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Sugarcane

Why are regulations required for sugarcane production?

Rainfall, leaching and irrigation run-off can wash nutrients and sediment into waterways and coastal wetlands which flow to the Great Barrier Reef.

The minimum practice agricultural standards for sugarcane production focus on retaining nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment on-farm to minimise run-off and improve water quality.

The Queensland Government has made a commitment that the minimum practice agricultural standards will remain substantially unchanged for the next five years.

What are the requirements for sugarcane producers?

Under the regulations, all sugarcane producers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions will be required to:

  • keep general records from 1 December 2019
  • comply with minimum practice agricultural standards as this requirement is applied to each region over the next three years
  • implement a farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget as this requirement is applied to each region over the next three years from 2021
  • obtain an environmental authority (permit) if commencing new or expanded cropping or horticulture activities on more than five hectares that do not meet the cropping history test in the Cape York, Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions from 1 June 2020.

Why is the Cape York region excluded from most of the new requirements?

Most of the requirements do not apply to existing producers in the Cape York region as the region has met its water quality targets.

However, from 1 June 2020, any new or expanded commercial cropping and horticulture activities in the Cape York region on more than five hectares that do not meet the cropping history test will require an environmental authority (permit) before the activity or any work takes place.

What records do I need to keep?

All sugarcane producers will be required to keep general records from 1 December 2019 and then minimum standard records and farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget records as these requirements are rolled out across each region.

Records can be in any format but must be made within three business days, kept for at least six years and be available when requested by an authorised person such as a compliance officer.

Records need to be kept to demonstrate activities are being undertaken on the property in accordance with the minimum agricultural practice standards.

The government has committed to not commencing the regulation to acquire specific agricultural data from the broader agricultural sector, such as data about fertiliser and chemical use, soil testing and crop yield.

For a full description of the record keeping requirements for sugarcane producers please refer to the Agricultural ERA standard for sugarcane cultivation (PDF, 1.4MB).

General records

For sugarcane producers, general records must include:

  • name of the sugarcane producer (i.e. the person(s) carrying out the activity)
  • name of person making the record
  • company name (if applicable)
  • property address/es
  • postal address
  • farm identification number/s (if applicable)
  • a list of the lots included in all the farms within the agricultural enterprise
  • records of agricultural chemicals (any pesticide, herbicide or fungicide applied to land or crops), fertiliser and mill mud/mill ash applied and specifically:
    • location of each application (e.g. farm number with block name or management zone)
    • date of each application
    • agricultural chemical (any pesticide, herbicide or fungicide applied to land or crops) and/or fertiliser product (including mill mud/mill ash) applied to each location with product name, application rate (kg/ha, L/ha or tonnes/ha for mill mud/mill ash) and for fertiliser products, the percentage of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Minimum standard records

For sugarcane producers, minimum standard records must specifically include the following with supporting primary documents (soil test reports, fertiliser contractor print-outs, fertiliser invoices etc.) as proof of the records:

  1. amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus (kg/ha) for each block calculated using the Prescribed methodology for sugarcane cultivation
  2. method of fertiliser application
  3. date of soil testing as well as the soil test report/results and a description of the location and the dominant soil type sampled
  4. map of the boundaries of blocks or management zones where:
    1. soil sampling has been undertaken and
    2. where fertiliser and mill mud/mill ash has been applied
  5. a soil map showing the dominant soil types covering the blocks or management zones where samples were taken.

Farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget records

For sugarcane producers, farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget records must specifically include the following with supporting primary documents (soil test reports, fertiliser contractor print-outs, fertiliser invoices etc.) as proof of the records:

  1. calculated whole of farm nitrogen amount for the following harvest period (kg)
  2. calculated whole of farm phosphorus amount for the following harvest period (kg)
  3. annual amount of nitrogen applied to the whole of farm for the previous harvest period (kg or tonnes)
  4. annual amount of phosphorus applied to the whole of farm for the previous harvest period (kg or tonnes)
  5. actual yield achieved for the previous harvest period (tonnes/cane/ha)
  6. historical yields (if applicable) (tonnes/cane/ha)
  7. a farm map including:
    1. farm number or unique identifier/s
    2. block boundaries
    3. block identifiers
    4. area of each block (in hectares)
    5. area of whole of farm (in hectares)
    6. crop class and fallow areas
    7. identification of any physical or soil chemical constraints to yield (if they exist) for each management zones and/or blocks
  8. name(s) and contact details of the appropriate person who developed and/or verified the farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget
  9. date the farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget was developed and verified.

What minimum practice agricultural standards do I need to comply with?

