Mick Quirk is the Project Manager of the Smartcane Best Management Practice (BMP) project.
Mick Quirk brings decades of agricultural research and extension experience to the sugarcane industry’s stewardship and productivity program, Smartcane BMP. He’s starting his tenure as Project Manager with a tour of sugarcane growing regions to meet with BMP facilitators.
“I’ve joined the BMP program at a time in which the focus has shifted from development to one of adoption, which is exciting,” Mick says. “The program has a very solid foundation and the immediate challenge is to find ways to make the process as efficient as possible while building its value for growers and industry.”
“ A lot of growers have registered and done the self-assessment stage. Now we need to see more of these growers seeking accreditation and then using the program as a way of identifying further opportunities for improved productivity and sustainability.
“I look forward to meeting with the BMP district facilitators and discussing the progress of the program and their ideas for improving the process and its value for growers.”
Prior to taking on the BMP roles, Mick was with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) where he managed on-farm Research and Development investment. He’s also a 23 year veteran of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries where he was an agronomist before leading a Queensland-wide research and extension team of up to 55 staff focussed on sustainable beef production systems.
Mick is no stranger to the issues of water quality and Great Barrier Reef impact that the cane industry is facing, having been a member of the Independent Science Panel for the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.
“The BMP program looks at all aspects of growing a successful cane crop with three of the modules also relating directly to how growers can practically reduce loss of nutrients, sediment and pesticides from their farms, thereby helping reduce the risk of any impacts to the reef and associated environments,” Mick says.
“BMP is important for growers in a number of ways.
“The more that the industry can demonstrate that it is applying current best practice for managing nutrients, water and pesticides, the less pressure there will be for regulations or other external interventions into industry practice.
“Just as importantly, the program can help growers identify those practices, or the modifications to current practices, that are most likely to improve efficiency and production.”
Mick disagrees with the view that BMP is just a process for getting ticks and/or crosses, with no lasting value to the grower.
“The BMP process should be an effective and time-efficient approach for identifying opportunities to improve farming practices and productivity,” he says. “Differences between current practices and those deemed to represent best practice could be due to the specific circumstances on the farm. In some cases, however, there may be real opportunity for improvement that could be explored further.
“The program has district facilitators in place to help producers with the process including accessing any new information and training they need.”
Mick says his work in the grazing industry was focussed on distilling the results of research and making these available to producers in a way that maximised their practical value.
“BMP offers a process for putting new R&D results and innovations into the context of an individual farm, thereby ensuring growers are aware of potential improvements on a continuous basis.
“In this way, the BMP process offers lasting value for growers. Ensuring BMP offers this value to growers will be an important part of my work at CANEGROWERS,” he said.