Regional evaluation of high density planting : SRDC final report BSS241
This project was successful in comparing two farming systems: conventional 1.52-m single rows and the High Density Planting system (HDP), which consists of four rows on a 2.1-m wide bed using controlled-traffic and minimum-tillage principles.Site-replicated strip trials were used to compare the performance of the two farming systems under field conditions in all the major sugarcane districts of Queensland and New South Wales. A significant yield response was measured in 9 of the 21 plant-cane trials and 8 of the 15 first-ratoon trials. Where a response was measured between the two planting configurations, the HDP treatment produced an average of 37% and 16% more cane compared to the 1.52-m rows in the plant and first-ratoon crops, respectively. No difference in yield or CCS was measured between the two farming systems in any of the second-ratoon crops. Stalk counts and sample harvests were effective methods of monitoring crop growth in the trials. The stalk-count data and associated cane-yield data collected from the trials highlight the importance of good establishment. Poor germination in both planting configurations was a significant problem in the trials planted in the 1999 season in the wet tropics. Of the seven trials planted, only one had acceptable germination. Adverse weather conditions also caused widespread germination failures in commercial plantings throughout this district that year.A major part of this project was the design and construction of equipment to allow management of the trials. Over the project, significant modifications were made to the harvester to improve the feeding characteristics and overall machine performance. When correctly adjusted, the bed-forming and planting equipment worked well in most soil types. The very narrow traffic area in the HDP system caused some harvester navigation problems, particularly in large, heavily lodged crops. The cumulative stool damage and loss of vigour were major factors contributing to lack of response in the second-ratoon crop. The installation of a guidance system (DGPS or similar) on the harvester would have overcome this problem. Considering the vast range of harvesting conditions experienced, the equipment performed extremely well.