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1. General information
1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology
Key resource person(s)
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)Book project: where the land is greener - Case Studies and Analysis of Soil and Water Conservation Initiatives Worldwide (where the land is greener)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)CSIRO (CSIRO) - Australia
1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT
The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:
1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology
Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?
1.5 Reference to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Approaches (documented using WOCAT)
2. Description of the SLM Technology
2.1 Short description of the Technology
Definition of the Technology:
Elimination of burning as a pre-harvest treatment of sugar cane, and managing the resultant trash as a protective blanket to give multiple on and off-site benefits.
2.2 Detailed description of the Technology
Under conventional production systems, sugar cane is burnt before being harvested. This reduces the volume of trash - comprising green leaves, dead leaves and top growth - making harvesting of the cane simpler, and subsequent cultivation of the soil easier. In the humid tropics of North Queensland, harvesting of cane used to be carried out by hand - as it still is in many parts of the developing tropics. Burning was necessary to make harvesting possible in a dense stand (and to reduce the danger of snakes). However, with the advent of mechanical harvesters in the 1960s, burning continued to be practiced through habit.
A new system then brought fundamental changes in soil management: The ‘green cane trash blanket’ (GCTB) technology refers to the practice of harvesting non-burnt cane, and trash blown out behind in rows by the sugar cane harvester. This trash forms a more or less complete blanket over the field. The harvested lines of cane re-grow (‘ratoon’) through this surface cover, and the next year the cycle is repeated: the cane is once again harvested and more trash accumulates in the inter-rows. Generally the basic cropping cycle is the same, whether cane is burnt or not. This involves planting of new cane stock (cuttings or ‘billets’) in the first year, harvesting this ‘plant crop’ in the second year, and then in years three, four, five and six taking successive ‘ratoon’ harvests. In year six, after harvest, it is still common, even under the GCTB system, to burn the residual trash so that the old cane stools can be more easily ploughed out, and the ground ‘worked up’ (cultivated) ready for replanting. A minority of planters, however, are doing away with burning altogether, and ploughing in the residual trash before replanting. A further variation is not to plough out and replant after the harvest in year six, but to spray the old cane stock with glyphosat (a broad spectrum non-selective systemic herbicide) to kill it, then to plant a legume (typically soy bean) as a green manure crop, and only replant the subsequent year after ploughing-in the legume. Under this latter system, one year of harvest is lost, but there are added benefits to the structure and nutrient content of the soil.
Whatever variation of GCTB is used, there are advantages in terms of increased organic matter, improved soil structure, more biodiversity (especially below ground) and a marked reduction in surface erosion - from over 50 t/ha to around 5 t/ha on average. Less erosion is good for the growers - but is also of crucial importance off-site, as sediment lost from the coastal sugar cane strip is washed out to sea, and damages the growing coral of the Great Barrier Reef.
2.3 Photos of the Technology
2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment
Region/ State/ Province:
North Queensland, Australia
Further specification of location:
Specify the spread of the Technology:
- evenly spread over an area
If the Technology is evenly spread over an area, specify area covered (in km2):
If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
- 100-1,000 km2
3. Classification of the SLM Technology
3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology
- reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
- preserve/ improve biodiversity
3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied
Land use mixed within the same land unit:
- Perennial (non-woody) cropping
Perennial (non-woody) cropping - Specify crops:
- sugar cane
Number of growing seasons per year:
Longest growing period in days: 300 Longest growing period from month to month: Aug - May
Is intercropping practiced?
Is crop rotation practiced?
Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Conventional burning of sugar cane before harvest can lead to compaction of top soil and reduced organic matter. There is also, despite the low slopes, a serious problem of sheet/rill erosion that has a negative impact both on the fields, and also off-site on the coral reef.
Major land use problems (land users’ perception): soil erosion, weeds, flooding
3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?
Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?
- No (Continue with question 3.4)
3.4 Water supply
Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs
- improved ground/ vegetation cover
3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology
- A1: Vegetation/ soil cover
- A6: Residue management
A6: Specify residue management:
A 6.4: retained
Main measures: agronomic measures
3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology
soil erosion by water
- Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
- Wo: offsite degradation effects
chemical soil deterioration
- Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content (not caused by erosion)
Main type of degradation addressed: Wt: loss of topsoil / surface erosion, Wo: offsite degradation effects, Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content
3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation
Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
- reduce land degradation
4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs
4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology
Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):
Harvester harvesting cane and depositing trash on surface
Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: low; Technical knowledge required for land users: low.
Main technical functions: control of raindrop splash, improvement of ground cover, improvement of soil structure, control of dispersed runoff. Secondary technical functions: increase in organic matter, increase of infiltration, increase in soil fertility, increase in surface roughness.
