Best management practice for sugarcane varieties : SRDC final report BSS 234
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This has been both a challenging and rewarding project within the northern sugar industry. Increasing economic pressure in the wet tropics has seen a need to develop and adopt better short- and long-term strategies to increase industry profitability. ?What variety do I plant?? This is probably the single most important issue given the least attention by growers. This decision remains in place for a number of crop cycles and subsequent management of these varieties will directly affect farm profitability. Better management of varieties in both a short- and long-term strategy will enable growers to increase their ccs and improve their farm profitability.Selection and management of varieties is a complex process, which involves more than the yield and ccs of varieties. It involves suitability to soil type, ratoonability, pest and disease issues, ease of planting, herbicide tolerance, ability to withstand harvest under difficult conditions, nutrient requirements, harvesting rosters and many other factors that may override planned decisions such as rainfall.A grower group process was used to facilitate greater debate of these issues by growers and testing variety best practice on their farms using an on-farm participatory trial program. The full costing of the benefits and consequences of different management options has enhanced growers decisions of ?what variety do I plant?? as well as other farming practices.The strength of this project was that it allowed growers to fully implement and evaluate a range of real variety management options that they have chosen as being best for their situation.The results from this project have made growers more aware of the consequences when choosing varieties to plant. The presentation of trial results in dollars per hectare has proved very beneficial. A lot of discussion has been generated at group meetings as a result of this information. Growers have appreciated the opportunity to discuss these results with their peers. Growers are more aware now of how important it is to calculate net returns and determine what variety or farm practice is more profitable on their farm.Information delivered to grower groups as part of this project has provided growers with the skills and knowledge to conduct reliable trials on their farms. Growers should now be able to compare different variety performance and farm management practices on their own farms to meet their individual situations and determine the most profitable practice.With the ability of growers to better test varieties for their individual situations, varieties released to the industry will have a fairer assessment based on individual needs and profitability rather than broad area recommendations.Conducting market research into what the industry wanted in the form of variety information through focus groups proved extremely useful. The original project intention was to devise a Variety Best Management Practice (BMP) Manual. However, it was quite clear from these focus groups that a complex manual was not wanted, but information in a simple and concise format was requested.This project has seen the successful use of group extension to target a large number of growers in the sugar industry. Since the commencement of this program, most northern mills, in conjunction with BSES, have established productivity groups similar to the participatory BMP process. The formation of these groups within mill areas provides an avenue to meet with larger numbers of growers more regularly than could be achieved on a one-to-one basis. This also provides an excellent opportunity for multi-agency input to discuss timely research and farming issues. One-to-one extension is still an important part of extension in the northern sugar industry. However, group extension is fostering greater discussion and exchange of ideas between growers and mill areas. This is extremely important in times of increased economic pressure.This program has been the starting point of many increases in productivity and profitability in the northern sugar industry, through better management of current varieties and the availability of more information to make variety decisions on individual farms.
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