Recent research into sugarcane harvesting has demonstrated that there is significant potential for the industry to ensure more sugar makes its way from the paddock and into the supply chain.

Through a range of research projects in recent years, it has been demonstrated that adjusting the way the industry operates its harvesters can put more valuable sugar into the supply chain – and not leave it in the paddock.

However, changing these practices costs money. Practice change involves a negotiation between the harvesting contractor and the farmer to make sure both sides of the equation are receiving a benefit.

SRA Agricultural Machinery Specialist, Phil Patane, explained that recovering more sugar from the paddock involves decisions such as practice change or making modifications to harvesters.

“Most of these changes involve a cost for the harvesting contractor, who need to look at their return on their investment for their business,” Mr Patane explained. “Changing practices can improve yield, but the grower and the contractor need to work out the sweet spot so that both can benefit.”

Now, that process will be made much easier through a new tool that is currently being developed by SRA and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (Queensland) (DAF).

This tool is part of an investment partnership between DAF and SRA and it is using data collected through years of trials across the sugar industry and is being supported by in-depth economic data being collected and analysed by agricultural economists at DAF.

Once available, it will provide an online platform that helps growers and contractors look at the potential gains and cost implications of changing harvesting practice, including the impact on harvesting costs.

“If the project helps achieve increase adoption of improved harvesting practices by 40% during the life of the project, this would add 480,000 tonnes to the crop annually, worth at least $34.4m to the industry at current sugar prices,” Mr Patane said.

DAF agricultural economist Brendon Nothard said that the project will continue to provide a framework recognising that practice change presents different risks and rewards for different sectors in the value chain.

“The team will be testing the platform this season and are aiming for a more widespread rollout beginning in 2022 through to 2023.”

  • For more information a fact sheet has been developed on the project.
  • SRA acknowledges the funding contribution from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries towards this research activity.
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