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Davis A.M.,James Cook University | Lewis S.E.,James Cook University | Brodie J.E.,James Cook University | Benson A.,Herbert Cane Productivity Services Ltd
Science of the Total Environment

Industry transitions away from traditional photosystem II inhibiting (PSII) herbicides towards an 'alternative' herbicide suite are now widely advocated as a key component of improved environmental outcomes for Australia's Great Barrier Reef and improved environmental stewardship on the part of the Queensland sugar industry. A systematic desktop risk analysis found that based on current farming practices, traditional PSII herbicides can pose significant environmental risks. Several of the 'alternatives' that can directly fill a specific pre-emergent ('soil residual') weed control function similar to regulated PSII herbicides also, however, presented a similar environmental risk profile, regardless of farming systems and bio-climatic zones being considered. Several alternatives with a pre-emergent residual function as well as alternative post-emergent (contact or 'knockdown') herbicides were, predicted to pose lower environmental risks than the regulated PSII herbicides to most trophic levels, although environmental risks could still be present. While several herbicides may well be viable alternatives in terms of weed control, they can still present equal or possibly higher risks to the environment. Imposing additional regulations (or even de-registrations) on particular herbicides could result in marginal, and possibly perverse environmental impacts in the long term, if usage shifts to alternative herbicides with similar risk profiles. Regardless of any regulatory efforts, improved environmental sustainability outcomes in pesticide practices within the Great Barrier Reef catchment area will hinge primarily on the continuing adoption of integrated, strategic pest management systems and technologies applied to both traditional and 'alternative' herbicides. One of the emerging policy challenges is ensuring the requisite technical and extension support for cane growers to ensure effective adoption of rapidly evolving farming system technologies, in a very dynamic and scrutinised herbicide management environment. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. Source

Schroeder B.L.,BSES Ltd | Wood A.W.,CSR Sugar | Sefton M.,Herbert Cane Productivity Services Ltd | Hurney A.P.,BSES Ltd | And 2 more authors.
32nd Annual Conference of the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists 2010, ASSCT 2010

THE QUEENSLAND Government has developed a Reef Protection Package aimed at enhancing the water quality and health of the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon. It has focused on nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) inputs within the sugarcane production system as these two nutrients have been identified as posing the greatest risk to water quality in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Over the past decade, BSES Limited and its collaborators have developed the SIX EASY STEPS program to underpin the adoption of sustainable nutrient management practices in sugarcane production. The nitrogen (N) guidelines within the SIX EASY STEPS program are based on a combination of district yield potential (DYP) and a soil N mineralisation index. This paper describes the concepts of estimated highest average annual district yield (EHAADY) and DYP and relates these to average annual yields at a range of levels within sugarcaneproducing districts in Queensland. Mill statistics data indicated that the established EHAADY values used within the SIX EASY STEPS program are appropriate for the various districts within the Queensland sugarcane industry. Data from sub-districts indicated that DYP values, determined as EHAADY multiplied by a factor of 1.2, are realistic, particularly when individual farm data are considered. It was found that the average sugarcane yields on a substantial number of farms reached or exceeded the established DYP value during seasons that were characterised by favourable rainfall conditions. DYP was not reached on the majority of farms during seasons with unfavourable rainfall patterns (which could include high, low or unevenly distributed annual rainfall). Sugarcane yield plotted against block numbers for particular soil types illustrated the reason why actual yield should not be used as a basis for determining N input. The difficulty of predicting seasonal weather conditions curtails our ability to formulate N input strategies prior to a particular growing season. This means that the only appropriate management option is to apply fertiliser with the aim of producing an optimum / sustainable sugarcane crop and to assume that the forthcoming season will be characterised by favourable weather conditions (particularly rainfall). Further R&D is required to assess the inclusion of accurate seasonal climate forecasting into the SIX EASY STEPS package to assist in guiding N inputs. Source

Cox M.C.,SRA International, Inc. | Wei X.,SRA International, Inc. | Stringer J.K.,SRA International, Inc. | Croft B.J.,SRA International, Inc. | And 2 more authors.
Proceedings of the 36th Conference of the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists, ASSCT 2014

