According to Kym Kruse, Director of RegenAG®, for farmers, seeing is believing.
Demonstrations took place on a North Eton cane farm recently (24 June), with local growers invited to take a look and learn more.
For the last 12 months, Eton growers John and Michael Attard have been working with RegenAG® to test a whole systems approach to production, which includes the application of bio-fertilisers, made DIY on the farm.
“The Attard’s have jumped in and are making significant practice change over a 100 hectare crop area. They have created a range of different inputs, and modified equipment to address how these are best applied,” Mr Kruse said.
“We have worked with them to provide support on how to produce their own inputs on-farm, while also creating farm efficiencies. Significantly, the outcomes they are seeing now 12 months in have been achieved at a reduced cost of production.”
Mr Kruse said results to date were encouraging, pointing to production savings; as well as gains in yield and improvements in soil health.
“For example, the water holding capacity of the soil has improved to the point that the growers have saved more than $1500 in pumping costs, thanks to a decreased reliance on irrigation,” Mr Kruse said.
“At this stage, they are also expecting a yield increase. With the cut only just starting, the final results of the first 12 months of the Attard family working with this system are not yet known. However the first 4 hectares cut have shown an increase of 5 tonne/ha. On average, John believes he has approximately a 10 tonne increase in yield, with a two point average sugar content higher than the mill.”
Participants also had the opportunity to observe simple equipment modifications that can be made on-farm for optimal application.
“For example, the Attard’s have modified a spray rig unit to carry three 2000 litre tanks, capable of application over 20 hectares in an hour. They have also been extremely innovative in setting up a mechanism that allows them to fertigate, directly injecting the bio-ferments in with the irrigation water to maintain nutrition to the plants during that period. ” Mr Kruse said.
“In all industries as with cane, margins are getting tighter, so these kinds of savings can make a big difference economically together with having an environmental benefit.”
Mr Kruse said while the Attard’s still used synthetic fertilisers such as N, the trial pointed to a rapidly growing interest from sugar farmers seeking alternatives.
“What we are seeing is a marked increase in interest from typically conventional farmers who want to head a more biological way, but are wondering where to turn.
“There is a real mindset change happening and the reason is being driven by declining yields, declining soil health, the desire to reduce nitrogen inputs and tighter and tighter margins.
“There is a lot of pressure on farmers and the economics are forcing people to look at what they are currently doing and say ‘how can I do this better?’”