Around the world, silicon (Si) in the form of plant available Si is known to be necessary for good crop health and yield and it is routinely added to sugar cane crops.
In Australia the problem is well known but not yet resolved, mainly due to the lack of a cost effective source of soluble silicon.
The problem is well documented in the results of a three year trial conducted by the CSIRO and the Sugar Development Corporation (Sugar Research and Development Corporation SRDC Project CLW009).
Large areas of cane growing areas in Northern Queensland have low levels of plant available Silicon (Si).
Identifying a cost effective source of Si was one of the major problems.
The calcium silicate used in the trials was imported. The locally produced material is classified as a “prescribed waste” as its use in agriculture is not allowed, due mainly to the concerns of possible heavy metal contamination above acceptable levels.
An economic analysis of the Bundaberg data showed that the silicate product would need to be applied prior to planting for $130/t for a break even situation for 6 and 9 t/ha rates over the crop cycle, based on a sugar price of $300/t. No other comparisons were possible as the Bundaberg trial was the only one with sufficient data available for this type of comparison. The Ca-silicate product used in these experiments cannot be imported and delivered for the above price. Currently there are no suitable, economic products available in Queensland.
MaxSil™application rates for sugar cane are recommended at 200 kg per hectare
MaxSil™ is currently applied to hundreds of hectares of ratoon sugar cane in Far North Queensland. It is cost effective and requires low dose rates.