Sweet success – Cane yields almost 100t/ha above district average
Merv Greaves, Bundaberg QLD
- Almost 100t/ha above district average
- Visual difference
BGA AgriServices Bundaberg Agronomist, Simon Andreoli, is also a local cane farmer in the district so he practices what he preaches to his growers.
Simon comments, “Cane needs more than just NPK to grow, particularly in programs where cane has been a long term monoculture. NatraMin is a soil conditioner, though we’re banding it in the plant zone to maximise the response and concentration in the root zone. Our cane treatments are taller, appear stronger, greener and the plant doesn’t look back. Up until recently cane prices were tough so everyone had to watch what was spent on cane inputs. However, NatraMin is an integral part of our program to get the plant established and has been for six years at home now. We apply the NatraMin Original blend at 300kg/ha banded under the row at planting. It acts as a combination of a mineral fertiliser with silica and trace elements and that’s how I recommend it to my clients. In more intensive horticulture crops, application rates may range from 500-1000kg/ha depending on the soil test and what’s being removed from the paddock.”
Recently AgSolutions’ Glen Duckworth visited Simon’s cane during harvest where a NatraMin ‘accidental experiment’ still stood out 3 years after being applied. “Although the cane was starting to fall over, the NatraMin treated area was about 1 metre taller than the untreated. The big difference was the internode length and that equates to yield”, said Glen.
Simon Andreoli later reported that the treatment zone had an increased yield of 26t/ha more than the untreated and this yield increase is still showing up three years since NatraMin was applied. Unlike nitrogen, NatraMin continues to provide a long-term response and extended return on investment.
“Initially NatraMin served as an input in our district’s lighter sandy soils, however, local cane farmer Merv Greaves, a long standing user of NatraMin has proven that this product works equally well in our heavier soils. There is a visual difference where NatraMin has been applied. Many of my growers have dabbled with NatraMin in recent years and soon report that they’ve seen a response where it was applied and consequently they’ve gone on to expand its use across their farm.”
Merv Greaves has farmed around Bundaberg for 58 years. His knowledge and energy for farming are to be admired as he continually looks for opportunities to increase production and maintain his efficiencies.
“Electricity and water are our two biggest costs so we are always looking for a return on investment with our fertilisers and other inputs to justify their use.”
This season’s (2016) harvest recently returned an area average of approximately 97 tonne/ha while Merv’s blocks where NatraMin was applied cut 190 tonne/ha. This is not something new and Merv has been recognised for his yield increases and quality with several cane grower awards in recent years.
“Visually it stands out where NatraMin is applied to our cane. Six years ago we first trialled NatraMin across some weak spots in a block to see if there would be a benefit. It wasn’t long before I could see the response, with results increasing after the first Ratoon to the point where the weak spots were as good as the rest of the paddock by the time we cut the 2nd crop.”
Since then, Merv now applies NatraMin when every block of cane is planted. “We’re also banding the NatraMin at planting and applying it on top of the drill through our worm drive machine. NatraMin is applied in a 500mm band and is part of our cycle where we take our plant cane on for three and sometimes four ratoons. It’s not a short-term or nitrogen product so you don’t see anything in the first 6 weeks, but where we apply NatraMin it shows up all the way through until that cane is ploughed out.”
Merv’s program is based on regular soil testing with Simon from BGA (CRT) and Sugar Services.
“I wouldn’t use it if I didn’t see a response. Visually the colour stands out as the cane is a deeper green. I can’t explain exactly what NatraMin does, but I suspect the increased yields are to do with nutrient release, nitrogen storage and increased root function from silica,” said Merv.
We thank Simon and Merv for their time and contribution towards ‘Helping Australia Grow’ higher yielding cane.