The (nitrogen) fix is on

CANE PROJECT: Canegrower Robert Quirk involved in one of the latest projects in the sugar industry.
CANE PROJECT: Canegrower Robert Quirk involved in one of the latest projects in the sugar industry.

THE Australian sugar industry is a hive of research and development activity.

With the Sugar Research and Development Corporation committing an extra $275,000 to fund five new Grower Group Innovation research projects over three years, the industry is looking to the future.

The projects are led by grower groups and one director of Grower Group Services Joe Muscat said this was a unique structure.

"In research and development, the Grower Group Innovation Program is the only one of its type that allows growers to express areas of concern and to do something about it," Mr Muscat said.

"Growers don't have time to muck around. If they take on a project, it has to be something they get a value from."

One such project, which has just finished in the Clarence area, set out to determine the ability of soybean varieties to fix nitrogen in soil and improve production.

"They had trials spread right across the NSW growing area and now the project is finished, the final report was submitted late last year," Mr Muscat said.

"When you base your decisions on what crops to produce, the latest information is of benefit."

Mr Muscat said traditional cane farming practice was a monoculture system.

"Farmers would grow cane on cane, with a bare fallow option," he said.

"Introducing a break crop, such as soy, helps introduce organic matter into the soil, which increases carbon and makes nitrogen available.

"Organic material addresses soil health."

A recent project in the Condong area is dealing specifically with the cane root disease pachymetra.

"With the planting of susceptible varieties of cane, the pachymetra count increases," Mr Muscat said. "This project will look at the interaction of pachymetra with different varieties, to try and determine which are the resistant ones."

With a number of different trial sites, the project, which started last year, will continue for the next couple of years.

Many of the grower group projects are two to three years long. Depending on what the project is, some have been extended.

Topics:  soil health sugar research

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