Alan Munro, centre, is undertaking research and development on his farm at Woodford Island, together with Dr Bob Aitken, left, and Dr Natalie Moore.
Alan Munro, centre, is undertaking research and development on his farm at Woodford Island, together with Dr Bob Aitken, left, and Dr Natalie Moore.

Testing new technologies

ALAN Munro may be a modest man, but if you ask him about his industry it soon becomes obvious that he is both highly knowledgeable and passionate in his field of expertise.

Mr Munro is a third generation farmer and works alongside his father, Colin Munro, in a family partnership located on Woodford Island, on the banks of the Clarence River.

Known as R Munro and Sons , the farm is roughly 250 hectares in size, primarily growing sugarcane, soy beans, and cattle.

Alan actively pursues research and development and he is also strongly in favour of using and adapting new technologies to improve farming practices.

With a philosophy of working co-operatively and freely sharing information, Alan says he is ‘happy to share for the benefit of the industry’.

Currently Mr Munro is involved in several research and development projects and is currently undertaking a number of trials on the property, in conjunction with Dr Natalie Moore from the NSW Industry and Innovation and Dr Bob Aitken from BSES Limited.

There are three key projects currently underway; nutgrass management and control, a study on soy beans and residue nitrogen levels in the soil, and also a study to identify the frost tolerance of new cane varieties.

“Dr Bob Aitken and I have been looking at nutgrass control in sugarcane and expect the results of that study to be ready in June, and so far there have been some really interesting results.” Alan said.

“Nutgrass causes a decreased yield in both plant and ratoon cane crops.

“It is a significant weed pest and it just thrives in our alluvial soils.

“It also reduces germination rates and yields of soy beans grown in the cane rotation,” he said.

“The best approach we have to controlling nutgrass with soy and cane crops is glyphosate herbicide to fallow land before planting.

“This also helps to control other perennial weeds.

“Basically, the guts of the project seems that it clearly pays to control nutgrass.”

A second study, which is focused on residual levels of nitrogen in the soil as a by-product of soy beans, is being undertaken by Dr Natalie Moore from the NSW Dept. of Industry and Innovation.

“Dr Moore is currently looking the residual nitrogen left after a soy bean crop which should assist in calculating how much, if any, we can reduce the application of urea for the following cane crop,” said Alan.

“The study is conducted over three years and is currently mid-way through,” he said.

Alan uses soy beans in a cane rotation to break the disease cycle rather than replanting cane.

“The field we are looking at here today is the Manta variety; it’s an older variety that’s very suitable to our climate.

“Soy as a legume crop rotation suits the alluvial floodplain because they are reasonably water tolerant.”

“We are also looking for the best varieties of cane for frost tolerance, which involves taking seedlings and essentially placing them in a large cold room and testing the chilling effect on the seedlings growing point.

“This work should assist can farmers in these southern cane regions where frost is a major issue.”



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