Canegrower Clinton Southern is a finalist in the plant category of the 2013 Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Award.
Clinton leases an 80 hectare sugarcane farm in Ayr, Queensland. He, like other cane growers, is trying to manage a crop affected by yellow canopy syndrome. No-one really knows what causes it yet, but it’s the cane growers who have to manage it.
“Basically, it’s making the cane fall over,” said Clinton.
He has gone back to basics and is looking to the past for ideas. To help overcome some of the effects of the disease, he has implemented a process called ‘stubble shaver’.
“This is a system that was used over 30 years ago. The idea is to cut it deep to keep stalk root close to the ground. This looks promising so far,” he said.
Using this process also means that instead of having to spray twice a year he only has to do it once. It not only saves money, but also has environmental benefits.
“This is good for the environment as it prevents run off to the Barrier Reef,” said Clinton.
“I also have an idea for a machine that will cut the cane close to the root, which I’m trying to get off the ground,” he said.
Clinton thinks the sugarcane farmers should get back to basics. “Perhaps going back to old fashioned farming methods which are more time consuming initially but in the long-term will be beneficial,” he said.
Water is always an issue and he has started to recycle. While there are biosecurity concerns if using recycled water, it can also be a valuable resource if managed correctly. “It’s a mix of irrigation and underground water and has increased production in just one year. It’s early days but this too looks promising,” he said.
Clinton is also an active member of associations and groups such as the Kalamia Growers Association. He recently attended the National Rural Health Students Network Next Gen Conference at the Gold Coast. “I met a lot of other young farmers and used the opportunity to exchange ideas,” he adds.
Hosted by Kondinin Group and ABC Rural, and sponsored by Plant Health Australia and Animal Health Australia through the Farm Biosecurity program, the Biosecurity Farmer of the Year award recognises the efforts of producers dedicated to keeping their operations free of diseases, pests and weeds.
Winners of all award categories will be announced at a ceremony in Melbourne on 12 September.