To meet the minimum practice agricultural standards, sugarcane producers will need to:

  • use the prescribed method to carry out soil tests and to calculate the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that can be applied to each block each year
  • apply no more than the amount calculated using the prescribed method
  • no ground based broadcast fertiliser applications except in fallow when no nitrogen is applied
  • have appropriate erosion and sediment control measures and ensure fallow blocks have surface cover
  • prepare a farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget that:
  • uses soil test results and calculates nitrogen and phosphorus recommendations for all blocks as per prescribed method (e.g. Six Easy Steps)
  • adds together nitrogen and phosphorus rates for all blocks to work out the whole of farm amount
  • identifies constraints to yield and nutrient uptake
  • can vary nitrogen and phosphorus rates across blocks as long as the whole of farm amount is not exceeded
  • has a farm map
  • is developed and verified by an appropriately skilled/experienced person for the first time – then every five years
  • reviewed and updated annually by the grower
  • an appropriate person may be, for example, an agronomist or a grower that has the skills or experience in developing nutrient budgets. Growers who have the relevant experience or qualifications through a recognised program can prepare their own budget.

For a full description of the minimum practice agricultural standards for sugarcane producers, please refer to the Agricultural ERA standard for sugarcane cultivation (PDF, 1.4MB) and the Prescribed methodology for sugarcane cultivation (PDF, 1.1MB).

You can also refer to the Sediment and erosion control guide (PDF, 956KB), Fertiliser placement guide (PDF, 466KB) and Farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget guide (PDF, 1.2MB) for information on how to comply.

For information about the changes for currently regulated sugarcane growers, please refer to the Changes for sugarcane growers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay Whitsunday regions factsheet (PDF, 294KB).

What are the requirements for new or expanded cropping and horticulture activities?

From 1 June 2020, new or expanded cropping and horticulture activities (including sugarcane production) in the Cape York, Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions on more than five hectares that do not meet the cropping history test will require an environmental authority (permit) before the activity or any work takes place.

All farms will need to meet minimum practice agricultural standards where these apply to the crop(s) being grown.

For detailed information on this requirement please refer to the new or expanded cropping page.

What about other requirements for records about agricultural chemicals?

You might also be required to keep records because of other legal requirements.

For example, the Chemical Usage (Agricultural and Veterinary) Control Act 1988 requires sugarcane growers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay Whitsunday regions to meet prescribed conditions (including record keeping) for using, preparing, storing and possessing ametryn, atrazine, diuron, hexazinone and tebuthiuron.

For more information on this requirement, please refer to Managing agricultural chemicals.

When do the regulations apply?

Record keeping

From 1 December 2019, all sugarcane producers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions will need to keep general records and then, as the minimum practice agricultural standards commence for their region, minimum standard records.

Minimum practice agricultural standards

The minimum practice agricultural standards for sugarcane producers will apply as follows:

  • Wet Tropics region from 1 December 2019
  • Burdekin region from 1 December 2019
  • Mackay Whitsunday region from 1 December 2019
  • Fitzroy region from 1 December 2022
  • Burnett Mary region from 1 December 2022

Farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget

The requirement to implement a farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget for sugarcane producers will apply as follows:

  • Wet Tropics region from 1 December 2021
  • Burdekin region from 1 December 2021
  • Mackay Whitsunday region from 1 December 2021
  • Fitzroy region from 1 December 2022
  • Burnett Mary region from 1 December 2022
When the Reef protection regulations apply for sugarcane

Region

Record keeping requirements

Minimum practice agricultural standards

Farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget

New or expanded cropping activities

Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday and Wet Tropics

1 December 2019

1 December 2019

1 December 2021

1 June 2020

Burnett Mary and Fitzroy

1 December 2019

1 December 2022

1 December 2022

1 June 2020

Cape York

N/A

N/A

N/A

1 June 2020

Are BMP accredited producers compliant with the new regulations?

Agricultural producers that are accredited under a recognised program and continue to meet the terms of accreditation will be deemed to have met the minimum practice agricultural standards. Producers accredited against a recognised program will not be the focus of compliance activities.

Programs can be recognised if they accredit farming practices that are consistent with, or better than, the minimum practice agricultural standards under the regulations.

Producers who are involved in a best management practice (BMP) program should confirm with the program owner that the program has or will be recognised under the new regulations.

It is up to the program owner to apply for program recognition and producers should contact their program owner to find out.

For more information on recognised programs, please refer to the recognised programs page.

How will compliance work?

Compliance officers from the Department of Environment and Science will meet with producers to help them understand what is required under the minimum practice agricultural standards.

The compliance program is prioritising its efforts on the areas that represent the greatest water quality threat to the Reef.

Where can I find more detailed information?

You can register to receive an information pack as well as regular updates on the regulations.

What support is available for sugarcane producers?

Programs and support tools are provided by the Australian and Queensland governments and industry organisations to help sugarcane producers identify opportunities to improve farming practices. For more information visit Sugarcane support programs.