Archive for August, 2022

Back to Basics – Episode 8: The Nitrogen Cycle

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Back to Basics Virtual Series

Episode 8: The Nitrogen Cycle

In the final episode of the Back to Basics series, HCPSL Extension Agronomist Ellie McVeigh explains the Nitrogen Cycle. Throughout the video, the various stages and forms of nitrogen are discussed. Ellie highlights what processes must occur for nitrogen to be available to your sugarcane crop. Finally, the video concludes with a short demo showing the processes urea goes through to become available to the crop. 

If you have feedback, questions or would like further information on the topic, please leave a comment or contact the Project CaNE team at HCPSL.

A Different Perspective on the River: Herbert River Info Session

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

You’re invited to come and see what the Herbert river looks like and how it changes as it passes through the various parts of the landscape. We’ll be showing drone video and photography from the last five years, from the headwaters to the mouth, and sharing experiences and perspectives of changes in the river and surrounding land uses.

Thursday 15th September 2022

7am to 9am, HCPSL Meeting Room, 181 Fairford Road Ingham.

Breakfast will be supplied, please RSVP by Monday 12th September to Sandra (HCPSL) on 4776 5660.

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS: Jen Mackenzie is Terrain NRM’s sediment project leader. She has been working on projects to manage sediment in the Herbert River system for the last three years. John Drysdale is Neilly Group Engineering’s Project Implementation Coordinator. He is responsible for implementing NGE’s suite of erosion remediation projects in the Wet Tropics, and has been providing technical advice and expertise for the Herbert sediment management project.

Project CaNE™ is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.


Posted by Ellie McVeigh

HCPSL staff (Company Manager Lawrence Di Bella & Project Catalyst team member Bethany Donker) recently attended a Terrain workshop on ‘Activating your Soil Microbiome’ with Dr. Christine Jones.

Dr. Jones is a highly respected ground cover and soil ecologist with global knowledge and experience in supporting landholders to understand soil health, biodiversity, carbon emissions, and the specific management of Australian soils.

Dr. Jones began the workshop by addressing the importance of any microbiome for determining the health of a system. Just as the human gut determines our own human health, the various soil microbes and endophytes in plants themselves make up the complex plant-soil microbiome which is currently best understood through DNA analysis. The microbes that make up these communities are not only communicating with plant cells and amongst themselves but also relate externally, sending and receiving messages with other plants’ microbiomes.


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In addition to addressing the form and function of these different microbiomes, Dr. Jones emphasised two major factors in activating soil health: number and diversity. Not only is there a need for good ground cover but diversity in plant species and diversity in the microbiome is critical. Case studies from Germany, California and Canada with findings from long-term research trials demonstrated the relevance of these soil health principles in action for farm management. One rule of thumb is to ensure cover crops or the interrow include species from 4 different families (legumes, brassicas, forbs etc.) as this promotes microbes, improves root system development, and supports disease and drought tolerance.

Carbon cycling and storage was also briefly discussed towards the end of Christine’s presentation. New understanding of the microbial necromass (stabilised soil organic carbon) is indicating that this resource is the ‘dominant terrestrial carbon pool’ (Buckeridge et al. 2022) primarily made up of interactions from fungi and microbes with root exudates. This has implications for carbon storage in current management systems.

In addition to the main presentation, a panel of three local Tully growers spoke about their own approach to managing soil microbiomes. Practices ranging from phytophthora and nematode control with compost tea and biofert for pineapples, pest monitoring in organic red-tipped bananas and micronutrient management for tropical fruit crops provided some practical approaches to local soil management challenges and opportunities. The day ended with a tour of a tropical fruit crop farm where discussion touched on existing species diversity on-farm, potential species that might fit within the system and the different management decisions that might result from incorporating new covers into the system.

For more information concerning the workshop please go to: Terrain NRM: Natural Resource Management in the Wet Tropics

PRESS RELEASE: It’s time to plant your Approved Seed Cane!

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Research undertaken by HCPSL, and SRA clearly shows that growers who use Approved Clean Seed from HCPSL grow on average 11 tonnes of cane per hectare more cane than those who don’t use clean cane. Using Approved Clean Seed is an easy way to increase farm productivity.  

This year HCPSL has billet harvesters in all plots and wholestalk harvesters in the Stone River, Abergowrie and Central plots.

Growers are urged to collect cane ordered from HCPSL Approved Seed plots as soon as possible.

Cane stocks in the Abergowrie, Central and Ingham Line plots are near exhaustion and the Four Mile plot is now closed because all the cane has been sold. SRA36 is still available at the Central plot for growers to hand cut their allocation.

