This section covers many of the on-farm practices and procedures that are conducted as part of sugarcane farming, including harvesting, irrigation, nutrition, and precision agriculture. SRA invests in and conducts a range of research and adoption activities across these aspects of sugarcane farming.
Cane production is affected by both harvesting and field issues which can impact on raw sugar quality and quantity. Both harvesting efficiency and crop presentation affect cane yield, cane quality and ratoonability (ratooning).
Harvesting Best Practice (HBP) guidelines
Research conducted into harvester performance has developed Harvesting Best Practice (HBP) guidelines to reduce cane loss, improve cane quality, and reduce stool damage.
The HBP guidelines also focus on the impact that crop presentation has on harvesting efficiency. Information available covers topics such as farming for efficient harvesting; the effect of extractor fanspeed on cane loss, crop yield, extraneous matter and CCS; harvester setup to reduce basecutter/chopper losses; and improving billet quality for planting.
With harvesting impacting on raw sugar quality and crop yields, a HBP approach will ensure the ongoing profitability and sustainability of the entire sugarcane industry.
- Pour Rate Ready Reckoner
- Harvesting Best Practice Manual
- Information sheet: Billet Quality
- Information sheet: Assessing the sugar content of a crop for managing the harvest sequence
- Information sheet: Reduce harvesting losses; Dollars in your pocket not in the paddock
- Information sheet: Minimising pick up losses
- Information sheet: Harvesting Best Practice Origins
The use of water and its cost remain a key part of the production-profitability equation for many cane growers. Over half of the Australian sugarcane crop relies on either full or supplementary irrigation. Water availability varies by district, with the Burdekin region having the most reliable supply with a full irrigation allocation each year. Water allocations in the other irrigated districts, such as the Atherton Tableland and the Central and Southern Regions, are more variable.
Furrow, overhead low-pressure systems, including centre pivot or lateral move, and overhead high-pressure systems, including water winches and travelling booms, are the most common irrigation systems in use. However, emerging technologies such as drip irrigation are being seen as a new way to irrigate as they conserve water and lower energy inputs.
The primary aim of IrrigWeb is to provide irrigators with current and local advice on sugarcane crop water use and development. The tool combines crop water use estimates with user-defined irrigation system constraints and crop cycle inputs to schedule future irrigation events.
Developed by the National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA) EconCalc is a decision support tool which can economically evaluate the costs and benefits associated with a new irrigation system. It calculates a number of economic performance indicators such as net present value, the annualised costs/benefits, the internal rate of return and the benefit cost ratioconomic calculator for irrigation systems.
Developed by the National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA) this toolkit contains a range of on-line tools for irrigation systems and irrigators, including EconCalc. Some tools require a user name and password.
Developed by the Queensland Government this free on-line irrigation management tool is principally designed for use with field crops but can also be used with sugarcane. It uses real time weather data to calculate crop growth and water use. A user name and password are required.
- Automation of furrow irrigation: overview
- Automation of furrow irrigation information sheet: Russell Jordan
- Automation of furrow irrigation information sheet: Aaron Linton
- Automation of furrow irrigation information sheet: Denis Pozzebon
- Irrigation of Sugarcane Manual
- Soil water holding capacity
- Irrigation water quality
- Installing tensiometers
- Surface drainage and maintenance
- Irrigation scheduling with mini pans
- Crop water use
- Calibrating irrigation scheduling
- Irrigation scheduling tools
- Simple calculations for furrow irrigation
- Irrigation scheduling tools - capacitance probe
- Irrigation scheduling what does it mean
- Soils and irrigation soil colour
- Soil and irrigation soil management
- Soils and irrigation soil texture and structure
- Using soil moisture sensors in sugarcane
As the lead research agency for the Australian sugarcane industry, SRA plays a pivotal role investing in and researching activities related to nitrogen use and other issues concerning nitrogen use and the interaction between farming systems and water quality.
SRA provides robust and independent research in this field and assists our industry investors to optimise productivity and profitability while also moving towards meeting water quality targets.
The SIX EASY STEPS to improved nutrient management
- Knowing and understanding our soils
- Understanding and managing nutrient processes and losses
- Soil testing regularly
- Adopting soil specific fertiliser recommendations
- Checking on the adequacy of fertiliser inputs
- Keeping good records and modifying nutrient inputs when and where necessary
Using the SIX EASY STEPS to improved nutrient management is your best bet. This means doing a number of things well so that the overall result is the best possible. Using the SIX EASY STEPS is logical and simple, but it requires commitment to be successful.
The concept of SIX EASY STEPS means combining a number of possible actions to ensure sustainable nutrient usage on the farm. This combination forms a ‘whole system’ approach to nutrient management.
Will this make a real difference on my farm?
Adopting soil-specific fertiliser recommendations will enable you to take a distinct step forward. Appropriate nutrient management should be based on knowledge of soils and nutrient processes that occur in soils. This fundamental understanding should be used in conjunction with soil testing to determine the appropriate amounts of nutrients that should be applied to deliver benefits in terms of productivity, profitability and environmental responsibility.
