Wow November already, only 12 harvesting days left of this years harvest.So what's been happening, well we have just harvested our intercropping trial and the results where as I expected, not overly fantastic yield wise,however the soy's didn't really get much of a chance. Still have to see what went on below ground though, still awaiting those results.
Our chopper drum trials after some initial results look very promising showing a significant reduction of juice loss during the process of cutting, more results are in the pipeline.
Had numerous visitors to our farm to look at the farming system that we have adopted, we had a Brazilian miller who had 4 million tonnes, who brought a professor from his local university to look at farming systems for him to take back and implement on his farms in Brasil.Also had a couple from Zimbabwe visit for the same purpose, they are looking at developing 40,000 Ha of land into sugar cane for ethanol production, so they are wanting to have a low input sustainable farming system.
The most interesting visitors though were brought up here by Wilmar Sugar, these girls worked for an international independent environmental accreditation company called "Proforrest".These guys have been commissioned by Nestle to see how the sugar they source, is produced on sugar cane farms,they are looking at environmentally sustainable farming practices amongst other things. Wilmar has seen the value in marketing the clean,green,aspect of the sugar that they produce from people like me.However they can only say that due to the investment ,both in dollar terms, and man ours, that we have put into our farming system. I asked these guys where is the value for me , where is the recognition that they( Wilmar ) can say look we meet certain standards that people like Nestle are looking for,and how does the value if any flow back to the farmer, that made it all possible?
These girls were great ,and only doing there job, and were very complementary on our farming practices and the work we have done to get there, however, " Pats on the Back don't Pay the Bills"
It's been a while since my last post, I have been busy however that has not really been the issue, I have been wondering why I am doing what I am doing and is there a future here for me in Dalbeg?Couple of years ago was not even a question that entered my mind, now I am not so sure, with all the outside influences on me and my future, my wife tells me I think to much so maybe she is right. On the farming system front we have harvested our second crop cycle from the new system ,so we have gone full circle. We are very pleased with the result not only has it been a low input plant crop, it has also yielded a very respectable 160 tph at mill average sugar content, have not done the final numbers yet but are very confident on making good dollars per hectare return. I have attached some picture of the crop as young plant and at time of harvest. Am also including a picture of this years plant cane back into the existing bed that is having it's "FIRST" irrigation since July 2013, just goes to show the value of controlling compaction, residue retention, and minimum tillage ( did'nt get to plant Legumes)the farm adjacent to ours has had multiple irrigations already.Our chopper drum will be trialled against industry standard in the coming weeks, my initial observations have been positive with the chopper drums and the primary extractor housing much drier that the old set up, my assumption is that it is because there is lees juice loss during the cutting action, time will tell. Still getting a steady stream of visitors coming to look at what we are doing even some from another major milling company, I wonder what they think when they drive away, oh to be a fly on the wall.
I saw a post on Facebook the other day, it had a picture of farm land, the caption read "Men in Denim (Jackie How blue singlets and Stubbies, here in Australia) built this Land, and Men in Suits are ruining it". I got to say that summed up they I am feeling about the Australian Sugarcane Industry at the moment, we have now had all three major Sugar milling companies, one Singaporean, one Chinese, and the other Thai, all pull out of the Industry run marketing and distribution company. I wish I could say I was surprised ,however I saw this same corporate strategy on my Nuffield Scholarship, people here in this Industry have blinders on, they have continually said "Oh no this can't happen" "We will fight it Blah Blah Blah".So it is true "Men in Suits" sitting in offices around the globe are determining how the sugar cane industry will look in the future. Meanwhile men like me and you who are farmers built this industry,what to do? who to talk to? Well this is how I contribute, I have had over 10,200 page views, I don't know who you are,but I hope you read my thoughts and you gain some insight into the issues modern Sugarcane farmers are dealing with.My only goal is to shed some light and inform people of the possibilities that this crop can deliver for a sustainable future in "food ,fibre, and energy production", because I believe you guys are the ones that can make the difference. Politicians only re-act to public pressure,so my reckoning is convince enough of you guys and things will start to happen (no pressure).
Anyway back to what I can have some input into our Harvesting and Farming business, we have installed a new chopper drum design into our harvester the harvest our dual row,it has the potential to produce a better cutting action therefore reducing juice loss at harvest. As with all things new I have experienced a few dramas,basically I don't have enough hydraulic power to power the new cutting action, but like most things it can be overcome and I have ordered some different hydraulic motors with more torque, should solve the problem.
I have had numerous visits from farmers,three this week in fact, I must say how honoured I feel that people think enough of what we are doing to travel to come speak with us,I have said to our new research body on numerous occaisions and to numerous people in "leadership" roles how important credibility is to farmers,and how farmers will always learn from other farmers. However they do not take notice, more "Men in Suits".
I have put up pictures of the old chopper drums ,and the other photos of the new chopper system.
Harvest time is almost here , actually three days time, where does the time go it is June already. My time has been consumed with preparing machinery for the harvest, and some farming in between, we have planted our 2014 plant crop and it is progressing nicely, we have not touched it since planting almost a month ago. Funny what I thought a farmer was when I was a kid, I thought that you only had to work hard and try not to break stuff and if you did you would have to fix it. However now being a farmer means being able to be so many things, for example, I have to be able to understand how the Ice#11 translates back into a dollar per hectare return, and try to understand how much the Aussie currency exchange with the U.S dollar will effect my return for the year.Then there is the whole public perception of what or how a sugar cane farmer grows there crop and are they doing it in a environmentally friendly way, as to not have any adverse effects on the Great Barrier Reef. If you would have asked me when I was a boy following my Dad around helping him with his work if I would one day be doing a television interview with Japanese National television who are filming a documentary about the Great Barrier Reef. Explaining to them how we have changed our farming practices and the benefits that it has for water quality and the surrounding environment, I don't reckon 8 year old me would have even known where Japan was. You see the world is watching and in this 21st century we are all connected it is truly a global world that we live in, and we all have a responsibility to look after the world we live in not only people that live on the land. I reckon 8 year old Bryan's definition of farming is much less complicated. I have posted a photo of the emerging min till cane planted into existing beds, and a pic of me talking with Japanese tv.
