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Profitability and environmental implications of practice changes driven by soil health in Central and Northern Queensland

Connolly, C., Renouf, M., Nothard, B., Bakir, H. and Poggio, M. (2022) Profitability and environmental implications of practice changes driven by soil health in Central and Northern Queensland. In: 43rd Annual Conference of the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists (ASSCT 2022), 19 to 22 April 2022, Mackay, Australia.

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This work explores the economic and environmental benefits of adopting practice changes aimed at managing soil health by examining a wider scope of practice changes related to soil health occurring in the Herbert, Burdekin and Mackay regions. It expands on previous evaluations that considered Smartcane Best Management Practice changes in the Wet Tropics. Economic, biophysical and farm management data before and after the practice changes were supplied by three growers from these regions. The Farm Economic Analysis Tool and Cane Life Cycle Assessment tool were used to quantify the farm profitability and environmental implications of the changes. Despite the different strategies of the farms, the economic benefit (Annualized Equivalent Benefit) was positive for all farms, ranging from $42 to $131 per hectare per year, suggesting that the suites of changes adopted were profitable. Environmental improvements were also demonstrated with reduced fossil-fuel use, reduced greenhouse-gas emissions, and reduced potential for water pollution. These case studies captured a longer history of practice change (over 10-35 years) to reveal larger environmental improvements than the previous case studies that were focused on Smartcane BMP changes over 6-12 years. For one farm, the reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions were predicted to be equivalent to taking 172 cars off the road. Some economic and environmental aspects were sensitive to changes in cane yield, and these thresholds were quantified in each case study. The case studies provide further evidence of the joint economic and environmental benefits of cane-growing innovations being adopted by the Australian sugarcane industry. They provide examples for growers considering practice changes and add to a growing positive narrative to the wider community about the industry’s efforts to improve sustainability. They highlighted the need to add soil-health indicators in future life cycle assessments of practice change.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Business groups:Agriculture
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural economics
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science
Plant culture > Field crops > Sugar plants
Agriculture > By region or country > Australia > Queensland
Live Archive:11 Jul 2022 04:20
Last Modified:11 Jul 2022 04:20

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