Archive for the ‘Soil and Nutrient Management’ Category

Project CaNE investigates sub-surface applications of mill mud

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

As part of Project CaNE’s ‘Clear As Mud’ Demonstration Program, growers across the Herbert have had the opportunity to assess various mill mud application rates and methods on their farms.

At one of the sites, the project team is investigating the sub-surface application of mill mud. Sub-surface applications can provide benefits to the grower, as well as the broader environment. This application method limits nutrient loss for the grower, as more of the applied product remains in the block after rainfall. Additionally, this reduces sediment and nutrient runoff into local waterways.

The images below have been captured at a local grower’s block. The images illustrate the application method being investigated as part of ‘Clear As Mud’.

Images below are for illustrative purposes only.

For further information on Project CaNE or the Clear As Mud Program visit the Project CaNE page here.

Sub-surface mill mud application BEFORE planting.
Sub-surface mill mud application AFTER planting.

Project CaNE Team begins harvesting Demonstration sites

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

During August, the Project CaNE team began to harvest Demonstration sites. HCPSL staff member, Bailey Kilpatrick captured these photos whist assisting the harvester crew at one of the various demos sites across the Herbert. The team looks forward to sharing results and findings from these demonstrations with growers in the future.

This demonstration site is investigating Nitrogen Stabilisers as part of Project CaNE. To learn more about the project, visit the Project CaNE Page.

CRC Soil conference in Adelaide – HCPSL getting action on the ground.

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

The Soil CRC (for High Performance Soils) was established in 2017 to give farmers the knowledge and tools they need to make decisions on extremely complex soil management issues. It bridges the gap between soil science and farm management, ensuring that soil performance is increased not just in the short term, but in the long term. The Soil CRC brings together an elite group of industry partners, with 39 Participants, with the Australian Government contributing $39.5 million, $19.1 million from other partners and $107.7 million in-kind contributions, over a 10-year period.

The Soil CRC (for High Performance Soils) held its first annual conference since COVID-19 lockdowns, in Adelaide last week. HCPSL Company Manager- Lawrence Di Bella attended the conference with partners and associates from across Australia and New Zealand present.

Photo above – Rob Milla (Burdekin Productivity Services- Company Manager), Naomi Scholz (Ag Innovation and Research Eyre Peninsula Executive Manager) and Lawrence Di Bella (HCPSL Company Manager) at the Soil CRC conference in Adelaide, 2022.

HCPSL and its sister organisation Burdekin Productivity Services signed up to become Associates of the Soil CRC, with both organisations being the only sugarcane industry groups involved. Eight universities, 21 Farming Groups and other community groups from across the country were represented and are involved in the Soil CRC, tackling issues that drive industry sustainability, productivity, and profitability.

HCPSL is involved in following projects funded by the CRC Soils:

Note: Those projects reviewed by HCPSL Company Manager during the conference proceedings indicated by a *.

A number of the projects have been completed, some mid-life and some just commencing.

University staff and students are working hard on issues specific to the Herbert cane industry. Some of the notable projects that are delivering outcomes are:

This project will determine how soil performance and profitability are affected by increased crop diversity in rotational systems in both broadacre grains and sugarcane industries. The project will investigate the potential for plant-based solutions to improve soil performance through rhizosphere modification.

Photo above – HCPSL staff and growers testing the ‘lab-on-chip’ (in early August 2022) with University of Tasmania student Ruben.

After the conference, Lawrence Di Bella (HCPSL Company Manager), visited the Hart Farming Group and South Australia No-Till Farmers Association (SANTFA) to review business operations and work undertaken.

Photo above left- Field map of the Hart Field Day trial site.
Above right- Project team inspecting trial site.
Photo above left – Meeting with Tom Robinson (Immediate past president of SANTFA) and Lawrence Di Bella (HCPSL Company Manager).
Photo above right – Lawrence Di Bella inspecting trial site at Hart Farming Group.

The learnings of the conference and field visits will be implemented by HCPSL over the next few months and years. We can learn a great deal and address issues our industry experiences by ‘looking over the fence’ to other agriculture industries.

For more information on the Soil CRC go to

Key Take Away Messages – Project CaNE Back to Basics Virtual Series

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

To conclude Project CaNE’s Back to Basics Virtual series, the team has put together some key take away messages from each of the episodes. By creating these videos the Project CaNE team hope growers across the Herbert can access information in an easy-to-understand, convenient format. HCPSL aims to continually improve and adapt the way we deliver information to growers and the community, so please leave a comment or feedback for our team.

If you missed any of the videos, they can be found on the HCPSL Facebook page, YouTube channel or website.

Thanks for watching!

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.


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

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.

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.