It's been a bit hectic around hear lately, machinery preparation for the upcoming crush is almost done, the crush will commence on the 10th of June. In the middle of this we have planted cane, this was an interesting time, if you have seen my blogs you will know that we plant into a minimum till permanent bed, and will also have seen that we also had cyclone that dumped some rain. What is interesting is that we have neighbours that are full on diesel burners (full tillage)and they furiously run up and down trying to get their ground to dry out and get a good enough tilth to plant. Where on the other hand we have one pass with a coulter /ripper which is low horsepower and low fuel consumption and less labour, then we plant with a double disc planter. I have taken some photo's of the "traditional" system and our "min till" controlled traffic system and the soil condition, the two fields are separated by about 50 meters, same soil, the only difference is how the fields are managed, our field has had no heavy cultivation for 8 years, the other one every year and no matched rows to wheel spacings. Old mate told me he burnt 1000 litres of fuel to prepare for planting, I lost count of how many tillage operations they did, but we had finished planting when they had finally finished their tillage.You be the judge!!Had a visit from the guys from Queensland University the other day to take soil samples from where the soy was in the sugar cane crop, they also took soil from the neighbours "traditional" farming practices and from the natural bush land over the fence, it will be interesting to see what little boogers they find living in the different soils.On the "big picture" scale we have had our millers wanting to pull out of our industry run marketing system,(next will be the terminals and port infrastructure) they say that it will be for my benefit, Yeah I am sure that this multi national company really has my best interest at heart,just another challenge to being a farmer these days, lets hope as an Industry we can work together on this most important development so our lively hoods don't get eroded for the benefit of the all mighty dollar.
It's been a while since I have posted, have had a lot going on. We had a visit from Canadian Nuffield scholar Kelvin Meadows and his wife Shellie, which was fantastic considering that it was almost a year to the day that we were in Canada spending time with them, it is really very interesting to see peoples perspective of an industry that they have not had anything to do with. It was very helpful to have them share there views about our business and how they saw our futures prospects. Speaking of future prospects our sugar mill owners a Singaporean based multi national company has expressed it's intentions to vertically integrate it's sugar business to now wanting to control the marketing of all sugar that is milled at it's factories. I have to say this doesn't really surprise me,I saw plenty examples of this on my Nuffield study tour, and in fact the model these guys are following, pretty much is a carbon copy of the big grain companies in north America and Canada. At first it will be marketing of sugar ,next it will be the infrastructure for handling and shipping of the sugar you see these guys don't want to be in sugar they want to own it! From paddock to plate if you like.
On another note it seems that I have become an unofficial consultant for the research community,having had some visit's to have ideas and concepts run by me, have even been asked for input into some specific types of projects. I, on one hand feel honoured that I am being asked for my opinion, and on the other hand can't help but feel annoyed that this industry don't see the value in the Nuffield Australia farming scholarships,and in fact have not continued funding for 2015, but yet come to me because of the knowledge I have gained from my own Nuffield scholarship. Am still working on getting Industry support for the continuation of Nuffield , I think it is critical to our prosperity as an industry, for where are the next leaders going to come from? We need to get out and understand where we fit in the big picture, this will not be achieved by following the same leadership paradigm that we have now!
Farm wise we have been getting through maintenance of our newly acquired machinery, not very exciting but necessary. Oh yeah we have had a cyclone that flattened all our cane, no structural damage.
Last week was a busy week, I gave a presentation to the local year 12 business, communication, technology class on Friday morning about the innovation and technology that it being used on today's modern sugar cane farms. It was quite interesting to see there interest, in how the industry that supports the community they live in, has adapted to the pressures of surviving in a global market place. It was also a chance to share some of my Nuffield experiences from around the world, I guess the one thing that I hoped they took from my presentation was the importance of looking outside your area to see new ideas and ways of thinking.I then gave a presentation to a local river catchment advisory group on the importance of soil health, and how the people I met on my Nuffield scholarship where all dealing with the same soil health issues.On the following Tuesday I travelled up the coast 4 1/2 hours to be the dinner speaker for an industry conference. Actually it was a conference that was created by sugar cane farmers for sugar cane farmers, the whole reason for the conference was to bring farmers together to learn from other farmers, pretty cool Huh! This was the 5th one and as usual it was well attended with over 100 attending. My dinner presentation got off to a bit of a hiccup when we couldn't load my presentation, but thanks to Deb we got it up so the guests could see what I was talking about.I talked about the opportunity that Nuffield presented for the sugar cane industry, I have to say because this was really the first time I had presented to farmers I was a little unsure of the reaction I would get.The main point that I wanted to present is really summed up best by a quote that I read painted on a research stations wall in Obregon Nth Mexico. The quote was by Dr Norman E Bourlag who is well known as Noble Prize winner from 1970, and the father of the green revolution he said. "It is very important that farmers get involved to protect research from the vagaries of politics".The first question that I was asked at my conclusion was "why have we not heard from me sooner", I replied that despite my efforts I had not been invited to do so at any forum up until now.I feel for this industry to prosper it is critical for the emerging leaders be exposed to such a program as Nuffield can deliver, there is no better investment in human capital that I have been involved in.
On another note the inter cropping trial seems to be picking up , I have attached some photos.