Siblings Jack and Ella Cayley enjoy watching the traditional sugar cane burn on their property near Bundaberg. Picture: Lachie Millard
Siblings Jack and Ella Cayley enjoy watching the traditional sugar cane burn on their property near Bundaberg. Picture: Lachie Millard

How Debbie brought the cane fires back

THE iconic Queensland sugar cane fire has returned in the wake of Cyclone Debbie.

Bundaberg cane farmers had been moving away from traditional cane burns in recent years, cutting their crop green.

But with all the cane pushed over by ex-Cyclone Debbie as she passed down the coast earlier this year "lodging" and making green harvesting harder, some farmers have returned to the burn to get their crops off.

Third-generation cane grower Dean Cayley has continued to burn some of the wetter parts of his farm. His burns now attract dozens of onlookers - tourists and locals - whenever word gets out that the fires are about to be set on the 150ha farm at Alloway.

"With the ex-cyclone that came through earlier this year, it flattened a lot of cane. So to make harvesting easier for the harvesting contractor we've decided to burn it.

"It's a fairly good tourist attraction. In half an hour we've burned 7ha of cane which is probably 600 tonne of cane so it's a pretty quick event.

"It's become a tradition now. We've got a lot of tourists wanting to see a cane fire up close.

"It started as one or two amateur photographers turning up to look at a cane fire up close and it's probably turned into 30 or 40 every time we burn cane.

"The other reason is a lot of the soil types on our farm aren't suited to green cane and they get a lot of water logging so we conventionally work it and burn the cane off to give the ground air."

News Corp Australia


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