What progress has been made to deliver such soil specific recommendations?
Over the past few years substantial advances have been made in developing a set of nutrient management guidelines that will be appropriate for use within the concept of the SIX EASY STEPS. These guidelines ensure that nutrient inputs are balanced. It is essential that nutrient inputs are managed properly. This is especially true during periods of low sugar prices or when adverse conditions exist in our industry. In such circumstances, guessing or using ‘blanket’ applications is not good enough. It is worth making informed decisions about fertiliser applications.
What details are available about the soil specific nutrient guidelines?
Modified guidelines for the most important nutrients are in place. Explanations of these are included in this workbook and cover nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulphur (S), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), silicon (Si), zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu). Guidelines for lime, gypsum and mill by-products are also included.
NutriCalcTM is an online nutrient management tool and part of our SIX EASY STEPS nutrient management package. Jointly developed with the National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA) this tool can help you develop nutrient management plans for use on-farm.
To request a username and password email email@example.com
SIX EASY STEPS Nutrient Guidelines
- Best-practice nutrient management Six Easy Steps
- SIX EASY STEPS Nutrient Guidelines for BURDEKIN
- SIX EASY STEPS Nutrient Guidelines for HERBERT
- SIX EASY STEPS Nutrient Guidelines for MACKAY
- SIX EASY STEPS Nutrient Guidelines for NSW
- SIX EASY STEPS Nutrient Guidelines for PROSERPINE
- SIX EASY STEPS Nutrient Guidelines for SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
- SIX EASY STEPS Nutrient Guidelines for TABLELAND
- SIX EASY STEPS Nutrient Guidelines for WET TROPICS
Precision agriculture Precision agriculture
Precision agriculture (PA) is a farm management technique that addresses the variability of the land and resulting variability in yield to improve farm productivity and profitability. PA can also help address variability in weed, pest and disease occurrence and moisture supply. In its current form, PA is often associated with technologies such as GPS, GIS and variable-rate applicators. The use of technology does not always automatically lead to PA but, in sugarcane production, technology is used for most PA practices.
SPAA Precision Agriculture Australia is a non-profit membership-based group formed to promote the development and adoption of precision agriculture technologies.
Precision Agriculture Research Group (PARG) at the University of New England is a multi-disciplinary team of academic, research and technical staff engaged in the development and application of sensors and practices in precision agriculture.
Precision Agriculture Manual (Grains Research and Development Corporation) provides a good introduction to precision agriculture, much of which can be applied to sugarcane.
Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Precision Agriculture Links provide growers and other users with a range of information sources about Precision Agriculture.
Farmacist is an agronomic solutions provider that offers precision agriculture consulting for sugarcane.
Precision Agriculture Consulting is a consulting company offering advice, training and products associated with precision farming industries.
International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA) is a non-profit, professional scientific organisation working to advance the science of precision agriculture.
PrecisionAg is a website that provides a wealth of information about all things related to precision agriculture as well as a link to the PrecisionAg Institute, a research, education and advocacy group.
Several international universities provide precision agriculture information online that can be used around the globe. The following are some good examples:
Equipment and Software
Many companies throughout Australia and the world provide precision agriculture equipment and software. Below is a list of those most commonly used in sugarcane production:
- AgLeader: GPS guidance systems, displays, software
- AutoFarm: GPS and levelling systems
- Crop Optics Australia, WeedSeeker®: sensor systems to identify and spray weeds
- Fairport Farm PAM Software
- Farmworks Farm Management Software
- John Deere
- SMS Farm Management Software
- Trimble Agriculture: GPS guidance systems, displays, and training including information specific to sugarcane
This information is provided for your interest. We do not endorse any of these organisations as outlined in our disclaimer.
- Manual - Precision Agriculture for the Sugarcane Industry
- Sugarcane Yield Monitor Update
- Simple GPS Data Collection and Mapping
- What is Precision Agriculture?
- GPS and GNSS for Agriculture
- GIS and Precision Agriculture
- Soil Apparent Electrical Conductivity
- Variable-Rate Technology
- Remote Sensing in PA
FertFinder tool FertFinder tool
SRA has developed a new tool for sugarcane growers and advisors to help select the right fertiliser blend that matches the nutritional requirements of growers’ paddocks. The tool is called FertFinder. It is aimed at assisting sugarcane growers and advisors filter through the hundreds of fertiliser products available on the market.
This tool aims to make the process of choosing a fertiliser simpler by highlighting fertiliser blends that are available in your region and meet the nutritional requirements of your crop. Soil testing and choosing the right fertiliser are crucial aspects of the SIX EASY STEPS approach to nutrient management. SIX EASY STEPS is a science-based nutrient management tool that enables the adoption of best practice nutrient management on-farm.
You can view the CaneClip here, explaining how to use the FertFinder.
For questions, contact SRA Adoption Officer, Gavin Rodman, firstname.lastname@example.org or (07) 4088 0701.