It is planting time in Tully and despite the recent wet weather some planting has occurred. Generally though most planting will happen after the “show weekend” being the end of July.

Sugarcane is planted as billets or “setts”, small pieces of cane usually about 150-200mm long that have one or two “eyes”. These eyes germinate when in contact with the soil and reproduce the new shoot which emerges through to the soil surface. A root system also develops from the billet. This whole process depends on many factors, ranging from the depth the cane is planted, the variety, the moisture levels and temperature of the soil. Soil temperature needs to be more than 17 degrees Celsius for the eyes to germinate. If the soil is too cold, the billet needs to stay intact until it warms up.

The big question though is which variety to plant? With so many new and newer varieties now available (18 in 8 years) there are plenty of choices and they all have different germination and harvest time characteristics.

To make the choices easier we have variety guides.

Firstly the Sugar Research Australia (SRA) wet tropics Variety guide is an excellent publication which covers off on how a cane variety handles various pest and disease and has some general information on germination success and harvest times.

Then to make it easier for Tully growers we augment this guide with a local variety guide based on the local data collected from our Tully Variety Management group (TVMG) sub district trials which focus mainly on germination success and harvest times.

In some cases the recommended harvest times for new varieties differ for each sub district which is to be expected since we test them at the sub district level with variations in soil type, rainfall and topography.

In days gone by when only 1 variety was released every one or two years the industry worked out these harvest time variations over a crop cycle of 5-6 years but since 2013 we try to fast track this process through trial work to 2-3 years.

The latest Tully new Variety guide was released in May and is available online and include harvest times and soil types for each Tully sub district of all varieties released since 2013.

In addition we are now rolling out on farm variety plans to help growers work out what to propagate up for planting over the next 1-3 years.

To do this Tully Sugar works very closely with Tully Cane Productivity Services Limited (TCPSL) and SRA. In fact the new TCPSL manager, Peter Sutherland has bought a wealth of knowledge in this area which is adding greatly to the work.

What we strive for is to provide growers with the right information on the right variety to plant so that we don’t have the situation where a new cane variety is being ploughed out at 2nd ratoon because it isn’t suited to a particular sub district.

We try to find this out long before the grower invests time and money.

The guide is available to registered growers within the Tully Sugar Growers website