Economic evaluation of sugarcane harvesting best practice (HBP) : ASSCT peer-reviewed paper
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Mechanical sugarcane harvesting is commonly undertaken at ground speeds that exceed the cleaning capacity of modern harvesters, which is likely to increase extraneous matter (EM) levels in the cane supply. To attempt to reduce the higher EM levels, operators typically increase extractor fan speeds above recommendations, resulting in unintended cane loss. Past research indicates that using harvesting best practice (HBP) settings can minimise cane loss and stool damage. These benefits would increase grower revenue and be an incentive for growers to request harvesting contractors operate using HBP settings. Reduced ground speeds would, however, increase harvesting time and generate higher costs per hectare. The key issue remains as to whether the increased grower revenues outweigh the additional harvesting costs. Nine replicated and randomised trials undertaken by Sugar Research Australia in 2017 compared harvesting performance when using both conventional and HBP settings through identifying production and grower revenue differences. Detailed information was collected from each harvesting operation to identify harvesting costs under both conventional practice and HBP. This allowed the net benefit for the grower and harvesting operation from using HBP settings to be determined. On average over the nine trials, recommended harvesting settings generated more grower revenue than the added harvesting costs from reducing ground speeds and generated a net economic benefit of $163/ha (or $1.97/t). The trials show that, while growers would need to pay additional compensation for cane harvested using HBP settings, the compensation would be less than the additional revenue they received, increasing overall grower profitability.
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