Tweed Daily News

Quirk to lead cane farmers

ONE of the biggest industries in the Tweed has a new “green” leader.

The Tweed River branch of the NSW Canegrowers Association has as its new chairperson Stotts Creek canefarmer Robert Quirk who for years has fought for environmentally friendly farming practices.

Mr Quirk, who pioneered ways to avoid acidic pollution of the Tweed River caused by cultivation of the area's natural acid sulphate soils, was elected chairperson at the association's recent annual general meeting.

He replaces Dulguigan farmer Graham Martin, who also fought for better environmental farming practices during his 15 years as Tweed River branch chairman which included an eight-year stint as NSW chairman.

“They are big shoes to fill,” said Mr Quirk whose latest environmental project involves encouraging the use of bio-char - a form of charcoal discovered by Amazonian Indians which soaks up chemicals in the soil.

“Bio-char is a waste product from timber or vegetation burnt under low oxygen or at low temperatures and makes the soil very nutrient rich.

“We are hoping to reduce the amount of chemical fertiliser input.

“It's a big environmental thing.”

Due to the local acid sulphate soils Mr Quirk said Tweed farmers had a prob- lem with nitrogen fertilisers combining with the soil chemicals to produce excessive amounts of potentially toxic nitrous oxide.

Testing for nitrous oxide in soil treated with bio-char was not providing “any measurements”, indicating it was doing the job.

Also on Mr Quirk's list of priorities is “getting confidence into the industry and getting blokes growing sugar cane again”.

Mr Quirk said he, along with the association's two vice-presidents Dave Bart- lett and Kevin Twohill, would be working together “to help raise the profile of the industry and help get a bit more confidence back”.

Mr Martin stays on as a member of the executive.

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