Innovators in environmental management in the queensland sugar industry
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The University of Queensland. School of Natural and Rural Systems Management. Innovators in Environmental Management in the Queensland Sugar Industry. Malcolm K. Wegener. Innovators in environmental management in the Australian sugar industry. Three case studies: Ross Digman, Tully

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Innovators in environmental management in the queensland sugar industry

The University of Queensland

School of Natural and Rural Systems Management

Innovators in Environmental Management in the Queensland Sugar Industry

Malcolm K. Wegener

Innovators in environmental management in the australian sugar industry
Innovators in environmental management in the Australian sugar industry

  • Three case studies:

    • Ross Digman, Tully

    • Mario Porta, Ingham

    • Robert Quirk, Condong

  • Development of artificial wetlands

  • Introduction of green cane harvesting and trash blanketing and reduced nitrogen application

  • Economic principles

    • How to analyse?

Case study 1 ross digman tully
Case study 1: Ross Digman, Tully sugar industry

  • Developed first artificial lagoon on his property in 1990

    • Recreational fisherman

    • Observed destruction of wetlands from early stage development of Tully River Station for caneland

    • Recognised loss of valuable nursery areas for young fish

    • Wanted to start people thinking about destruction of wetlands

    • Produced and gave away 60 sets of documents and 300 videos

      • Tully River tragedy

      • Habitat in crisis

    • Helped financially local farmers who wanted to put in lagoons

    • Long involvement with Riversdale-Murray Valley Water Management Scheme

Ross digman case study
Ross Digman case study sugar industry

  • Five artificial water bodies created to deal with runoff from his property

    • 0.2 ha silt trap upstream of other lagoons

    • 0.25 ha lagoon constructed in 1990

    • Third lagoon, nearly 0.4 ha

    • Fourth lagoon, 0.28 ha

    • Landcare lagoon, 0.3 ha (on an adjacent property)

    • 113 ha total area

    • 95 ha assigned caneland

    • Planted 20 m strip of trees along Tully R. and another 3 ha block of trees on the property

Ross digman case study1
Ross Digman case study sugar industry

  • :Landcare lagoon constructed in 1993 on Henry/Maingay properties $10 500

    • $3 500 (one-third of cost) contributed by RD

    • Landholders contribution

      • Henry $3 000

      • Maingay $700

    • Landcare $1 100

    • Recreational fishers contributed the balance

Ross digman case study2
Ross Digman case study sugar industry

  • Objectives of Riversdale-Murray River Water Management Scheme

    • Allocate SIIP funding for “solving the flooding problems” in the Lower Tully-Murray flood plain

      • Local support to straighten and “improve” Murray R to carry more water from the flood plain

      • Videos produced by RD were able to focus attention away from straightening the river to more environmentally friendly works

      • 35 lagoons constructed, with assistance from SIIP funding

Ross digman case study3
Ross Digman case study sugar industry

  • Economic evaluation of wetlands

  • RD’s first wetland (0.25 ha) constructed in 1990 paid for itself in 3 years

    • Soil from excavation spread over low-lying cane land

    • Extra 600 tonnes cane per year produced on land that never previously grew cane

    • At early-1990s prices, this was sufficient to pay for construction

    • RD did not construct the wetland for economic reasons

    • Other costs and risks associated with lagoon building

Mario porta case study
Mario Porta case study: sugar industry

  • Ingham canefarmer Mario Porta constructed their first wetland in 1996-97 soon after taking control of Burnside

  • cost $65 000

  • Strong opposition from his own father

  • Four more wetlands added over the past 8 years

    • Home property, $30 000

    • Home property, $120 000 (with $20 000 assistance)

    • Large SIIP-funded wetland at Cordelia (family donated 2 ha of land)

    • Lagoon at Bambaroo, driest part of Ingham canegrowing area

  • Total expenditure over $250 000 on constructing wetlands

  • Further development on hold while sugar prices are so low

Personal background
Personal background sugar industry

  • Mario Porta started to manage family cane farm in 1995 when they acquired Burnside

    • Home property, 1 000 ha

    • Burnside, former cattle stud, bought 1995

    • Cordelia, near coast

    • Bambaroo, 70-80 km south of Ingham

  • Total area managed, 2 000 ha

  • Cane production, >107 000 t, largest in Ingham. Also run cattle.

