Validation of fibre cropping in rotation with sugar cane by Mackay Fibre Producers : SRA Grower Group Innovation Project final report
The ultimate aim of this project was to investigate the feasibility of improving the profitability, sustainability, and robustness of the sugar industry in the central region through the incorporation of fibre rotation crops. MFP (Mackay Fibre Producers) and its partners have investigate production and processing systems of Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), Sunn Hemp (Crotalaria juncea) and Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa) in the central region. Through out the life of this project the group members have been enthusiastic in relation to answering the many questions that are attributed from these new crop options. The local and whole sugar industry community have also been keen to keep abreast of the findings of this project. Fibre cropping in rotation with sugar cane has been extremely successful with a number of key finding emerging, one of the key finding is Sunn Hemp which is a new legume rotational crop option, its traits like root knot nematode resistance, its drought tolerance, it high bio-mass and nitrogen fix and short cropping cycle all attribute to its ability to become a real legume cropping option for the sugar cane cycle. Another finding is the effect that Kenaf has to address packametra spores in the soil in a normal Kenaf cropping cycle. The science of why this effect happens, is a research question still to be answered, the evidence that MFP group has compiled is that in two different trial sites in different years there was a significant reduction in packamtrea spore counts. One of the important findings is the economic impact that fibre crops have on the following cane crops, there is a significant improvement in gross margins and will impact positively on growers bottom line. When developing a new crop option in any industry there are many challengers to over come and this has been no difference in the case of fibre crops. For a new crop option the agronomics are important and will determine the cost of production, this is coupled with the yield achieved as both of these aspects are important for the future viability of that crop option. Marketing of that particular crop option also plays a significant role to its future viability, in the case of the Fibre crops, marketing will play an important role to its sustainability and its future role in the sugar industry.