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We operate one of the largest and most advanced sugarcane farming operations in Australia, producing more than half a million tonnes of sugarcane each year under best practice principles.

Our farming operations span about 7000ha of agricultural land across Wilmar’s four Queensland milling regions. That’s greater than the area of Magnetic Island off Townsville and twice the size of Norfolk Island in the South Pacific.

Our company-owned and leased farms produce more than 500,000 tonnes of sugarcane a year, which is supplied to our mills in the Herbert, Burdekin, Proserpine and Plane Creek regions.

We operate our farms under the best practice principles of the Queensland sugar industry’s Smartcane BMP programme. This includes following the ‘Six Easy Steps’ guidelines to apply the correct rate of nitrogen and phosphorus to the cane plant while minimising the loss of nutrients and sediment to the environment. We also follow best practice guidelines for the management of irrigation, drainage, weeds, pests and diseases.

Because water is such a precious resource, we have invested in a number of capital projects to optimise water use efficiency. This includes the development of large recycling pits which enable us to capture and reuse irrigation tail water to benefit the cane crop and the environment.

Technology is used extensively across our operations – from planting through to harvesting. For example, our farms team uses GPS technology to accurately apply and record the correct amount of fertiliser to an area of land. In some locations we also conduct real-time yield monitoring of harvested blocks. We also use technology to guide our irrigation scheduling.

We are always striving to make our farming practices better and more sustainable, so we invest heavily in innovation, research and development. The knowledge acquired through our research is made available to other farmers and the broader sugar industry. This helps boost farm productivity and increase cane volume through our mills.

More about our farms

Our farms
We operate farms in the Herbert, Burdekin, Proserpine and Sarina regions of Queensland.

The largest of our farms is in the Burdekin region, where we produce about 320,000 tonnes of sugarcane a year on 3,800ha of flat, furrow-irrigated farmland. We farm about 2,000ha in the Herbert, 550ha in Proserpine and 550ha in Sarina.

Our Herbert, Proserpine and Sarina farms are predominantly rain-fed, with some supplementary overhead watering at our Proserpine operation.

All of the sugarcane produced on our farms is supplied to our sugar mills.
Research & development
We invest heavily in research and development to improve cane farming practices on our own farms and across the broader Australian sugar industry.

Key areas of research include:
• The use of milling by-products to improve soil conditions and increase cane yields
• Optimising mechanical harvesting set-up to minimise cane losses in the field
• Variable rate nitrogen application to improve nutrient use efficiency (NUE).

One of our biggest on-farm trials involves the development of best practice guidelines for the use of mill mud and mill ash – two by-products of the sugar milling process that are used as ameliorants to improve soil conditions.

We are conducting trials across 13 separate sites between Ingham and Sarina to test the best way of applying mill mud, mill ash and a combination of these two by-products to farms.

The trials are running across the full crop cycle – plant cane to fourth ratoon – and compare different rates of mill mud and mill ash, as well as different application methods (broadcast or banded).

The aim is to maximise sugarcane yields while reducing any potential loss of nutrients from the farm.
Cane breeding
Our Technical Field Department plays a major role in the development of new cane varieties for the growers who supply our mills.

We operate a cane-crossing program at our Macknade Mill in the Herbert region and a variety selection program at our Kalamia Mill in the Burdekin.

Our cane breeding work is done in collaboration with Sugar Research Australia (SRA), the industry’s major producer of new cane varieties.

Our focus is on early-stage plant breeding and selection. We undertake about 100 crosses each year to identify varieties that deliver better yields, high sugar content and high disease resistance.

Successful varieties from our program are provided to SRA for further testing and assessment, ahead of a potential release.

Our program has been operating since about 1890 – not long after the establishment of the Burdekin sugar industry.

The program has bred a number of successful cane varieties, including:
• KQ228
• MQ239
• Tellus
• WSRA17
• SRAW18
• WSRA24

Varieties that have come through Wilmar’s breeding program make up about 20 per cent of the sugarcane crushed in Australia each year.

Our focus in the coming years will be on applying genomic selection in our cane breeding program to speed up selection and increase productivity gains for our grower suppliers.
Best practice
We operate our farms under the best practice principles of the industry-run Smartcane BMP program.

This includes following the ‘Six Easy Steps’ guidelines to apply the correct rate of nitrogen to the cane plant while minimising the loss of nutrients to the environment, and adopting best practice guidelines for managing irrigation, drainage, weeds, pests and diseases.

Our Burdekin, Herbert and Proserpine farms are BMP accredited, and our Sarina farm is currently undergoing accreditation.

Our Burdekin farms are also accredited through the globally recognised Bonsucro platform, as are our Invicta, Pioneer and Kalamia sugar mills.

We apply a number of best management practices on our farms, including:
• minimum tillage
• precision-applied fertilising
• technology-guided irrigation scheduling
• recycling of our irrigation tail water.

We are continually striving to improve our practices to create more efficient and sustainable farming systems.

We use electromagnetic soil mapping, soil testing, satellite crop vigour imaging and harvest yield monitor mapping to identify management zones within paddocks. This enables us to precisely match farm inputs to different zones within each paddock.

Our research team also conducts on-farm trials in a number of areas, including variable rate nutrient application and the use of mill by-products to improve soil and lift yields.