Fast Tracking the Adoption of Game Changing Sugarcane Nutrient and Pesticide Management (Game Changer) is an Australian Government Reef Program project designed to push advanced management practices for nutrient and chemicals forward, ushering in change that will bring environmental and economic benefits to the Great Barrier Reef regions.
The project is being rolled out across four regions, with 70 on-farm demonstration trials currently being implemented on farms in the Wet Tropics, Dry Tropics and Mackay Whitsunday.
Game Changer is administered by Reef Catchments and Catchment Solutions, which together work closely with other Queensland organisations including Terrain NRM in the Wet Tropics and NQ Dry Tropics.
A group of sugar industry experts review the program’s demonstration trials and have input on the communications and engagement strategies implemented to ensure quality and provide a link into key organisations such as Sugar Research Australia, CSIRO, QDAFF, and a cross section of sugarcane productivity boards from across the Great Barrier Reef.
Program activities in 2013–14
In the first 12 months of the program, 70 sugarcane farmers have been identified to work closely with agronomists for whole-of-farm planning support and to run on-farm demonstration trials showcasing practices that have the potential to dramatically cut farm runoff of nutrients (particularly nitrogen) and residual herbicides.
There is a focus on managing farms at a finer scale and identifying and matching crop needs to inputs. One example is managing nutrients for a block’s yield potential. This is done through electro-magnetic (EM) mapping of the soil and undertaking soil analysis as required, looking at long-term yield history and understanding the topography of the block and any potential impacts on plant growth (i.e. water logging in low-lying areas). Management practices such as access to irrigation will also be considered.
Growers work with agronomists to determine fertiliser rates with all of these considerations in mind.
Some demonstration trials are much simpler but have great potential to reduce runoff. For example, one trial has demonstrated how accounting for legume nitrogen in plant cane can be done successfully. Another demonstrates how applying mill mud as a band on the stool and accounting for its nutrients not only makes good environmental sense but great economic sense.
Game Changer demonstration trials are being implemented with growers this planting/harvesting season with the first harvest scheduled for 2014–15 year. Case studies are being written based on trial type rather than for each individual trial and will be made available for communications resources. Where trials are run on the same practice (i.e. variable-rate nutrient management), data sets will be brought together annually.
Regional bodies will work with agronomy providers to run local field trips and shed meetings to engage growers in the current trials and provide information on how to undertake improved practices such as using shielded sprayers and banding residual herbicides.
The program will also focus on up-skilling growers and service providers on utilising variable-rate technology and getting the most out of GPS equipment. Many growers already have these tools but are in need of support to use them correctly.
Organisations involved in Game Changer in 2014 include: