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 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 until 2024.

What are the requirements for existing sugarcane producers?

Under the Agricultural ERA standard for sugarcane cultivation (PDF, 1.6 MB) , existing sugarcane producers:

  • in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay Whitsunday regions need to keep records and comply with the minimum practice standards
  • in the Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions need to keep general records now and comply with the minimum practice standards from 1 December 2022.

March 2022 updates

Small updates have been made to the Agricultural Environmentally Relevant Activity (ERA) standard for sugarcane cultivation, the Prescribed methodology for sugarcane cultivation and supporting guides to make the requirements easier to understand (version 2 now applies).

The updates included:

  • removing record keeping requirements already regulated under the Chemical Usage (Agricultural and Veterinary) Control Act 1988
  • clarifying that Smartcane BMP accredited growers can develop, update or verify their own farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget
  • clarifying when areas under fallow are not included for certain requirements under the farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget
  • clarifying when whole-of-crop cycle phosphorus is excluded from the whole-of-farm amount
  • removing obligations that are no longer relevant due to the nitrogen and phosphorus budget requirements starting
  • clarifying certain terms.

Why are existing producers in the Cape York region excluded from most of the requirements?

The general record keeping requirements and minimum practice standards do not apply to existing producers in the Cape York region as the region has met its water quality targets.

However, any new or expanding commercial cropping and horticulture activities in the Cape York region on five hectares or more of land that does not have a cropping history requires an environmental authority (permit). The environmental authority must be obtained before the new cropping activity, or any work takes place. The new cropping activity must also meet any minimum practice agricultural standards that apply for the crop, for example, the standards for growing sugarcane or bananas.

What records do I need to keep?

All regulated sugarcane producers are required to keep general records and minimum standard records (which includes farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget records).

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.

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, 1.6 MB) .

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 fertiliser and mill mud or mill mud/mill ash mix applied and specifically:
    • location of each application (e.g. farm number with block name or management zone)
    • date of each application
    • fertiliser product (including mill mud or mill mud/mill ash mix) applied to each location with product name, application rate (kg/ha, L/ha or tonnes/ha for mill mud or mill mud/mill ash mix) and percentage of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Minimum standard records

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

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 (PDF, 2.3 MB)
  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 or mill mud/mill ash mix 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

Visit the farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget page for more information about the records that must be kept.

What about 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 records to be kept about the use and application of agricultural chemicals. For more information on this requirement, please refer to ‘Agricultural chemicals’ on the Business Queensland website.

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 methodology to carry out soil tests and to calculate the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus requirements for each block each year
  • prepare a farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget (from 1 December 2021 in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay Whitsunday regions, and 1 December 2022 in the Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions)
  • apply no more than the amount of fertilizer calculated using the prescribed methodology and as per the farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget
  • not use 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

For a full description of the minimum practice agricultural standards for sugarcane producers, please refer to the Agricultural ERA standard for sugarcane cultivation (PDF, 1.6 MB) and the Prescribed methodology for sugarcane cultivation (PDF, 2.3 MB) .

You can also refer to the Sediment and erosion control guide (PDF, 2.8 MB) , Fertiliser placement guide (PDF, 756 KB) and Farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget guide (PDF, 2.7 MB) for information on how to comply.

For information about the changes for sugarcane growers who regulated prior to 1 December 2019, please refer the Changes for sugarcane growers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay Whitsunday regions factsheet (PDF, 375 KB) .

What are the requirements for new or expanding cropping and horticulture?

New or expanding cropping and horticulture activities (including sugarcane production) in the Cape York, Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions on five hectares or more of land does not have a cropping history requires an environmental authority (permit) before the activity or any work takes place.

A cropping history is when the land has been used for cropping or horticulture activities in at least three out of the last 10 years. There are transitional provisions that allow some extra time to develop a cropping history for any cropping that has only started in the three years prior to 1 June 2021.

Once the permit starts, the producer must comply with the conditions of their permit, as well as the general record keeping requirements and minimum practice agricultural standards that apply for the crop.

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

When the Reef protection regulations apply for sugarcane

Region

General record keeping requirements

Minimum practice agricultural standards

Farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget

New or expanding cropping activities

Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday and Wet Tropics

1 December 2019

1 December 2019

1 December 2021*

1 June 2021

Burnett Mary and Fitzroy

1 December 2019

1 December 2022*

1 December 2022*

1 June 2021

Cape York

N/A*

N/A*

N/A*

1 June 2021

* For new or expanding cropping and horticulture activities this requirement applies from commencement of the environmental authority (permit).

Recognised accreditation programs and acknowledged practice change projects

The Queensland Department of Environment and Science has the ability to recognise producers who participate in programs and projects that align to, or achieve more than, the regulatory standards and identify them as a lower priority for compliance inspections under the Reef protection regulations. There are two options available (a) recognised accreditation programs and (b) acknowledged practice change projects.

For information on the benefits of being involved, read the recognised programs and acknowledged projects page.

How does 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.