Member for the Burdekin Dale Last, left, and Member for Broadwater, David Crisafulli inspect a soybean crop at Clare. Photo: Michael Chambers.
Member for the Burdekin Dale Last, left, and Member for Broadwater, David Crisafulli inspect a soybean crop at Clare. Photo: Michael Chambers.

How tofu could be the key to better cane crops

TOFU could be the key to better cane crop yields in the region.

Principle soil microbiologist Nikki Seymour worked with cane growers at a Department of Agriculture workshop at Koumala Hotel recently to teach them the most effective ways to grow legumes to get the best results for future crops.

Still dressed in their high-vis work gear, the 15 growers sat around the hotel’s floral-covered tables discussing the benefits of rotational crops like chickpeas, lima beans and soybeans to fix nitrogen back into the soil.

The Department of Agriculture hosted a workshop at the Koumala Hotel to teach cane growers the most effective ways to grow legumes to fix nitrogen into their soil.
The Department of Agriculture hosted a workshop at the Koumala Hotel to teach cane growers the most effective ways to grow legumes to fix nitrogen into their soil.

In a region dominated by the “nitrogen hungry” cane growing system, Dr Seymour said, the soil could be rapidly depleted of the chemical.

The “monoculture” of the field and the ratoon system of cropping, where the same plant will be harvested four or five times, made the problem worse, he said.

“If you don’t have nitrogen, it limits everything else”.

To maximise the nitrogen-fixation, Dr Seymour said growers could chose to mulch the legume crops back into the soil.

“They can grow it and let it die back into the soil to fix the nitrogen,” she said “or they can sell it off as a crop for extra revenue”.

Plane Creek Productivity Services Limited manager Peter Albertson, who was at the workshop, said more growers had adopted legumes into their cropping system.

“We have a great number of growers doing rotational crops this year,” Mr Albertson said.

He estimates most cane properties would have about 15 per cent of their land in fallow at any time, and he said this empty land could be sprouting with a new revenue stream

DAF agronomist Daniel Gonzalez said the nitrogen-fixing plants could be used as a cash crop, especially to combat the low sugar price.

“If they want, they can make good money out of it,” Mr Gonzalez said.

With soybean crops sold for $800 a tonne, Mr Gonzalez said growers should “take advantage of the good price”.

But it was not an easy process, he warned.

“I don’t want to say it’s easy — because it’s not.”

He had seen growers lose their crops after failing to properly inoculate their fields, he said.

“If they don’t inoculate properly the crop won’t take as well. I have seen guys losing their crops.

“Lose the crop and lose the money.”