Motivation? sugar industry

  • Desire to create economically viable and environmentally sustainable cane farm

  • Influenced by many factors

    • Latter years at high school (unsustainable harvest of timber in Malaysia, greenhouse gas emissions, hole in ozone layer, etc)

    • Close neighbour (Allan Larsen)

    • Video produced by Ross Digman

    • Advisers in DNR&M, BSES

    • Catchment coordinator

Adverse attitudes in sugar industry to natural resource management
Adverse attitudes in sugar industry to natural resource management

  • Large expenditure on land clearing in the past

    • Inconsistent to start wanting to plant trees

  • Most landholders cleared right up to creek banks

    • Porta family left vegetation buffer along creeks on Cordelia farm when it was cleared

    • Strong opposition from Mario Porta snr to developing wetlands

      • Eventual recognition of what Mario had created

Benefits from wetland development
Benefits from wetland development management

  • Personal satisfaction

    • Property “looks better”

    • Improved capital value in long-term

      • Investment not recovered in short term

    • Better productivity from nearby, low-lying land

    • Value of trees in connecting waterways

    • Increased number of bird species

    • value of harvestable timber ignored

Changing attitude of growers
Changing attitude of growers management

  • Mario Porta started with a different outlook to most growers

    • Decisions not motivated by short-term profits

  • Many growers in Ingham are now thinking like him

  • Most growers with typical 10 000-12 000 t production could incorporate a water storage to act as silt trap and stop nutrients leaving the farm

Analytical approach to decision making
Analytical approach to decision-making management

  • Alternative management options are usually available to solve most problems

  • Adapt management to achieve acceptable economic and social outcomes

    • Planting, Harvesting , nutrient management?

    • Analytical approach to problem solving

      • Understand why opposition exists to current canegrowing practices

      • Discuss problem with DNR&M staff, other parties

      • Work pro-actively to solve problem, not reactively

Case study 3 robert quirk
Case study 3: Robert Quirk management

  • Only grower in Condong mill area to practice green cane harvesting and trash blanketing

    • Opposition to trash blanketing

      • too wet, too cold

      • Evidence to support this assumption?

  • RQ developed technique to sweep trash off cane rows

    • Expects to harvest 70% of farm green

      • Still need to burn some paddocks

Case study 3 robert quirk1
Case study 3: Robert Quirk management

  • Reduced nutrient applications by 25%

    • 4 bags per acre, N:P:K mix 32:2:10

    • Reduced to 3 bags per acre, N:P:K 36:0:10

      • Nitrogen reduced, P eliminated, K reduced

    • Highest cane production ever in 2005

      • Less rain, more cane

    • Leaf analysis indicates P and K still higher than necessary for adequate nutrition

Case study 3 robert quirk2
Case study 3: Robert Quirk management

  • Nitrogen fertiliser trial

    • 0, 0.5, 1, 2 bags per acre

    • Replicated strip trial

    • No difference in yield, or ccs

    • Highest yield from zero fertiliser treatment

    • Ratoon cane showing no lack of fertiliser at this stage

      • Same N levels in each treatment (leaf samples)

    • ANU monitoring N losses to atmosphere

      • 0.9 kg /ha/day measured last year

      • Fewer losses this year

      • Increased losses after rain

Conclusions management

  • A number of innovative canegrowers are prepared to try new environmental management approaches

  • Good environmental management does not need to reduce farm income

  • Robert Quirk: “the more environmental I become, the better my economics are”

Conclusions 2
Conclusions 2 management

  • Some canegrowers are prepared to undertake innovations in environmental management

    • Do they evaluate these investments in economic terms or against other criteria?

    • Farmers can identify a range of economic benefits from environmental innovation

      • Some private benefits, some private benefits

    • Economists need to understand the complex relationships that exist between profit and environmental improvement

    • Challenge for agricultural economists

      • Help to identify sustainability measures for primary producers

      • Triple-bottom-line indicators

Personal reflection
Personal reflection management

  • Evolution of agricultural economists attention over past 40 years

    • from farm management to resource economics

  • Early 1960s emphasis on farm accounting

    • ACCRA code for farm accounting

  • 2005 IASB accounting methods

    • What does this mean for farm profit?

    • How should we evaluate environmental innovations?

  • What are best indicators of farm sustainability

    • Environmental sustainability – nutrient balance, water?

    • Social sustainability – rural communities