Sugar crop size no secret
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.”