Final days for cane fires


SECOND-GENERATION Pimlico growers Alf and Jill Lock are preparing to say goodbye to the cane fires once again filling our night skies.

The spectacular blazes will be a rare sight within a few years.

The co-generation power plant to be built at Broadwater is expected to see more than three-quarters of sugar cane in the Richmond harvested green. Currently, 70 per cent is burnt.

With cane separation plants still to be built, grow- ers are expecting green harvesting to start towards the end of next year.

Saying goodbye to burning will not be hard for them.

Alf and Jill Lock say it's a hell of a job ? extremely stressful and physically draining.

It's a precise science, working the winds and the shape of paddocks, Jill said.

"You can be at it all night and there can be some very hairy moments, particularly if you're trying to burn in front of a storm," she said.

Growers form harvesting crews, whereby neighbours help each other to burn fields.

"Two guys are the lighters, one mans an observation deck and the others use wet sacks to keep the fire in check," Jill said.

Cane is burnt the day before it is harvested to eliminate cane trash.

Crushing started at the Broadwater sugar mill last Wednesday, with the Richmond expected to yield about 1 million tonnes this year.

That will be slightly less than last year's harvest, which finished at 1.026 million tonnes.

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