8 June 2016: Cane growers score century for Reef and vow to bat on
Queensland’s sugarcane growers are ensuring their industry’s long term environmental sustainability and profitability by flocking to the industry’s best management practice program, Smartcane, and reaching an important milestone.
As of World Oceans Day today, 102 businesses have been independently accredited as farming at or above industry best practice standards in the three core modules - Drainage and Irrigation Management, Soil Health and Nutrient Management and Weed, Pest and Disease Management.
CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan congratulated the growers for proving their commitment to the health of the Great Barrier Reef and the economic future of the $2 billion a year export industry.
“The two things go hand-in-hand,” Mr Galligan said. “80% of our sugar is sold overseas and by having a robust accreditation program we are meeting our customer’s increasing demands for a sustainable product.
“Along with the 102 accredited growers, we have more than 60% of the cane growing area in Queensland benchmarked against Smartcane BMP standards and working towards accreditation.”
Cairns Region grower Stephen Calcagno is accredited and believes Smartcane BMP is the best tool farmers have to prove they are minimising the loss of nutrients, pesticides and sediment from their land.
“We’ve got to prove to everyone that we’re doing the right thing by the Reef,” he said. “Smartcane BMP is a great opportunity to turn the spotlight on and look into your business and prove that we are the leading sugar growers in the world with our farming practices.”
Farming in one of the wettest places in Queensland, Mr Calcagno maintains lush creek-side vegetation to slow and filter the huge volumes of water that can move through his farms.
“We try and keep the farm drainage slow moving and keep headlands all grassed to filter out sediment and nutrients and pesticides before they get to the waterways,” he said.
Mr Calcagno keeps records of all of his farming activities and uses GPS to keep his machinery on established tracks in the paddocks to avoid damaging or compacting the crop zone. All fertilizer is buried into the plant roots.
“If you can fix up the soil health then you’ll have the optimum take-up of nutrients, a heathy root system and healthy plant that’ll utilise the nutrients that you’ve put in and will minimise any loss running off,” he said.
Mr Galligan acknowledged the Queensland Government’s funding for this program as an industry-driven, industry-owned mechanism to deliver real water quality benefits to the Reef.
“These figures show our growers are embracing the Smartcane BMP process – I am very proud of their efforts,” he said. “It can take a farm several seasons to work through the record-keeping requirements making these early results a real cause for celebration.”