Cane farmer honoured in carbon list

Cane farmer Robert Quirk.
Cane farmer Robert Quirk.

OSCAR Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett and Stotts Creek farmer Robert Quirk are not two people you would normally associate together, but they are more alike than you think.

The international beauty and our sugarcane grower are both considered to be among the 50 most- influential people in Australia who are committed to the environment.

Mr Quirk was last week named No.26 on the ABC Carbon 50 list, which is topped by Blanchett.

“I was really taken aback,” Mr Quirk said. “I'm very humbled by the whole thing.”

This is the first time ABC Carbon, a consultancy that provides climate change advice to businesses, compiled the list of advocates.

“It's a very big honour,” Mr Quirk said. “There are some pretty important people on the list, and it's nice to be among them.

“I think I might be the only agriculture person on it.”

Together with the DPI and Landcare, Mr Quirk, has spent the past 15 years encouraging sustainable farming.

“Before that I was just an ordinary farmer and I worked out there was a better way.”

Mr Quirk and nine PhD students developed better management practises in farming soils containing acid sulphate, including mound planting and laser levelling in cane fields to reduce acid run-off.

“There's not going to be one solution to climate change, but there are going to be a heap of little ones,” he said. “And this is one of them.”

By planting soy beans in between cane harvests Mr Quirk has also re- duced his fertiliser use.

“I've reduced fertiliser output and increased productivity, so it's pretty good.”

Mr Quirk is now writing a blurb to accompany his name in an ABC Carbon 50 book

“I'm competing with Cate Blanchett,” he laughed.

Mr Quirk is also the Tweed Canegrowers Association chairman and foundation chair of the Better Sugarcane Initiative.

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