NEW DIGS: Dr Ron Swindells, Lindy Hyam, Ian Johnsson and Helen Garnett at the new Sugar Research Australia property at Welcome Creek.
NEW DIGS: Dr Ron Swindells, Lindy Hyam, Ian Johnsson and Helen Garnett at the new Sugar Research Australia property at Welcome Creek. Eliza Goetze

Construction approved for sugar research station

AFTER a period of limbo, the national body for sugar cane research has found its new, permanent home here in Bundaberg.

Construction is set to get started in the coming months for the new research station for Sugar Research Australia on Pashleys Rd, Welcome Creek.

Spokesman Brad Pfeffer said the board had approved the investment in the new station and that would mean local construction jobs.

"It means finally our researchers can call a place home,” SRA chairman Ron Swindells said.

"We've been leasing land since 2013.

"But now with a purpose-built building here will house all of our people in the one location.

"That will no doubt boost morale and motivation.”

SRA is now transitioning from the Kalkie property after selling their land there in 2016.

SRA CEO Neil Fisher said they were forced to sell up due to "nearby residential encroachment with increasing complaints from the neighbours about dust, noise and the use of agricultural chemicals”.

NEW DIGS: Dr Ron Swindells at the new Sugar Research Australia property on Pashleys Rd, Welcome Creek.
NEW DIGS: Dr Ron Swindells at the new Sugar Research Australia property on Pashleys Rd, Welcome Creek. Eliza Goetze

"When this was coupled with the recent re-zoning of the land as 'emerging communities', it meant it would have been increasingly difficult to conduct research and farming activities on this site.

"Because of these issues, SRA's work has been occurring on a leased property, while SRA worked on a long-term solution.”

Research will be undertaken in the cane crops on the 56ha property for the benefit of the sugar cane industry across Queensland and northern New South Wales.

By far the largest part of the program is the development of new cane varieties, which was the most easily adopted form of research, Dr Swindells said.

The SRA board visited the site on a tour around the region, during which they also met local cane farmers to hear their concerns and feedback.

Water - "or lack thereof” - was a key concern, Dr Swindells said, as well as the soldier fly, for which there is currently no chemical treatment.

"At the moment it's a case of the farmer having to throw (the crop) out ... and hope (the fly) doesn't come back.”

The SRA receieves money from state and federal governments as well as miller and grower industry bodies. Grower and Bundaberg Canegrowers chairman Allan Dingle said he welcomed the group's commitment to research in the southern region.

"There has been a change in the southern region over the last two decades where some of the best soil has shifted from cane production into other agricultural uses, and this means that sugarcane production has expanded into a wide range of soils,” Mr Dingle said.

"The new site is representative of those issues facing the industry in the southern region, and the range of soil types on which cane is grown here.”



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