They’re spectacular sights but their days (and nights) are numbered: The era of burning sugar cane before harvesting is coming to an end.
New South Wales Sugar has announced that cane growers in the Broadwater and Condong mill areas will light fewer fires this crushing season as the industry continues to collect trash for its cogeneration plants.
Fires have been used before and after harvest for decades to reduce leaf matter, or trash, taken to the mill or left in the paddock.
30-Megawatt cogeneration plants at Condong and Broadwater will use the trash and bagasse, a fibre left after crushing, to create renewable electricity for the national grid from this season.
“The plants have allowed a reduction in cane fires in their mill areas as the industry moves toward whole cane harvesting,” NSW Sugar said.
“It is also part of the response to industry, community and government desires to phase out burning.
“Some burning may still occur this season to allow large or damaged crops, where sugar cane has been blown over by wind or knocked down by floodwater, to be harvested.”
NSW Sugar is paying growers for the amount of fibre supplied to the mill, which offers the incentive to stop burning.
Condong Mill is the first to start crushing this season on June 3.
Broadwater Mill starts crushing the following day and Harwood Mill on June 16.
About 2 million tonnes of sugar cane will be crushed across the growing region this season.