Growers advised to burn cane

by Lucy Ardern

ABOUT 80% of the cane Jeff Fritz needs to harvest has to be ticked off by inspector's looking for cane smut before he can get in and do his job.

The Bundaberg contractor was one of several people who attended meetings in Bundaberg and Isis yesterday to find out the draft protocols put in place to minimise the spread of smut during harvesting in "restricted" and "non-restricted" cane zones.

The meetings followed discussions by a cane industry working group at the weekend, to progress problems holding up the crush in Isis and Bundaberg areas because of smut.

"I harvest about 75,000 tonne of cane and about 60,000 tonne is in the restricted zone,'' he said.

"Based on the protocols, I cannot harvest that cane until it has been inspected and ticked off."

About 60% of the Isis mill area is within the 2km restricted zone, representing more than 80 farms, with a much smaller number of farms impacted in the Bundaberg mill area.

One of the issues discussed at the Isis region meeting was the proposal that growers would be made to burn cane in the smut-infected areas before harvest.

Few farms are burnt in the Isis area before crushing and some farmers have been cutting green for 15 years.

Isis Canegrowers chairman Joe Russo, who is also Canegrowers Queensland deputy chairman, said the group was still in discussion with Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) in the hope of coming up with an alternative method for harvesting cane in restricted areas.

It is believed the burning method is best practice for stopping the spread of smut.

Mr Russo said Canegrowers had also requested DPI&F employ another 100 people by the end of the week to inspect for cane smut, with 50 employed yesterday.

Crushing continued in Bundaberg and Isis yesterday.



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