Mackay District High School Students on a field trip about Sugar Research Australia (SRA)’s sugarcane plant breeding program.

It’s not Attack of the Clones but it is AgTech in action as careers in cane were spotlighted for a group of Mackay district high school students recently.

The students learnt about Sugar Research Australia (SRA)’s sugarcane plant breeding program which provides the best performing clones (high sugar content, yield per hectare and disease resistance) for the cane industry to determine which ones become the next commercial variety.

Attracting local youth to jobs in Queensland’s agriculture industries is one of the priorities for our Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network (QAWN). Our Mackay-based QAWN officer Peter Albertson organised this high school event, supported by the whole sugar sector, including SRA, MAPS, Mackay Regional Council, landholders, harvesting and planting contractors.

SRA’s central district manager explained that the selection process is complicated, requiring 13 years of trial research and how scientists are applying AgTech to assist.

The students visited Mackay Area Productivity Services (MAPS) Victoria Plains Farm where the new varieties and potential future varieties are vegetatively propagated prior to their release to growers in the region. MAPS CEO, Anthony Schembri, discussed with students the important role in providing ‘clean’ cane to farmers for maintaining high productivity.

They also got to kick some dirt in the paddocks, watching cane harvesting and cane billet planting by two commercial contractors, Gerard Bugeja and Tony Camilleri.

Tony showed the students the high-tech GPS monitoring systems used in both the tractor and billet planter to ensure accurate planting. During the harvesting demonstration, Dylan Wedel, discussed with the students each step of the harvesting process and the machinery involved. For both harvesting and billet planting, the students were seriously impressed by the large machinery and technology used in their region.

Following on from visiting the field sites, students attended the Mackay Ag Expo and prior to touring the expo and observing a drone display, Mackay Sugar’s Tasman Higgins discussed with students during their lunch break the trade and job opportunities currently available at their mills.

Last updated: 26 Sep 2022