There's more smoke on the horizon in the 2017 Australian sugarcane season than for many previous years as growers who have been cutting green for decades have had to revive the practice of burning their cane prior to harvest.
CANEGROWERS is asking the communities of these districts which haven't experienced burning for some time to be patient as members work through a number of challenging issues.
The main one is the legacy of Tropical Cyclone Debbie which flooded farms and flattened crops at Proserpine, Mackay and Sarina and also in the northern Gold Coast district of Rocky Point.
A lot of rubbish including fences, sheets of iron and even fridges and furniture were dumped into paddocks. These are big safety hazards if a harvester runs into them and burning the cane provides a bit more visibility, especially where the cane has been tangled or bent over by the strong wind.
Adding to the problem left by the cyclone, the historic Rocky Point sugar mill broke down in 2016 meaning there was a lot of standover cane. The size and leafiness of the two-year old plants means mechanical harvesting is more difficult unless some of the excess material is removed through burning.
In the Burdekin, the size of the irrigated cane crop and the volume of trash it would produce if cut green (which would inhibit effective irrigation) means that burning is the usual practice in the district.
CANEGROWERS members take care to follow every rule surrounding cane firing and attempt to undertake this practice in a way that seeks to minimise inconvenience to their neighbours and nearby communities.