Canegrowers

Soil Health

These BMP modules contain suggested resources and suggested acceptable ‘proof of practice’. Other information can also constitute ‘proof of practice’ and this should be discussed with the facilitator. For example – an implemented Land and Water Management Plan would be acceptable proof for many sections. Click the following link for an offline PDF version of this module: Soil Health module

If a grower believes that their practice is BMP but it doesn’t match the BMP guidelines they should be able to provide sound reasoning for their practice and why it is BMP.

Note - you will need copies of items such as these ready so that you may insert them as proof of your practices:

  • Diary records of practices including trash blanketing, minimum tillage, rotational cropping and controlled traffic.
  • Photos of wheel, row and implement spacing measurements
  • Cultivation records
  • Rainfall records
  • GPS records and photo
  • Photos of trash blanket, trash raked from stool or written qualifier from industry expert as to why no trash blanket
  • Fallow with trash &/or cover crop photo
  • Photo of zero tillage planting equipment
  • Photo of pre-formed beds
  • Soil and water tests
  • Soil ameliorant application records

You can scan documents to insert them. Note – photographic evidence will require verification from an industry technical officer.

Background to this module:

  • The Sugarcane Yield Decline Joint Venture (SYDJV), a major program of investigating perceived declines in sugarcane yield, and subsequent industry research has highlighted the importance of improving soil health. The SYDJV recommendations identified three major aspects of sugarcane production that contribute to long-term yield constraints:
    • Compaction – primarily caused by a mis-match of machinery wheel or track spacing's with row spacing's, leads to a range of problems including reduced porosity, reduced soil water holding capacity and increased soil tensile strength (related to constriction of root growth), and physical stool damage.
    • Tillage – excessive tillage leads to a reduction in soil structure, resulting in a suite of problems including a loss of beneficial soil micro and macro organisms mainly through a loss of soil carbon and physical destruction, reduced soil water holding capacity, reduced water infiltration, surface crusting and erosion.
    • Monoculture – Successive plough-out replant leads to a continuous sugarcane system. This contributes to a build-up of pests and diseases that are favoured by sugarcane. Introduction of break crops, particularly nitrogen fixing broadleaf crops, creates an opportunity to re-balance soil-borne pathogens/beneficials, and add nitrogen and carbon into the system.
  • Permanent beds with wider row spacing using controlled traffic systems result in lower compaction and increased profit while reducing environmental impacts.
  • Trash blanketing & fallow cropping have many benefits including increasing the supply of soil carbon and the soils ability to hold and supply water to the crop.

Nutrient Management

Note - you will need copies of items such as these ready so that you may insert them as proof of your practices:

  • Soil test results
  • Nutrient recommendations
  • Soil type maps 
  • Nutrient Management Plan
  • Irrigation application records
  • Rainfall records
  • Paddock management records
  • Photographs or records of placement of fertiliser
  • Photo of fertiliser applicator 
  • Electronic rate controller photo
  • Records of harvest time
  • Six Easy Steps certificate 
  • Records of fertiliser application including soil tests, application rates, products, placement, calibration of equipment and person applying
  • Weather forecasts associated with timing of fertiliser applications.

You can scan documents to insert them. Note – photographic evidence will require verification from an industry technical officer.

This BMP module contains supporting documentation and proof of practice items. Other information can also constitute proof of practice and this should be discussed with the facilitator. For example – an Environmental Risk Management Plan would be acceptable proof for many sections.

If a grower believes that their practice is BMP but it doesn’t match the BMP guidelines, they should be able to provide sound reasoning for their practice and why it is BMP.

Basis of Nutrient Best Management Practice

Management of inputs of nutrients in sugarcane production is aimed at sustainability. Farm profitability is a prime consideration along with the management of inputs to minimise off-farm losses of nutrients and soil resources and associated environmental risk. Nutrient management recognises environmental and managerial differences between and within regions.

Key Area: Managing Compaction

1.1.1 Managing compaction

Practices:

Below Industry Standard - Row spacing is not matched to wheel spacing Machinery is operated in wet field conditions
Industry Standard - Row spacing and most machinery wheel spacings are matched, initial row establishment formed GPS guidance. Where possible machinery operations are delayed to avoid operating in wet field conditions
Above Industry Standard - Row spacing and all machinery wheel spacings are matched, GPS guidance is used for all field operation: bed forming, planting, spraying and harvesting. Machinery is not operated in wet field conditions

Key Area: Trash Management

1.2.1 Trash management

Practices:

Below Industry Standard - Cane is burnt prior to harvest and trash is raked and burnt after harvest or Cane is burnt prior to harvest or Green cane trash blanket is burnt after harvest or Green cane trash blanket is incorporated after harvest or Green cane trash blanket is raked and baled after harvest
Industry Standard - Green cane trash blanket is retained on suitable soils. In cold environments trash is raked from the stool and maintained in the interspace or cane is burnt prior to harvest. Where a water logging risk exist, cane is burnt prior to harvest
Above Industry Standard - Green cane trash blanket is retained throughout the crop cycle and after the final ratoon as fallow cover

Key Area: Fallow Management Guiding Principle

1.3.1 Fallow management

Practices:

