Big changes in life and industry

After 40 years of service in the sugar cane industry Peter McGuire is going to take flight. Photo: Nolan Verheij-Full / Tweed Daily News
After 40 years of service in the sugar cane industry Peter McGuire is going to take flight. Photo: Nolan Verheij-Full / Tweed Daily News Nolan Verheij-Full

PETER McGuire has had a sweet professional life working in the sugar industry but after 38 years he says it's time for a change.

The 60-year-old came to live in the Tweed in 1996, continuing the work he had been doing in Far North Queensland as principal extension officer with the cane research organisation BSES.

His job involved working alongside growers, providing advice and analysing data, conducting field trials and sharing the information he gleaned at conferences and on visits to sugar-growing regions in Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia.

The overseas work and travel were among the highlights of the job but Mr McGuire said what he had liked the most was his close liaison with growers.

"I've enjoyed the work and could have stayed on," he said, but added that he was looking forward to travelling with his wife Jenny and spending time with family and friends.

Mr McGuire's first retirement trip will be to Townsville to visit his mother.

In 2012, Kingscliff-based Mr McGuire took up a position as senior extension officer with NSW Sugar at the Condong Mill.

It was a continuation of his close field work with cane farmers, including organising shed meetings, workshops, farm walks and bus tours.

An applied science and commerce graduate, he provided one-on-one agronomic and farm business advice, conducting field trials on the yield impact of delayed weed control.

He also designed and ran training courses for farmers, including farm record-keeping, benchmarking and cane payment systems.

Mr McGuire has seen some big changes since he began in the cane industry.

"Green cane harvesting is the biggest change I've seen," he said, although the technique of leaving trash on the ground to act as mulch is more common in Queensland than in the cooler regions of New South Wales.

Then there is "controlled traffic farming" - which has been adopted by many growers - widening the rows of cane so machinery does not compact the soil around the plants.

Mr McGuire said he was happy to retire at a time when productivity had returned to good levels and the local industry had such good agricultural support.

Despite being a specialist in agronomy and plant protection, he doesn't expect to be spending much time in his home garden.

"There's a lot of sand at Kingscliff so not much grows there," he said.

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