Sugar Services Proserpine's newest extension agronomist Laurent Verpeaux is on the ground helping farmers make their cane fields more profitable.
Sugar Services Proserpine's newest extension agronomist Laurent Verpeaux is on the ground helping farmers make their cane fields more profitable. Shannen McDonald

How agronomists are helping farmers yield higher profits

AS THE sugar industry feels the weight of the recent Reef Bill announcement and the impact of world sugar prices, Sugar Services Proserpine is working to improve the productivity and profits of the region's farmers.

Funded by both its members and the Proserpine Mill, SSP prioritises improving productivity and profitability in the industry for both parties.

The forecast for the current crush season is 1.61 million tonnes, up from 2018's 1.56 million tonnes, which SSP hopes to extend out to the region benchmark of 2 million tonnes in the coming years.

SSP's newest extension agronomist Laurent Verpeaux said there were six key ways the organisation planned on increasing the tonnages of sugar cane sent to the mill while lowering cost and increasing profits in the process.

"The main areas we look at are irrigation management, soil health, pest and disease management, clean seed, nutrient management and sugar testing,” Mr Verpeaux said.

Mr Verpeaux has been working in the Queensland sugar, agriculture and horticulture industries since 2011 in roles at NQ Dry Tropics, Landcare and Mossman Agricultural Services.

Sugar Services Proserpine's newest extension agronomist Laurent Verpeaux is on the ground helping farmers make their cane fields more profitable.
Sugar Services Proserpine's newest extension agronomist Laurent Verpeaux is on the ground helping farmers make their cane fields more profitable. Shannen McDonald

He now hopes to bring his extensive knowledge of farming - including reef compliance, quality nutrient management plans, data management and crop and soil maintenance - to the Proserpine region.

One of the top projects in operation is the SSP's nutrient management which involves planting a cover crop to replace nutrients in the soil of cleared cane fields to potentially decrease the amount of fertiliser needed when the cane is replanted.

This practice has recently taken off in neighbouring regions such as the Burdekin, where it also doubles as a means of diversifying income due to the lower risk involved in planting cover crop in that region.

Cover crop can include anything such as sunflowers, oats, radishes, beans and legumes.

"The idea is to improve the biodiversity in the soil achieved through increasing carbon and restoring nitrogen,” Mr Verpeaux said.

Cover crops are also beneficial for soil run-off and contribute to the success of the Reef regulations in the region.

To get in touch with Mr Verpeaux and the SSP team and to find out more about what they do, call 4945 1844 or visit them at 88 Main St, Proserpine.

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