Cane farms hit hard in southern Queensland


29 January 2013: Cane farms hit hard in southern Queensland

Flooding rains have ravaged pockets of cane land, and major damage will be sustained by individual cane growers, particularly in the Bundaberg, Maryborough, and Childers areas. “However with the flood waters still up, it is still too early to determine the full extent of the damage,” says CANEGROWERS CEO, Steve Greenwood, who says CANEGROWERS is already in talks with the State and federal governments about options for individual growers significantly impacted by the extreme weather events.

Sugarcane is a hardy crop and able to withstand short periods of inundation, but longer periods starve the roots of oxygen causing the plant to wither and die.

In the coming week, the 18 sugarcane areas across Queensland and New South Wales will be assessing not just damage to the crop, but also damage to irrigation equipment, roads and supporting infrastructure.

“Early reports are that broadscale flooding in the Bundaberg, Maryborough and Childers areas will cause major damage to sections of this year’s cane crop,” reports Greenwood. “While in other areas, reports are coming in that the crop is looking good under the circumstances - some even reporting that rains in their area have broken a prolonged dry spell and provided the much-needed moisture this year’s crop needed,” says Greenwood.

It will be a week or more before the full impact of floods can be assessed, but early indications suggest that even though individual areas and farms have been ravaged, Australia’s production overall is not expected to be significantly downgraded.

“Our hearts go out to the communities and everyone in those communities impacted by these events,” Greenwood said today.

Media comment: Steve Greenwood, CANEGROWERS CEO, 0488 721 156
More info: Suzi Moore, CANEGROWERS Communications, 07 3864 6431 or 0427641239

CANEGROWERS district rainfall updates:
  • Mossman: Overall the area is describing conditions as ‘wet season’ weather thus far. Mossman had a very hot and humid long weekend and a few more heavy sharp showers and big gusts of wind resulting in a lot of tree debris and a few branches and trees down. This is not part of ex-Oswald. The area has another low sitting on them, with more storm and monsoon activity forecasted. The paddocks are very wet, but as it was so dry earlier, the cane is still quite small with a lot of growing to do. Now the rains have come, the crop should take off, but as it gets bigger it will be subject to more damage if these storm conditions hang around over the next few month.
  • Tableland: Rainfall totals were reported for the Tableland of between 200 – 350mm from 19/1 – 9am 25/1. There were gusty winds over that period. There are some reports of lodged early plant cane, but most growers are only now able to get out and inspect their paddocks, so the area still doesn’t have a broad damage assessment as yet.
  • Cairns Region: Rains have on the whole been well received. For some it was on the border of being too late, and for some of the drier areas it may be too late. At last report the rains had not been destructive, falling fairly steadily across the catchment. Gusty winds 40 knot winds over the weekend have caused some cane to lodge and bought down some branches and trees in the area.
  • Innisfail: No significant rain fell over the weekend. The area had over 700mm fall across the district in the 7-days previous, but so far there has been no major flooding of the creeks and rivers. Some low lying areas may experience residual water remaining for some days, but generally water has drained off paddocks with little damage reported. The gusting winds experienced don’t appear to have caused any significant damage to the crop.
  • Tully: No further rain has been reported in the area over the weekend, just lots of heat and gusty winds. Floodwaters are now receding in the low areas. Falls of between 6-700mm across the district last week resulted in moderate to major flood levels in both the Tully and Murray Rivers. Rainfall moderated on Thursday last week. The impact is as yet unknown, and will be dependent on any further flooding over the next two months of the wet season. It is probable that any blocks that were planted late will be most affected in their yield for this season.
  • Herbert River: Herbert River had no rainfall over the weekend. Conditions have been fine and hot throughout and conducive to the escape of flood water which has been facilitated by work done last year to remove debris and sediment from some major creeks such as Lannercost, Cattle and Frances. Observations since Friday reveal some areas of crop loss whilst some parts of the Lower Herbert are still too early to call at this stage. Generally the crop appears in fairly reasonable condition considering the stress it has experienced and is not expected to be significantly downgraded at this point. Some damage to crop prospects is inevitable given the significant areas of plant cane that were playing catch up after a dry spring and early summer, whereas established ratoons have had a stronger base to tolerate the excess water.
  • Burdekin: The rains are providing welcome relief for irrigators in the Burdekin, giving the thirsty crop a really ‘big drink’ and assisting local growers to reduce their electricity/pumping costs. The area has received some passing showers and lighting storms since the 250 mL downpour last week. Some taller cane may be feeling some effects of inundation, but with the rains clearing yesterday, the waters are subsiding quickly, and in general it is felt it will do the crop wonders at this stage when it’s looking for kick in growth.
  • Proserpine: Around 250mm of rain has fallen across the district, but no significant additional rainfall fell over the weekend. All local roads have remained open and the crop is draining off nicely. The conditions were fairly dry preceding the rain, so the crop benefitted during the first 24 hours. The wind gusts on Friday didn't cause any serious damage to the crop - fortunately the cane is still at an early stage and should withstand the elements. Very hot and humid at the moment.
  • Mackay: Overall the benefit of the rain is clearly outweighing any negatives. “We have come through this drenching in reasonable shape and now hope to follow this up with some sunshine,” CANEGROWERS Mackay chairman Paul Schembri says. Mackay and Plane Creek regions copped a fair drenching late last week. On average farmers received between 200mm and 400mm of rain. There has been minor damage such as flooding in low lying areas, waterlogging of cane, some erosion, but at a very low level. The damage will vary farm to farm and will be known within the week.
  • Bundaberg: The rainfall figures vary across the district, but most had around 550 mm in 2.5 days. The area will not know what damage has been done to cane until floodwaters recede, but estimates prior to the wet weather was 1.7 million tonnes of cane. There will be significant infrastructure damage - more than last time because local growers did not have the time to lift pumps etc. Scouring across all the paddocks will vary, and will be worse on river farms. The water is a lot deeper than last time and the area will not know the full scale of crop damage until waters go down and growers can get out to investigate.
  • Childers: Isis cane farms at Wallaville have had rainfall registrations up to 747mm. In one case 514mm fell in a 24-hour period. Many more farms than originally envisaged are still under water and it will be many days before the area can assess the damage. The revised rainfall for Isis is between 450mm and 747mm. Rain was initially steady but heavier falls were recorded on Saturday and Sunday. It is expected that those riparian farms inundated by flood waters in 2010/11 will again be impacted but to a greater degree due to flood levels being 2-metres higher this time round. The full extent will not be known for about a week, but there will be some erosion and damage from flood inundation. Prior to this rainfall event, only 6.8mm of rain had been recorded for January and farmers had been conducting full irrigation practices from the end of the 2012 crushing. Some growers in the area say the rains have actually been beneficial for their farm. Growers will now be busy, when the ground dries out, controlling weeds in crops.
  • Maryborough: The district has received around 100 mm of rain over the past 24 hours. Maryborough district has received around 450 mm to 530 mm of rain since this rainfall event commenced. The Mary River and Tinana Creek are both experiencing major flooding. The Mary River, at last report, was at 10.65 metres and slowly rising. This is the highest flood level since the 1974 flood which peaked at 11 metres. The area will have major damage to many of farms fronting the Mary River and Tinana Creek. The most damage will be in “The Pocket”, Island Plantation and Walkers Point areas. It is too early at this stage to determine the extent of the damage, but it is expected to be substantial.
  • Rocky Point: Rocky Point district received a little over 200mm of rain, with no flooding damage and minimal wind damage.