Improving yield and cane quality through implementation of harvesting best practice - 2019 Herbert demonstration : ASSCT peer-reviewed paper
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In 2019, the Australian sugarcane industry conducted a month-long demonstration with 12 trials to determine the commercial viability of harvesting best practice. Initiated by a small group of innovative growers and contractors from the Herbert region, the concept of a commercial demonstration sought to determine both agronomic and economic impacts of adopting HBP, including the assessment of possible yield gains without having a detrimental impact on extraneous matter, and economic implication for growers and harvesting contractors arising from revenue and harvesting cost changes. Two Herbert harvesting contractors participated in the demonstration comparing their standard harvesting practices to Sugar Research Australia Harvesting Best Practice (HBP or recommended practice). The results identified an average 4.8 t/ha increase in yield with no additional increase in extraneous matter for the recommended setting. A comprehensive economic analysis was conducted on each of the trials. Detailed harvesting costs and operational information, including machinery, labour, and fuel data, were collected from the respective harvesting operations. Harvesting costs and levies were $37/ha ($0.07/t) higher for the recommended setting due to higher yields, reduced harvester ground speeds and lower extractor fan speeds. Despite the higher harvesting costs, recommended settings obtained significantly higher total revenue ($151/ha, +4.7%). This resulted in an overall net benefit of $114/ha in the adoption of recommended settings (based on a 4.4% higher net revenue calculated as total grower revenue minus harvesting costs and levies). The Herbert demonstrations have proven instrumental in the acceptance of harvesting best practice for the region. The results again confirm that adapting and aligning commercial-scale harvesting practices to crop and paddock conditions have positive impacts on both yield and economic outcomes.