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At Healthy Rivers to Reef, we have a number of partners from the agricultural sector helping farmers, growers and graziers look after the waterways around them.

CANEGROWERS Mackay is one of those partners and is a proud founding member of the partnership. They provide services, representation and support to the majority of cane growers across the Mackay and Plane Creek regions on a wide range of issues. 

In the 2022 Above and Beyond, they shared an update on a key program, SmartCaneBMP, which works with growers to record and verify their practice improvements, solidifying their place as stewards of the land.

There has been a steadily increasing uptake of Smartcane BMP in the region, with growers supported through the process by hard-working productivity officers based at Plane Creek Productivity Services and Mackay Area Productivity Services

In August 2022, there were 183 growers fully accredited across the Mackay region, representing just over 31,026 hectares of land operated under best management practices. It’s a 185 per cent increase on the number of fully accredited growers in 2019, and an additional 20,300 hectares!

Cane harvester

Cane harvesting in progress. Photo: Luke Horniblow.

CANEGROWERS Mackay Chairman Kevin Borg said this growth in accreditation was further strengthened by the 625 growers in this region who were now benchmarked within Smartcane BMP.

“Best Management Practice is a journey, and we commend the growers that have taken that path. We also strongly encourage those yet to get involved, to join us on that journey,” Mr Borg said.

“Time and again, the feedback from growers who are adopting Smartcane BMP is that they are saving on their input costs and getting results in improved productivity by applying the right amount at the right time, in the right way.

“That means those inputs are doing their job where they are needed – in the crop. None of us want to see any of those products running away to our catchments. We want positive outcomes for growers, and for the environment.”

A hallmark of the high quality of the program, Smartcane BMP is now recognised within global sugar sustainability frameworks Bonsucro, Proterra and VIVE.

Meet some of the Smartcane BMP growers

The Hackett family of Koumala, standing in front of cane fields.

The Hackett family of Koumala have a strong track record of participation in water quality and sustainable land management practices, beyond their accreditation for Smartcane BMP in this past year. From left, Peter and Lyn Hackett with daughter Carmen and son-in-law Brett Plath.

Judy Thatcher, a Smartcane BMP grower

Judy Thatcher farms at Pindi Pindi and was a relatively early adopter of Smartcane BMP, in 2017. Judy, with contractor Steve Comelli, have a keen interest in building soil health.

Anthony and Paul Portelli, cane growers part of the Smartcane BMP program.

Anthony and Paul Portelli grow cane at The Leap, with frontage to the upper reaches of Reliance Creek. Great stewards, the brothers care deeply for their riparian area, have engaged in streambank restoration. They were easily accredited for Smartcane BMP this year, with a strong history of soil testing and good record-keeping, along with very careful use of chemicals and fertilisers.

Photos: Kirili Lamb, CANEGROWERS Mackay

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