Facilitation of best practice to reduce extraneous matter and cane loss : SRDC Final report BSS189
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Green cane harvesting and trash blanketing are important agronomic production techniques in the northern sugar producing areas. Cane losses are accepted to be higher with green cane harvesting and extraneous matter levels can be high, especially in difficult conditions. A series of harvester trials was conducted throughout the north from 1997 to 2000 to quantify the performance characteristics of current cane harvesters. Samples taken in the field and at the mill were assessed to determine the effect of harvester pour rate and extractor fan speed on extraneous matter. In addition, cane loss was measured using yield data and collection of scrap cane from the extractor systems. Mill weighbridge data and laboratory analysis enabled the impact of harvesting on industry returns to be quantified.Results indicate that current harvester designs have limited ability to clean cane effectively without excessive cane loss, especially at current harvesting rates. The results of trials at commercial pour rates imply that significant cane losses, up to 20 t/ha in some cases, are occurring in the harvesting process.Harvesting Best Practice (HBP) guidelines have been developed to enable harvester operators make informed decisions about operational settings. The guidelines aim to produce high quality cane with minimal cane loss. Extension of this information to growers, millers, harvester operators and manufacturers has encouraged more efficient harvesting and widespread recognition of the limitations of current harvesting technology. Adoption of HBP in the Mulgrave district has potentially reduced losses by a conservative estimate of 3-4 t/ha. This equates to 50,000 more tonnes of cane or a 5% boost in productivity for a district cutting one million tonnes.