Soil expert urges cane farmers to relook at farming practices

SUGARCANE growers in the Western Division were urged to relook at farming practices conducted by their forefathers if they wanted to revitalise soil and improve cane production.

This was the view of Professor Nanthi Bolan, a soil expert from the University of Newcastle, who is in the country to study fertility and nutrition in the cane belt area.

He said the practice of ratooning where shoots from harvested cane were replenished and allowed to grow for 12 years or more had also contributed to the poor health of soil.

“Because of ratooning there is no organic matter put back into the soil,” he said.

“Historically, I understand 40 per cent of most farms used to go into fallow and growers used to plant some form of green manuring plants and that used to get incorporated into the soil.

“So farms in the old days had some input of organic matter which is not happening now.

“Organic matter is critical for all aspects of soil physics, it can reduce soil erosion, soil chemistry, it will provide nutrients and soil biology as well.

“Putting carbon-based organic matter back into the system is very critical in maintaining the soil quality and improving soil health and ultimately, improving cane productivity.”

Sugar Research Institute of Fiji acting chief executive officer Prem Naidu said the culture had to revert to how growers used to farm in CSR days for cane production and yield to improve.

More Stories