CANEGROWERS works with members to ensure their sugarcane businesses are productive and profitable as well as sustainable, and advocates for government policy that facilitates this.

CANEGROWERS opposes the current Queensland Government regulatory approach to achieving environmental stewardship and believes the industry's voluntary Smartcane BMP program is the best pathway to meeting the expectations of the community and the sugar market .

Growing cane next to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, within some of the most variable climatic conditions in the world, means the Queensland sugarcane industry has developed a culture of innovation and continual improvement.

Read more about reef regulations, Smartcane BMP, modern farming practices, soil health and fertiliser use, chemical use, cane firing, feral pigs and rats.

Reef regulations

CANEGROWERS argues that the reef regulations should be repealed as they turn crop management guidelines into black and white rules, reducing a grower's capacity and motivation to adapt and innovate.

CANEGROWERS believes that Smartcane BMP, and its focus on continual improvement, is the better approach for growers focussed on productivity, profitability and sustainability.

A CANEGROWERS analysis of the underlying intent of the Federal and Queensland government programs and policies for Reef water quality has found they risk an economic cost of $1.3 billion over ten years by pushing nitrogen use below industry best practice. Read more here.

CANEGROWERS advocated for a review of their Reef Water Quality Improvement Plan and the Paddock to Reef and Report Card programs which purport to assess progress towards water quality targets. The Federal and Queensland governments have agreed and this review is now underway.  CANEGROWERS is calling for targets for industry that match  best practice as described by Smartcane BMP and not require growers' businesses to become economically unviable.

Click here to read the Australian Canegrower article about the major flaws with government Reef policies, programs and targets.


Modern farming practices

Sugarcane farming practices that greatly reduce impacts to the surrounding environment and promote productivity  include: 

  • Green cane harvesting and trash blanketing for soil moisture, health and erosion control
  • Sub-surface fertiliser application to reduce nitrogen losses
  • Rotation cropping and fallows for soil health and pest management
  • Precision agriculture and guidance systems for soil health and targeted application of inputs
  • Use of knockdown herbicides over residual where practical

Read about these practices and some of our farmers in the Cane to Coast pages.

CANEGROWERS members have been keen participants in government programs to improve water quality for the Great Barrier Reef, investing $1.80 for every $1.00 of government funding in programs including Reef Rescue, the Reef Programme and Reef Trust.


Smartcane BMP is the sugarcane industry's voluntary best practice program. Its three core modules focus on both water quality and productivity.

CANEGROWERS has achieved recognition for Smartcane BMP under company and industry sustainability frameworks. Some of these include Vive, ProTerra and Coca-Cola. Through the efforts of CANEGROWERS, Smartcane BMP already has alignment with Bonsucro, the international standard for sustainable sugar.

Growers accredited in the core modules of Smartcane BMP are deemed by the Queensland Government to be meeting the requirements of regulations to improve catchment water quality.  This is additional recognition that growers are demonstrating their environmental stewardship of land adjacent to the Reef lagoon.


Soil health, fertiliser and nitrogen use efficiency

Soil and nutrient management practices on Queensland sugarcane farms have changed significantly over the past 20 years. CANEGROWERS supports efforts to identify and refine the optimal rate of nitrogen use in particular, consistent with achieving both improved productivity and profitability on farm while minimising impact on water quality.  

CANEGROWERS works with Sugar Research Australia, industry extension bodies and the Queensland Department of Environment and Science along with experts in nitrogen use and soil health to review the latest research on nutrient management.   

CANEGROWERS forms part of the SIX EASY STEPS Advisory Committee designed to ensure future nutrient management tools and experimental results are technically sound and, if appropriate, recommend that they are included as part of the SIX EASY STEPS TOOLBOX to ensure nutrient management plans are best suited to their crops.


Chemical use

The use of herbicides and pesticides is an important component of crop management and it is in the interests of both growers and the environment that such chemicals are used efficiently, carefully and in accordance with label requirements and any other regulatory obligations.

CANEGROWERS organises and supports grower training in the application, handling and storage of chemicals. CANEGROWERS also supports and promotes programs that mange chemical drums and unused chemicals such as ChemClear and drumMUSTER.


Feral Pigs

Feral pigs are a major pest problem for sugarcane, causing significant damage to the cane and reducing productivity. Efforts to control pigs include baiting, trapping, and shooting. However, because of their high fecundity and large home range, pig populations must be reduced by as much as 70% for control efforts to be effective. Therefore, these efforts work best when they are co-ordinated across a large area.

CANEGROWERS has commissioned a case study into the long-running Hinchinbrook Community Feral Pig Program, which you can find here. This study identifies what is needed for a successful co-ordinated local control program. CANEGROWERS is seeking partners and support to apply these learnings across other Districts.



Rats can cause damage to sugarcane and the overall productivity of a crop.  Growers are allowed to bait rats, however there are conditions that must be followed for baiting to occur. The two species of native rat, the ground rat (Rattus sordidus) and the climbing rat (Melomys burtoni) are native grassland animals and are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and their control is subject to the Queensland Government issuing a Damage Mitigation Permit.

CANEGROWERS has secured an industry-wide permit to bait rats which avoids the necessity of individual growers applying for individual permits. Growers baiting for these rats must keep a record and provide this information to their local Cane Productivity Board. Following representations from CANEGROWERS, a special permit for the aerial baiting of rats via helicopter or UAV in the Herbert River and Mackay districts was approved. CANEGROWERS has produced a Fact Sheet on rat baiting in Queensland.


Cane firing

The vast majority of sugarcane in Queensland is now cut green and the leafy matter is left on the paddock to become organic matter in the soil.

However there are circumstances under which sugarcane is still burned prior to harvest. Storm damage or flood debris in the cane or an unusually large and leafy crop means it could be dangerous or difficult to cut green.

CANEGROWERS has collated the relevant cane firing guidelines to assist growers with the permits, approvals and notifications required before cane is burned. This document is available on the Member Resources page or by emailing CANEGROWERS.