There are still good stocks in the Macknade and Stone River plots of most varieties, excluding SRA26, SRA28 and SRA36. At the Macknade and Stone River plots there are some varieties that have not been committed to growers to date, so growers who forgot to order cane or would like more cane can contact the following HCPSL Field staff:

HCPSL will complete the planting of the 2023 HCPSL Approved Seed plots in the next week.

HCPSL billet harvester loading a growers tipper at the Central plot.
HCPSL planter at Central plot.    

To download a copy of the full Press Release, view the document below.

Back to Basics: Episode 7 – What is Gypsum?

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Back to Basics Virtual Series

Episode 7: What is gypsum?

In this week’s Back to Basics video, HCPSL Extension Agronomist, Adam Royle covers ‘What is Gypsum?’. Following on from last week’s episode, he explains the difference between gypsum and other ameliorants. Adam also discusses how gypsum works to ameliorate sodic soils.

As always, if you have feedback, questions or would like further information on the topic, please leave a comment or contact the Project CaNE team at HCPSL.

Back to Basics: Episode 6 – What are soil ameliorants?

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Back to Basics Virtual Series

Episode 6: What are soil ameliorants?

This week Adam Royle, HCPSL Extension Agronomist, talks about soil ameliorants. He explains what ameliorant options are available and how they differ. Throughout this episode, Adam discusses lime, gypsum, and mill-by products as common forms of ameliorants in the Herbert.

Adam touches on some concepts explained in previous videos (CEC, pH), so to get a better understanding of ameliorants we suggest watching the previous Back to Basics episodes. All previous episodes can be viewed via Facebook, YouTube or the HCPSL website.

If you have feedback, questions or would like further information on the topic, please leave a comment or contact the Project CaNE team at HCPSL.

PRESS RELEASE: JCU student is working with HCPSL to try identifying RSD using satellite technology

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Ethan’s Story:

My name is Ethan Waters, I am in my 4th year for a double bachelor’s in electrical engineering and data science. I am currently conducting my honours thesis with the goal of detecting RSD with the satellite sentinel-2. I am in the process of developing a free prototype program that will inform farmers which of their blocks likely contain RSD. This will allow them to make more informed decisions to prevent the spread of RSD, increasing yield and profits for farmers. The benefit of using large scale imaging with a satellite is the ability to analyse an entire farm for RSD at the same time, rather than relying on a limited number of samples. Therefore, this will provide a more accurate indication of whether a block contains RSD than sample testing.

Brief Methodology Explanation:

Sentinel-2 is a multispectral satellite which captures the reflectance of different waves, including those that cannot be seen with the human eye. A number of different vegetation indices will be calculated for each satellite image and used as an input to an algorithm I develop. I am specifically interested in vegetation indices that look at moisture and water retention of plant matter, given that RSD reduces water retention. 

Above: JCU Student, Ethan Waters.

Future Plans: 

Demonstrating a successful prototype would provide strong grounds to apply for a number of grants and investments into sugarcane research to identify and prevent disease. This will help growers in the industry increase yield and profits. 

We need your help!

HCPSL staff will be contacting growers over the next few days asking for permission for Ethan (JCU student) and HCPSL staff to access your farm data to undertake this study. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

If Ethan is successful in identifying RSD using satellite imagery, it will greatly assist growers better understand and manage the disease.

For more information on the project contact Ethan Waters on 0435 626 685.

Download a copy of Press Release below.

Back to Basics: Episode 5 – How to do a pH test in the field

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Back to Basics Virtual Series

Episode 5: How to do a pH test in the field

Following on from last week’s episode, HCPSL Extension Agronomist Adam Royle demonstrates how to conduct a soil pH test in the field. Adam highlights situations that it may be useful to conduct your own field pH test.

Make sure to watch Episode 4: What is pH? To get an understanding of soil pH and how pH can impact your crop.

If you have feedback, questions or would like further information on the topic, please leave a comment or contact the Project CaNE team at HCPSL.

Soil Microbiome Workshop with Dr. Christine Jones

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Activating your soil microbiome workshop, with Dr Christine Jones

About this event

Join Dr Christine Jones as she explains the impacts of inorganic NPK on the soil microbiome and discusses the actions farmers can take to reduce their reliance on expensive inputs – while still achieving the productivity and profitability outcomes they are seeking.

You’ll get to hear from local producers who are making changes to their production systems about what they’ve observed, and improvements in the profitability of their enterprises. We’re still firming up the agenda, but it will look something like this:

To register, visit the link here: Workshop: Activating your soil microbiome Tickets, Tue 09/08/2022 at 8:15 am | Eventbrite

For more information, contact Sally Fields on 0421 710 474 or email

This project is funded by the Australian Government.