Below Industry Standard - Fully cultivated bare fallow over the wet season where weed growth is controlled by a series of cultivations or No fallow period is used as plough-out replant is practiced
Industry Standard - Soil cover is maintained throughout the wet season either through the use of a trash blanket and sprayed out cane or through the growth of a fallow crop like legumes No living cane is present during the fallow period to break pest and disease cycles
Above Industry Standard - Well managed rotational crops are grown on all fallow land to break weed and pest cycles Residues from rotational crops are maintained on the soil surface and not incorporated between crop cycles (Cane is zero till planted into rotational crop stubble)

Key Area: Preparing Land for Planting

1.4.1 Preparing land for planting

Practices:

Below Industry Standard - Plant cane is established using excessive cultivation, soil is cultivated to a fine tilth through multiple machinery operations
Industry Standard - Plant cane is established after a fallow using zonal or minimum tillage. Tillage methods minimise soil structural damage and compaction
Above Industry Standard - Plant cane is established after a fallow using zero tillage

Key Area: Tillage Management in Crop

1.5.1 Tillage management in-crop

Practices:

Below Industry Standard - Multiple tillage events in both plant and/or ratoon crops are conducted. Soils in crop are tilled to a fine tilth which is prone to soil erosion and encourages soil structure decline. No ground cover present in crop
Industry Standard - Tillage in plant cane is kept to the minimum necessary to establish row profiles and irrigation furrows and to apply fertiliser and pesticides For GCTB – no tillage in ratoons other than fertiliser and pesticide applications is used
Above Industry Standard - Cultivation in plant and ratoon crops limited to coulter applied fertilisers and pesticides. Preformed beds used in plant cane

Key Area: Managing Salinity And Sodicity

1.6.1 Managing salinity and sodicity

Practices:

Below Industry Standard - The presence / risk of salinity and sodicity is unknown Or No specific management of a known salinity and sodicity risk is practiced
Industry Standard - The presence / risk of salinity and sodicity is determined and monitored through the use of soil tests and on-farm management practices including application of soil ameliorants. The quality of irrigation water and its effect on the presence / risk of salinity and sodicity is considered and managed
Above Industry Standard - Where the presence / risk of salinity or sodicity has been identified, regular monitoring of root zone soil and water conditions is conducted. Current knowledge regarding local shallow groundwater conditions is used to manage salinity

Key Area: Soil Testing

1.7.1 Soil sampling and testing

Practices:

Below Industry Standard - No regular soil sampling program prior to planting
Industry Standard - Soil sampling that meet industry and legislative requirements are collected from blocks to be planted and sent for analysis. Records kept refining future nutritional programs.
Above Industry Standard - Soil types are mapped and management zones developed and soil samples are collected for each management zone. Location sample sites are recorded to identify trends in the fertility

Key Area: Calculating optimum nutrient rate

1.8.1 Calculating and applying optimum nutrient rate

Practices:

Below Industry Standard - General rule of thumb determines applied nutrient rate
Industry Standard - Regulatory minimum (for growers in Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay-Whitsundays): The regulated method is used to develop nutrient program for N & P. For N, district yield potential is used with adjustments made according to the N mineralisation index of soils which is based on OC%. Other sources of N including from irrigation water, mill mud and legumes are voluntary deductions. OR Six Easy Steps Nutrient Management program is used
Above Industry Standard - Six Easy Steps Nutrient Management program is used with nutrient rates based on farm or sub-district yield potential. And Mechanisms to more closely match nutrient rates to crop requirements (improved nutrient use efficiency) are explored.

Key Area: Placement of Fertiliser and Timing of Application

1.9.1 Placement of fertliser

Practices:

Below Industry Standard - Fertiliser is applied on the surface, and not incorporated. Mill mud is applied broadcast in ratoons
Industry Standard -

On steep slopes only (i.e. Innisfail on Red Ferrisol soils), fertiliser is applied banded on the surface. Apply when crop root system has developed. Mill by-products are applied on the row, not in the interspace.

or

Granular fertilisers are applied subsurface in the drill (i.e. stool split or side banded). Mill by-products are applied on the row, not in the interspace.

or

Surface-banded applied fertiliser products are incorporated by overhead irrigation as soon as possible or within 7 days. Mill by-products are applied on the row, not in the interspace.

or

Liquid fertiliser products are applied subsurface, or on the surface only under pressure. Mill by-products are applied on the row, not in the interspace.

1.9.2 Timing of fertiliser application

Practices:

Below Industry Standard -

Fertiliser is applied soon after harvest before the new root system has developed.

And / Or

All fertiliser for the plant crop is applied in one application.

Industry Standard -

Apply fertiliser six to eight weeks after harvesting or when cane is approximately 600mm high on early- to mid-season cut cane where practical.

And if late cut cane, apply when practical taking weather into consideration.

Never apply fertiliser when runoff from storms is expected before the nutrient can penetrate to the root zone.

Key Area: Calibration of Application Equipment

1.10.1 Calibration

Practices:

Below Industry Standard - Equipment is calibrated annually or less
Industry Standard - Application equipment is calibrated prior to the season and at each product and batch change
Above Industry Standard - Use of correctly calibrated automatic controllers and variable rate application equipment

Key Area: Record Keeping

1.11.1 Record keeping

Practices:

Below Industry Standard - No records kept of nutrient management
Industry Standard - Records are kept of soil tests, application rates, products, placement, calibration of equipment and person applying. Records are used to review and modify future nutrient management
Above Industry Standard - Records are kept in digital form linked by GPS for operations and used to monitor and modify future nutrient management.