Mulching: "trash blanketing"
4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs
Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
- per Technology area
Indicate size and area unit:
Specify currency used for cost calculations:
Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:
4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities
|1.||Mulching of inter-rows with trash[previously: burn cane with associated trash and then harvest]||August|
|3.||Spray with Amicide (very efficient herbicide, systemic and non-selective)||November|
|4.||Spray with Amicide||January|
4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)
|Specify input||Unit||Quantity||Costs per Unit||Total costs per input||% of costs borne by land users|
|Fertilizers and biocides||Fertilizer||ha||1.0||120.0||120.0||100.0|
|Fertilizers and biocides||Herbicides||ha||1.0||33.0||33.0||100.0|
|Total costs for maintenance of the Technology||543.0|
|Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD||543.0|
Machinery/ tools: sugar-cane harvester
The year budgeted above is a non-planting year, the costs therefore refer to an established crop which grows
throughout the year and is harvested in August. The assumption is a cane yield of 80 t/ha. Each of the three categories of costing groups machinery, labour (at US$12 per hour) and inputs together. The comparative costs for a burnt cane crop system with the same yield are (a) contract harvesting = US$ 378 (b) fertilizer = US$ 120 (c) herbicide = US$ 56, plus (d) cultivation = US$ 30. Note that under the burnt cane system, soil cultivation/tillage is required, but the cost of harvesting is a little cheaper. The total for the burnt crop system is US$ 584 compared with US$ 543 for the GCTB crop, representing a saving of approx. US$ 40 (around 7%) per hectare per year.
5. Natural and human environment
- < 250 mm
- 251-500 mm
- 501-750 mm
- 751-1,000 mm
- 1,001-1,500 mm
- 1,501-2,000 mm
- 2,001-3,000 mm
- 3,001-4,000 mm
- > 4,000 mm
Thermal climate class: tropics
Slopes on average:
- flat (0-2%)
- gentle (3-5%)
- moderate (6-10%)
- rolling (11-15%)
- hilly (16-30%)
- steep (31-60%)
- very steep (>60%)
- mountain slopes
- hill slopes
- valley floors
- 0-100 m a.s.l.
- 101-500 m a.s.l.
- 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
- 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
- 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
- 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
- 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
- 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
- > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Comments and further specifications on topography:
Landforms: Plateau/plains (floodplain adjacent to ocean)
Slopes on average: Also gentle (ranked 2), moderate (ranked 3)
Soil depth on average:
- very shallow (0-20 cm)
- shallow (21-50 cm)
- moderately deep (51-80 cm)
- deep (81-120 cm)
- very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
- medium (loamy, silty)
- fine/ heavy (clay)
Topsoil organic matter:
- low (<1%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.
Soil fertility: Medium and high (both ranked 1)
Soil drainage/infiltration: Good
5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology
Market orientation of production system:
- commercial/ market
- 10-50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:
Off-farm income specification: various off-farm enterprises undertaken to supplement income during years of poor sugar prices
5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology
- < 0.5 ha
- 0.5-1 ha
- 1-2 ha
- 2-5 ha
- 5-15 ha
- 15-50 ha
- 50-100 ha
- 100-500 ha
- 500-1,000 ha
- 1,000-10,000 ha
- > 10,000 ha
Average area of land owned or leased by land users applying the Technology: 50-100 ha
Some farms are smaller (15-50 ha) others are larger (100-500 ha)
5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights
- individual, titled
Land use rights:
6. Impacts and concluding statements
6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown
Income and costs
SLM/ land degradation knowledge
Acceptance by society
Enhanced reputation of sugar cane growers as 'environmentally friendly'
Water cycle/ runoff
excess water drainage
From >50 t/ha to 5 t/ha; although the location is relatively flat, soil erosion can be high due to high rainfall
nutrient cycling/ recharge
Loss of nutrients reduced, inproved soil structure
soil organic matter/ below ground C
Biodiversity: vegetation, animals
biomass/ above ground C
Other ecological impacts
6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown
groundwater/ river pollution
wind transported sediments
6.4 Cost-benefit analysis
How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
6.5 Adoption of the Technology
- > 50%
Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
95% of land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support
1000 land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support
There is a little trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology
Comments on adoption trend: It is possible that the few growers who persist in burning will eventually adopt the GCTB system through social and environmental pressure.
6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology
|Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view|
GCTB systems offer multiple on-farm environmental benefits
How can they be sustained / enhanced? Continue to refine the system, by encouraging (a) non burning of trash in the
Increases overall farm income by maintaining yields of sugar cane while
How can they be sustained / enhanced? Continue to refine the system.
GCTB systems provide protection to the coral reef, through substantially reducing the sediment yield that reaches the lagoon and thence the Great Barrier Reef
How can they be sustained / enhanced? Give recognition to the growers for their overall environmental contribution.
6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them
|Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view||How can they be overcome?|
|Some burning still continues through (a) the few farmers who have not yet adopted GCTB and (b) the common practice of burning trash before replanting||Continue to encourage non-burning for multiple reasons.|
7. References and links
7.1 Methods/ sources of information
7.2 References to available publications
Title, author, year, ISBN:
Mullins JA, Truong PN and Prove BG (1984) Options for controlling soil loss in canelands – some interim values. Proc. Aust. Soc. Sugar Cane Technol., 6: 95–100
Title, author, year, ISBN:
Vallis I, Parton WJ, Keating BA and Wood AW (1996) Simulation of the effects of trash and N fertilizer management on soil organic matter levels and yields of sugarcane. Soil and Tillage Research. 38: 115–132
Title, author, year, ISBN:
Wood AW (1991) Management of crop residues
following green harvesting of sugarcane in north Queensland. Soil Till. Res. 20: 69–85