Why do farmers burn sugar cane

In Germany there is the sugar beet, in Australia the sugar cane

In almost all of Queensland you can see the huge grasses growing, always in different stages of development. This week I helped with the harvest once.

The hot and humid climate in Queensland offers optimal conditions for sugar cane. It can be grown almost all year round. You can see huge fields that were planted at different times in order to be able to cope with the harvest in terms of time. The harvest begins in July and sometimes doesn't stop until mid-December. The sugar cane plants need 12-16 months to mature and can reach heights of up to 4 meters.

Not so long ago sugar cane was cut off by hand. The older farmers still know a lot about this, especially how difficult this work was, as the harvest takes place at over 30 degrees and a humidity of around 100%. There are different ways to harvest the sugar cane. A somewhat outdated, but not extinct method is to burn the sugar cane before harvesting. Burning off removes the superfluous leaves and everything else that hinders the harvest. However, for ecological reasons, this is not done in most regions. The farm I worked on also harvests without a major fire.

The sugar cane was cut, trimmed and cleaned with a combine harvester. The machines manage approx. 300 tons in one day. The transport is guaranteed by a rail network specially created for the sugar harvest. Most of the sugar cane is transported to Bundaburg, which is why the city is often called the Sugar City. But almost every major town on the east coast of Queensland has its own small sugar factory.

Similar to corn, sugar cane can be grown for many years in a row before the sugar yield deteriorates. Therefore, there are many small farmers along the east coast who only grow sugar cane. However, most farmers cannot make a living from it, as the world market price for sugar is often very bad. Therefore, sugar cane cultivation is mostly subsidized. And most of the farmers also have beef cattle to “survive”.