The promotion of controlled traffic (matching wheel and row spacing) in the Australian sugar industry is necessitating a widening of row spacing beyond the standard 1.5 m. As all cultivars grown in the Australian industry have been selected under the standard row spacing there are concerns that at least some cultivars may not be suitable for wider rows. To address this issue, experiments were established in northern and southern Queensland in which cultivars, with different growth characteristics, recommended for each region, were grown under a range of different row configurations. In the northern Queensland experiment at Gordonvale, cultivars Q187, Q200, Q201, and Q218 were grown in 1.5-m single rows, 1.8-m single rows, 1.8-m dual rows (50 cm between duals), and 2.3-m dual rows (80 cm between duals). In the southern Queensland experiment at Farnsfield, cvv. Q138, Q205, Q222 and Q188 were also grown in 1.5-m single rows, 1.8-m single rows, 1.8-m dual rows (50 cm between duals), while 1.8-m-wide throat planted single row and 2.0-m dual row (80 cm between duals) configurations were also included.
There was no difference in yield between the different row configurations at Farnsfield but there was a significant row configuration × cultivar interaction at Gordonvale due to good yields in 1.8-m single and dual rows with Q201 and poor yields with Q200 at the same row spacings. There was no significant difference between the two cultivars in 1.5-m single and 2.3-m dual rows.
The experiments once again demonstrated the compensatory capacity that exists in sugarcane to manipulate stalk number and individual stalk weight as a means of producing similar yields across a range of row configurations and planting densities.
There was evidence of different growth patterns between cultivars in response to different row configurations (viz. propensity to tiller, susceptibility to lodging, ability to compensate between stalk number and stalk weight), suggesting that there may be genetic differences in response to row configuration. It is argued that there is a need to evaluate potential cultivars under a wider range of row configurations than the standard 1.5-m single rows. Cultivars that perform well in row configurations ranging from 1.8 to 2.0 m are essential if the adverse effects of soil compaction are to be managed through the adoption of controlled traffic.