Following in his dad’s footsteps, Vince Blanco farms 100ha of cane land across two farms in the Herbert District, one at Toobanna and the other farm at Orient, Ingham.
One of Vince’s farms is prone to water logging, flooding nearly every year with water backing up, while the other is slightly undulating with creeks traversing the farm. The soils can go from one extreme (water logged) to the other (soil cracking) within a short period of time.
Vince said he couldn’t understand why the yield on both farms varied so much and put it down to the acidity of the soils where it tapered down to low lying areas.
“I realised I had to do something different and by taking up the challenge to reduce nitrogen I was pushed into soil sampling, which showed that I had literally been ‘mining my soils’. The phosphorous levels were nonexistent,” he said.
With assistance from the Australian Government’s Reef Trust Tender – Wet Tropics program, Vince purchased a variable rate fertiliser applicator and stool splitter, which he modified by adding coulters and configured to apply trace elements, fungicide and insecticide to assist with a cane grub problem on farm. This equipment allows Vince to time the application of his fertiliser sub-surface to optimum weather conditions, which has resulted in better yields.
“I was not in a financial position to buy this equipment so I was delighted to secure the funding. In many ways it has now opened up a whole can of worms with varied applications and trials,” said Vince.
Vince initially dropped his application rates from 160 kg/ha to 145 kg/ha and last year went down to 130 kg/ha. Whilst his tonnage increased from 5600 tonnes (2015) to 7200 tonnes (2016) he says he relies heavily on long range weather forecasts and felt weather conditions may have influenced the increase on top of replenishing the phosphorous back into the soil. He used Entec and a poly coated fertiliser in one of his trials.
While Vince saved costs by reducing his use of nitrogen his financial outlay remained the same because of the need for increased phosphorous application. However, he says the financial benefit he gained came through increased production.
Vince says that while there are always challenges with farming he believes the Reef Trust Tender program is the best project the Government has put out in all his years of farming. “There is always talk of new ways of farming, but we should be aiming for better management of nutrients and caring for our environment instead of modifying the way we farm,” he said.