A literature review of harvesting operations and their implication on soil compaction and yield in sugar cane
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A significant effort has been applied to the investigation of soil compaction in the sugar cane industry. Most recently research performed by Dr Mike Braunack at Tully in the wet tropics of Queensland, Australia, has attempted to quantify the relationships that exist between harvesting of sugar cane, soil compaction and yield. Harvesting has the greatest impact on soil physical properties as the cane harvester and haul-out machines, the heaviest machinery used in the production of sugar cane, traffic the interspace at least two times for each implement and are required to harvest at soil moisture contents that range from field capacity to wilting point to ensure continuity of supply to their respective sugar cane mill.A major conflict in sugar cane production is the requirement of optimum soil conditions for plant growth verses trafficability to support cultivating, planting and harvesting machines. The weight of machines (axle load) will compact soils sometimes to an extent hostile to plant root growth. Sugar cane farming in Australia can be considered row cropping. Cane is currently planted at 1.45 to 2.00 m rows, sometimes as dual or triple rows at the wider spacings. Trafficking by machinery is on the inter-row but can sometimes be near or even on the row through mismanagement.This review will attempt to collate Australian and world information to establish an understanding of the issues involved and their impact.