years and that is no different for Herbert growers,” Cane Changer project co-ordinator, Toneya McIntosh said.

“In fact, these commitments show that Herbert River growers involved with the project have changed well over 600 practices across the past decade.”

“What’s more, the workshops highlighted that practices like green cane trash blanketing and fallow cropping are now commonplace, while practices such as minimal tillage and controlled traffic continue to increase in popularity.

“This is the kind of data that is helping to set the record straight about the great work growers are doing to improve productivity and environmental outcomes.”

Representatives from SRA and HCPSL were also on-hand during the workshops to answer technical questions and provide growers with an update from their work in the region.

“Growers really appreciated having the technical expertise available to answer their questions,” Ms McIntosh said.

“Having so many industry partners at the workshops really added to the discussions and gave growers a more holistic view of farming practices and local industry issues.”

The workshops were run by CANEGROWERS Herbert River and Project Cane Changer in partnership with Herbert Cane Productivity Services Limited (HCPSL) and Sugar Research Australia (SRA) in December last year.