A LARGE amount of information is collected annually by mills at the rake, block, farm and mill area levels. In some areas, additional information is available, relating blocks to soil types, sub-districts, crop class and/or CCS by harvest time. QCANESelect™, the web-based decision support tool used to assist with variety selection at the block and farm level, makes recommendations for varieties based on soil type, diseases of concern and some management options. However, much of the information relating to variety performance on different soil types is not readily available and is not routinely analysed to assist in providing QCANESelect™ with the background data used to make variety recommendations. Currently QCANESelect recommendations are based on the collective knowledge of a group of field-based experts who provide a subjective assessment of the relative productivity of varieties over a full crop cycle. Preliminary analyses of data from two mill areas over five years (Bundaberg 2009-2013; Herbert 2008-2012) suggested that the recommendations could be greatly improved by using the information on variety × soil type × crop class. This paper will show how, within the limitations of mill data, variety recommendations can be improved by combining analyses of mill data and expert knowledge. Source

Venn L.,Paluma Environmental Education Center | Way C.,Education Queensland | Di Bella L.P.,Herbert Cane Productivity Services Ltd | Nash M.,Terrain NRM in the Wet Tropics
35th Annual Conference of the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists 2013, ASSCT 2013

IN 2011, NEARLY two hundred students at eleven State primary schools located in the Herbert River catchment near Ingham participated in the Herbert Water Quality Monitoring Project. Five of these schools were also involved in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's Reef Guardian Schools program. The Herbert Water Quality Monitoring Project is an ongoing project involving agencies representing primary industries (mostly cane and cattle), local government, scientific and natural resource management bodies. The project provides insight to land management practices. The lower Herbert catchment is mostly cane land and borders both the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Conscious management of farm run-off by cane farmers and of stream water quality by the whole community is therefore essential. The schools' section of the Herbert Water Quality Monitoring Project was based on the Earth Smarties, curriculum delivery model developed in 2010 by teachers working in two Queensland Department of Education programs focused on the teaching of science and sustainability at primary school level, and another departmental program aimed at introducing digital technologies to classrooms. The Earth Smarties, model has four steps: (1) Find partners with synergistic objectives; (2) Resource the project; (3) Provide professional development and training; (4) Celebrate achievements. This paper documents the implementation of a catchment water quality monitoring project at school level and the engagement of the local stakeholder agencies in the project. It also makes recommendations on how the Earth Smarties, model could be applied to other catchments and with other projects. The intention is to encourage and support the future engagement of school communities by other cane growing and natural resource agencies in significant local projects. Source

Pittaway P.,University of Southern Queensland | Melland A.,University of Southern Queensland | Celotto G.,Liddle and Sons Agricultural Services | Dowie J.,Farmacist | And 2 more authors.
37th Annual Conference of the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists, ASSCT 2015

ANECDOTAL REPORTS FROM cane growers using a liquid fertiliser formulation at planting in North Queensland, indicate plant establishment is improved relative to granular products. However, some growers perceive liquid formulations are more prone to leaching, with insufficient residual fertiliser available to meet plant demand over the first 12 to 16 weeks prior to re-application. Soil from one of three plant cane field trials established in the Herbert and Tully regions in 2014 was selected for a glasshouse leaching trial to compare the fate of N, P and K in commercial fertilisers applied in liquid or granular formulations on Day 1 and 18 weeks later. The high concentration of muriate of potash in the granular formulation applied at planting inhibited emergence at two field sites, and inhibited nitrification in the leaching columns. Phosphorus and nitrate in the first liquid formulation were more immediately available, which may have stimulated emergence in the field. The lower concentration of N, P and K in the liquid formulation applied to the field trials at planting was sufficient to sustain plant cane for the first 12 to 16 weeks. Contrary to grower perception, the risk of nitrate leaching was greatest for the granular fertiliser treatments. This may be due to the higher concentration of N, P and K applied in the second liquid formulation, and the microbial slow release (immobilisation) of fertiliser N induced by the inclusion of molasses in the formulation. Source

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