New sugarcane nutrition manual provides the A to Z of growing a healthy crop

A new sugarcane nutrition manual provides sugarcane growers, millers, and advisors with a complete insight into running a healthy crop.

On the 1st of August, Sugar Research Australia released the new manual, which contains an extensive run-down on the latest research and information for growing healthy sugarcanes.

The Australian Sugarcane Nutrition Manual is available free to sugarcane manufacturers and stakeholders through Sugar Research Australia in hardcopy and electronic formats.

Sugar Research Australia CEO Neil Fisher said good crop nutrition was fundamental to the industry’s productivity, profitability, and sustainability.

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“This new manual arms the Australian sugarcane industry with valuable information to gain a better understanding of their crop’s nutrition, which is underpinned by the Six Easy Steps nutrient management program for fertiliser guidelines,” said Fisher.

“Six Easy Steps is a science-based nutrient management tool that enables the adoption of best practice nutrient management on-farm. It is acknowledged as industry best-practice for nutrient management to optimise productivity and profitability without adversely influencing soil fertility or causing off-farm impacts,” he said.

The Australian sugarcane industry had already made huge improvements to its nutrient management, which was delivering positive environmental outcomes and improved profitability, said Fisher.

“The nutrition manual is another valuable tool in the toolbox to help growers and advisors access this information,” he said.

Sugar Research Australia had exciting research projects underway that looked at important topics such as the nitrogen use efficiency of sugarcane varieties and the viability of enhanced efficiency fertilisers, said Fisher.

“Growers, millers, and industry will hear more about these projects as results are gathered in the months and years ahead,” he said.

Herbert region grower Chris Bosworth said marrying profitability and sustainability was crucial.

“The Great Barrier Reef is right off our coast. We want to protect the reef as we have already been doing. If we are losing nutrients from our farm to the reef, it’s not growing any cane out there and it is costing us money,” he said.

“I don’t want nutrients leaving my paddock, and this manual is a tool that can help with that. The least amount of nutrient that I can put on to grow a good crop, the better,” said Bosworth.

Dry weather in Australia significantly impacting crops

Australia has experienced one of the driest autumns since records began, more than 100 years ago, leading to poor crop growth.

It’s not unusual to experience dry conditions in early autumn, with a normal winter crop possible if a rain break arrives by mid-June.

But, continued dry conditions in July are contributing to one of the driest seasons on record for many crop regions.

Nufarm is concerned that the Australian crop protection market is down substantially as a result.

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The extended dry weather conditions have impacted ANZ business, with the 2018 financial year EBIT contribution from ANZ now anticipated to be between $5million to $10m (LY$51.6m).

These seasonal conditions have also impacted the mix of products sold, with growers buying lower margin functional products over higher margin differentiated products.

The limited demand for crop protection products across Australia has led to increased competition and high inventory levels – resulting in significant margin pressure.

By the 20th of July, following feedback from Nufarm teams, it was determined that the market had reached a turning point.

It is now considered unlikely that a viable crop season will occur in many parts of the country and the expected demand for post emergent products will not eventuate.

Given poor demand in the 2018 financial year, there will be an overhand of inventory. Grower demand will depend on a return to normal summer conditions in the 2019 financial year, but the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a dry spring.

Anticipated low levels of demand, coupled with the current over-supply, is expected to constrain sales and margin into 2019.

Despite the drought conditions, Nufarm remains confident it has retained market share in Australia, in line with the long term strategic objective.

Nufarm expects Net Working Capital for the group, at the 31st of July, to be $200m-$300m higher than last year.

This reflects the high inventories in the Australian business due to the difficult seasonal conditions and the higher receivables in the Northern Hemisphere countries resulting from the delayed seasons in those markets.