Walkers Point sugar cane farmer Norm Muller amongst his cane fields on Beaver Rock Rd.
Walkers Point sugar cane farmer Norm Muller amongst his cane fields on Beaver Rock Rd. Alistair Brightman

Cane farmers back to praying for rain again

THE theme of this year's sugar crush is quality over quantity, with crops greatly affected by the drought at the start of the year, but sugar content still remaining high.

Canegrowers Maryborough manager Cameron Waterson said the crush was still estimated to reach just 600,000 tonnes at the Maryborough mill this season, but the positive side was that there was higher than expected sugar content, which is currently about 14%.

Nikenbah cane farmer Ashley Petersen knows all too well how the devastating dry spell has impacted on the crops.

Mr Peterson said his sugar cane crop definitely showed two very different stories.

About a third of his crop is irrigated while the rest is dry and dependent on rainfall.

He said the irrigated crop was much higher quality than the dry crop, which had been severely affected by the drought.

He said the sugar content results were good news for farmers.

"That's one positive."

Mr Petersen said if it wasn't for the influx of rain from ex-tropical cyclone Debbie earlier in the year, cane farmers would have been left in a much worse position.

Mr Waterson said the region was currently about a third of the way through the crush.

The harvest is down about 20% from last year's total crush of 791,000t, and even further from 2015's crush of 861,000t.

He said increasing offstream water storage and better irrigation schemes were needed to ensure that crops got the water they needed to thrive.

Granville cane farmer Norm Muller said the region was experiencing good weather for the crush, but more rain would be needed soon ahead of planting next year's crop.

"It's good harvesting conditions," he said.

But without rainfall, there was no point in planting a crop just to lose it, Mr Muller said.

Bidwill cane farmer Allan Birt agreed, saying that properties that did not have irrigation would soon need good rain.

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