A FEASIBILITY study of cane crops in non-coastal areas around the Wide Bay Burnett is being hailed a success one month out from the first harvest, with more land being prepared to expand the three existing trial plots.
Isis Central Sugar Mill planted two hectare plots of commercial and experimental varieties of cane on vacant land from cattle producers at Byrnestown, Reids Creek and near Claude Wharton Weir, all within 30 kilometres of Gayndah.
The cane was planted at the end of September and into October in varying soil types and levels of land to test frost tolerance and was drip irrigated throughout the year.
Harvest will begin in the next month with some cane taken for scientific examination with Sugar Research Australia while some will be used for planting of the new plots in Autumn and Spring to test the appropriate planting window.
Isis Central Sugar Mill board members toured the three plots last Thursday to examine the cane’s progress..
Chairman Peter Russo couldn’t rate the crops highly enough.
“It didn’t have an ideal start (with a late planting) but this cane is better than what some of our growers’ grow back home,” he said while visiting the Claude Wharton Weir plot.
Mr Russo said Isis Central Sugar Mill wanted to be able to help start up a new industry in the town, not replace or compete with any existing ones.
“There was a lot of grain production that used to happen here so it’s very fertile country and I think if an industry could start up here it could only be a good thing for Gayndah and the surrounding districts,” he said.
“We need tonnage to keep the mill viable and we wouldn’t be here if we thought it was too costly.
“Obviously we are a long way from making a decision yet but the thing is we need to investigate all these things.”
All of the three plots have been planted nearby an old rail line which Isis Central Sugar Mill have secured and hope can be utilised as a form of harvest transportation in the future.
The feasibility test is expected to be finished “some time next year” and Isis Central Sugar Mill CEO John Gorringe said any maintenance needed to the line was manageable.
“For cane growing areas you really need good soil, adequate water supply and a cost effective logistic solution.
“So certainly this area has plenty of suitable soil, there was a Queensland rail line that services this area that we have been able to secure so we can resolve the logistics...and they have a big river here so the potential is here.
“We just need to understand whether they can all work together.”
The feasibility study gained the support of the National water Infrastructure Development Fund and has turned three citrus and cattle producing farmers in the area into cane growers.
Greg Seymour and his son Brendan have been watching the two hectares of cane grow on their 1400 hectare black soil Byrnestown property, Carnarvon, with another two hectares of land being prepared for planting this week.
Neither of them had any experience growing cane but Greg Seymour said it had big potential in the area.
“If we can get onto that water scheme from paradise dam through all this country here and into Coalstoun Lakes, it would be wonderful,” he said.
“I would never of done it myself. Twelve months ago they working this ground up here and never in a million years would I have thought I’d be growing sugar cane.
“I used to say to them you will get better places than mine.
“I’m all for it because I think it’s great for the younger generation and it’s something for the young ones coming on, we need some industry here.”