COMMON GROUND: Participants on a Project Catalyst forum field trip learn about innovations in canegrowing.
COMMON GROUND: Participants on a Project Catalyst forum field trip learn about innovations in canegrowing. Contributed

Cane farmers head north for Catalyst forum

A GROUP of 28 innovative Mackay sugarcane farmers travelled to Cairns last week for the fourth Project Catalyst Grower Forum.

The forum brought together almost 150 Project Catalyst sugarcane growers, industry experts, sustainable agriculture leaders and government representatives to discuss innovation within the sugarcane industry.

It was a celebration of the group's dedication to farmer-led research to find economically viable ways of growing cane in a more sustainable and efficient way.

Special guests at the 2013 forum included Peter Kuhlmann, the 2012 Australian Farmer of the Year and Grain Grower of the Year, and Jennie Gilbert, of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.

Growers attending the forum are part of the Project Catalyst program, which brings together growers from the Burdekin, Wet Tropics and Mackay-Whitsunday regions.

Phil Deguara, a local Mackay Project Catalyst grower who attended the forum, said: "Project Catalyst gives us the opportunity to network with like-minded growers from different regions, which is great.

"It also brings us together with key people from the sugarcane supply chain and sustainability organisations who are all working for the same outcomes."

All Project Catalyst growers conduct their own on-farm trials, supported by a precision agriculture expert and economic analysis.

They have all made significant investments in time and money and often take risks trialling new practices, technologies and machinery as part of Project Catalyst.

Presentations from Mackay growers included Phil Deguara talking about his checkerboard application of cane grub pesticide trial, which looks at finding ways to reduce the amount applied while maintaining good control. Mr Deguara also discussed soil moisture probes which help him to schedule irrigation accurately.

John Pastega spoke about his shear sprayer and centre pivot improvements and Tony Bugeja and Rob Sluggett spoke on variable rate fertiliser trials on Mr Bugeja's farm.



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