Best practice for sugarcane growers

Queensland sugarcane growers are continuing to adopt many farming practices that reduce soil, nutrient and pesticide run-off in the Reef catchments.

Use our industry-specific information and links below to keep informed about the latest research and farming methods for best sugarcane farm management practices.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) offers extension services in the sugarcane growing areas around Bundaberg, Mackay, Townsville, the Burdekin, Herbert, and Wet Tropics. Extension officers can:

  • help you adopt holistic management systems which deliver better water quality, improved production and sustainable outcomes
  • connect you to industry specialists
  • share information about the latest research and AgTech.

Nutrient management

Best practice guidelines

The Six easy steps program is the sugar industry's best practice guideline for sustainable use of nutrients. The program will help you:

  • keep nutrients on the farm and reduce run-off
  • create nutrient management plans.

The program includes the NutriCalc online nutrient management tool.

Fertiliser use

Growers are taking up the challenge and trialling fertiliser application improvements.

Enhanced efficiency fertilisers are showing promise—the EEF60 project (PDF, 1.3MB) involved 60 growers trialling enhanced efficiency fertilisers to identify new options for nutrient management.

Watch this video about a closed spiked wheel applicator (StoolZippa), an innovative tool that puts fertiliser where it is needed and helps to reduce the amount of chemicals leaving sugarcane paddocks.

CSIRO has developed an app to manage fertiliser use (1622WQ) and has extensive research on sugarcane.

Soil health

Soil testing will help you calculate the optimum amount of nitrogen and phosphorus to apply to crops, saving money and reducing the risk of surplus nutrients ending up in waterways.

Find out more about the economic and environmental impacts of managing soil health, and the benefits of using shielded sprayer technology to reduce residual herbicide losses on sugarcane farms that use irrigation.

Ongoing research is looking at optimising nitrogen use in the crop cycle and minimising losses to the environment. Read about nitrogen use efficiency in sugarcane.

Results from a project in the Wet Tropics region highlight the importance of using recommended nitrogen rates to reduce run-off and leaching losses, while maintaining good sugar levels.

Land and waterway management

Sub-surface drainage systems can help manage excess water and minimise chemical run-off.

A paddock trial in the Burdekin tested the production and profitability benefits of converting from furrow to drip irrigation.

Treatment systems and waterway management

Treatment wetlands, sediment basins (PDF, 386KB), denitrifying bioreactors and vegetated drains, can be used on farms to improve water quality by:

  • intercepting irrigation or rainfall run-off or shallow groundwater from production areas and trapping and removing nutrients, sediments and pesticides
  • slowing water flow and decreasing erosion.

The Treatment system toolbox has information on different treatment systems and how to plan and design treatment systems for farms.

Building, restoring and managing wetlands on farms can have many benefits for the farm, including:

Revegetating riparian zones and fixing eroded creek banks helps to minimise sediment and nutrient run-off. Revegetating riparian zones also protects the farm from erosion, helps with pest control and provides habitat for wildlife.

The Wetland Management Handbook (PDF, 5.7MB) and other tools and guides can help with wetland management at a property level.

Sugarcane best management practice

Smartcane BMP is the voluntary best management practice (BMP) program for the sugarcane industry. It supports requirements under the Reef protection regulations.

The program includes 8 modules that cover farming and business management aimed at improving farm productivity and lowering environmental impact.

As a grower, you can receive industry accreditation after completing modules 1, 2 and 3, and undergoing an independent audit to verify that your practices meet industry best practice.

Smartcane BMP is managed by Canegrowers and is supported by the Queensland Government. It links to the Six Easy Steps program which is the sugar industry's best practice guideline for sustainable use of nutrients.

Case study: The benefits of rotating sugarcane crops with grain legumes

Read about trials to improve the productivity and profitability of sugarcane production by rotating crops with grain legumes.

Sugarcane industry videos

Watch the videos below to find out more about industry developments.