Cane soil sense cuts risk of reef dam­age

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - JOHN AN­DER­SEN

ING­HAM farmer Fred Gangemi didn’t think it could be done, but he is grow­ing heav­ier cane and sav­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef at the same time.

It is a suc­cess story based on a soil­friendly reg­i­men of legumes and nu­tri­ents that is see­ing him in­crease cane pro­duc­tion from around 113 tonnes to the hectare to 150- 175 tonnes.

“And I think I’m be­ing con­ser­va­tive with those fig­ures. I’m stoked with the re­sults,” Mr Gangemi said.

It has been a trip and a half, get­ting to where he is now and has in­volved lis­ten­ing to ad­vice given by Rod Karger, a for­mer soil agron­o­mist with Hor­ti­cul­ture South Aus­tralia.

Mr Karger, a Townsville- based con­sul­tant, is a man on a mis­sion.

He wants to elim­i­nate the de­bil­i­tat- ing crop dis­ease Yel­low Canopy Syn­drome from the sugar cane in­dus­try.

Not only does he want to do that, but he wants to in­crease pro­duc­tion fig­ures as well. As far as Mr Gangemi is con­cerned, he is on track.

“I’ve got heavy cane and no Yel­low Canopy Syn­drome,” he said.

By fol­low­ing Mr Karger’s recipe for re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing soil and im­prov­ing crop yields, Mr Gangemi hopes he is on the path­way to a new farm­ing fron­tier.

Mr Karger’s ap­proach to beat­ing dis­ease and im­prov­ing re­turns is based around a sys­tem of ap­ply­ing lime, grow­ing legumes and es­tab­lish­ing trace el­e­ments in the soil.

“What I’ve found with a lot of cane coun­try I’ve dealt is with is that the soils are very acidic. The is­sue is the bi­o­log­i­cal life or lack of it in the soil,” he said.

Mr Gangemi planted the legume known as marenga in his pad­dock and ploughed it un­der in order to im­prove the or­ganic com­po­si­tion of the soil.

Now he has earth­worms and other mi­cro­fauna work­ing away night and day, im­prov­ing his soil struc­ture.

He pre­pared a 16.8ha pad­dock and planted it with cane in Septem­ber last year. He said that by May, it was so heavy it had lodged, or lain down.

“I am ex­pect­ing to cut be­tween 2000 and 2500 tonnes from the 40 acres ( 16.8ha),” he said.

“I’m al­ways open to new ideas and was in­ter­ested in what Rod was do­ing.

“He has been work­ing on this with other grow­ers in more northerly ar­eas for many years. It comes down to your soil be­ing pro­duc­tive. As far as I’m con­cerned, he has come up with some­thing that makes sense.”

Mr Karger said ev­ery farmer he had worked with and who had ap­plied his tech­nique was now cut­ting heav­ier cane and was Yel­low Canopy Syn­drome free.

Mr Gangemi said he was us­ing less fer­tiliser and had much health­ier soils.

“Be­cause the soil is so healthy the rain wa­ter goes straight down into it. It is not run­ning over the top and tak­ing fer­tiliser with it. I haven’t had any run off so that means noth­ing is go­ing out to the Reef,” he said.

Mr Karger said cane in non­pro­duc­tive soils con­tain­ing high lev­els of alu­minium and man­ganese were more likely to suf­fer from Yel­low Canopy Syn­drome.

He said when cell growth was in­hib­ited in the roots and the plant be­came stressed, it was more likely to de­velop Yel­low Canopy Syn­drome.

IN­CREASED YIELD: Ing­ham farmer Fred Gangemi ex­pects to cut 150- 170 tonne of cane per hectare from a pad­dock where the soil has been re­ju­ve­nated.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.