Sugar crop size no se­cret

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS -

SCI­EN­TISTS are de­vel­op­ing a way to pre­dict sug­ar­cane crop size, long be­fore har­vest.

James Cook Univer­sity re­searchers be­lieve they have found a way to triple the chance of an ex­tremely lowyield crop in a La Nina year, com­pared to an av­er­age year.

La Nina years are as­so­ci­ated with ex­tremely wet years, lead­ing to re­stricted crop growth and in­creased run-off.

JCU re­searcher Dr Yvette Ever­ing­ham said they could pre­dict the ef­fect La Nina had on a crop in Septem­ber the year be­fore har­vest, which typ­i­cally be­gan the fol­low­ing June. “Nor­mally there is a one in 10 chance of a bad crop, but dur­ing La Nina this in­creases to a three in 10 chance.”

She said the re­search was not a per­fect plan­ning tool, but it was much bet­ter than hav­ing no sys­tem at all, which was the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.

“With­out crop fore­casts, grow­ers must as­sume cli­matic con­di­tions will be favourable in the forth­com­ing sea­son to grow a large crop, and have to ap­ply fer­tiliser rates ac­cord­ingly,’’ she said.

“If we can pre­dict a small crop, then the op­por­tu­nity ex­ists to re­duce fer­tiliser use, help the en­vi­ron­ment and in­crease prof­its.”

SRA and the Queens­land Govern­ment have granted Dr Ever­ing­ham $500,000 to con­tinue their re­search.

Cane­grow­ers deputy chair­man Jeff Day said the re­search could be an im­por­tant tool for farm­ers. “Any tool that helps us know what the weather’s go­ing to look like, if it’s a re­li­able tool, then it is a big help to us, it re­ally is,’’ he said.

“No one wants to know about a small crop, but if you do have a chance of know­ing that’s hap­pen­ing, you can bud­get for that sit­u­a­tion.”

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