BULLETIN NO. 94 NEw SERIES SEPTEMBER. 1941
STATE OF FLORIDA
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
NATHAN MAYO, Conmmissioner
Mature sugarcane ready for harvest
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT of AGRICULTURE
NATHIAN MAYO, Commissioner
W. T MARTIN, Associate Editor
FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT OF FLORIDA
WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION
F. C. HARRINCTOX, Administrator
FLORHM:' S. KERRA, Assistant Administrator
HENRY G. Ai.SHK1G, Director of Federal Writers' Project
CARITA DOG(;ETT ('ORSE, State Director
Planting Sugarcane in the Everglades ..... ............. 5
History ............... ................... ......... 7
Late Development ..................... ...................... 11
Clewiston Plant --.. ..... .................... ................. 15
P planting .................... ............. ........... ....--- 16
H harvesting -....... ........... ....... ..................... 17
Manufacture ..... ................. .......- .... 18
Fellsm ere A association ......... .... ............. ..................... 21
Refining Process ............................- ............-- 21
Planting and Harvesting --.............. ........... ............ 23
Cane Production ............... ............. ............. 23
W ater Control .................. ................ --- 25
Sugarcane Byproducts ................. ......... .......... .. 29
Magic from Experiments ............................................. 33
Diseases and Pests ----............ ........ ........ .... 36
Florida's Sugar Prospects ....- .............. ..................... 39
Growing Sugarcane for Syrup in Florida .... ..........- 43
Climatic Requirements .....-........- --- ........- ........... 43
Soil Requirem ents ...... ....... ................. ... ........... 43
Plant Food Requirements ....................... ................ 45
Varieties --------......................................... .. 46
Propagation ............... ... ............ ....... ............. 48
Saving Sugarcane for Seed ...................... ........ .. 48
Preparing the Soil ...................... ..... ................. 50
Planting the Cane ~.~~~.~..- .......................... ..... 50
Cultivation .... .. .. ... ..... ..... ........ ... 51
H arvesting -.............. .... ............................... 52
Cooking the Juice ........---...--.......... ................. 53
Yields ............ ....... ........ ........ ........... 54
References ... -----... ......... --------................ .. ... 56
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Planting Sugarcane in the Everglades
Although sugarcane cultivation is one of Florida's oldest
agricultural enterprises, it is only recently that the commer-
cial production of sugar in the State has developed to such
an extent that Florida has become an important cane-sugar
producing area of the nation.
Practically all sugar produced in Florida is from cane
grown in the region of the Everglades. Here, from the
beginnings of an experiment barely 16 years ago, advance-
ment has been made to an aggregate planting of approxi-
mately 35,000 acres. So adaptable is the exceedingly rich
soil to cane growth that the average tonnage per acre is
over twice that of Louisiana, the country's other cane-sugar
producing state. Everglades sugarcane often grows 20 feet
high and produces up to nine and one-quarter tons of raw
sugar an acre.
At the completion of the 1940-41 harvesting season,
about 90,288 tons of sugar were produced from 873,809
tons of cane, with a byproduct of 4,775,840 gallons of mo-
lasses; the total representing an approximate value of
Fellsmere Sugar Producers report the following:-1940-
41 crop production 59,449 tons cane ground. 4,982 tons re-
fined sugar produced. 400,000 gallons molasses produced.
With between 1,500,000 and 2,000,000 acres of Ever-
glades land suitable for the production of sugarcane, enough
sugar could be produced in Florida to supply almost the
For many years, until the recent large-scale produc-
tion of commercial sugar in Florida, sugarcane was grown
almost entirely for syrup. While sugar-producing crops
have been more or less constantly increasing in area, they
are grown chiefly on small patches all over the State for
individual consumption, with any surplus chiefly sold lo-
cally. About 13,000 acres are planted yearly to such pur-
poses and approximately 2,000,000 gallons of syrup are
Aerial view typical cane field of huge proportions, Clewiston, Florida
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 7
Sugarcane was grown as a commodity in Asia long
before introduction into Europe. Chinese historians men-
tioned sugar as early as 800 B. C. Greek and Roman writers
occasionally referred to "India salt," and reports came from
Persia of loaf sugar; Arabia, Sicily, and Egypt helped to
develop the product. In the medical science of these coun-
tries sugar was given a prominent place.
The art of making sugar by crystallization of cane syrup
was introduced into Spain by invading Moors of the eleventh
century, about 200 years before other European countries
learned the secrets of its manufacture.
Sugarcane was brought to the western hemisphere by
Columbus in 1493, on his second voyage of exploration. Its
cultivation spread among the Spanish colonies. In the West
Indies the plant grew prolifically and with larger stalks than
in its former European home. Its cultivation progressed to
such an extent that in 1518 there were 40 grinding mills
operated by horse or water-power in Hispaniola alone, and
so much sugar was being produced in the New World by 1553
that ships returning to Spain needed no other load for ballast.
In America, honey was originally the principal sweet of
the Indians. Menendez probably first introduced sugarcane
culture into Florida soon after he founded St. Augustine in
1565. The great Spanish governor used such delicacies as
white flour and sugar to entertain the Indian chieftains
whose friendship he needed.
Until comparatively recent years refined sugar, as we
know it, was a luxury. In colonial days in this country a
pound of this choice sweetening ingredient cost as much as
a good horse. An advertisement offering sugar for sale ap-
peared in the New York Gazette, August 17, 1730:
"PUBLIC NOTICE is hereby given that NICHOLAS
BAYARD of the city of New York has erected a
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Refining House for Refining all Sorts of Sugar and
Sugar-Candy, and has procured from Europe an
experienced Artist at that Mystery-At which Re-
fining House all Persons in City and County may be
supplied by the Whole-Sale, Re-tail and both double
and single Refined Loaf-Sugar, as also Powder and
Shop-Sugars and Sugar-Candy at Reasonable Rates."
During the English period in Florida, sugar was manu-
factured on a commercial scale at the New Smyrna colony
between 1767 and 1776. The object of the projectors of this
colony was to engage principally in the cultivation of indigo
and sugarcane, their products to be shipped to European
markets where they then commanded high prices. Louisi-
ana did not start sugar production until 1791.
By 1777, the New Smyrna colony had disbanded and the
settlement fell in ruins, so for a period the commercial
sugar industry was lost to the State. Until 75 years later,
the cultivation of sugarcane had virtually disappeared from
written history, but there can be no doubt that during the
period sugarcane was cultivated throughout Florida.
In a description of the commerce of East Florida, Louis
Fatio wrote in 1790:
"Sugarcane grows very well in this province, and
there are people who now have enough of it in their
gardens to make syrup for their use. In the time of
the English two or three mills had been begun at the
Mosquitos (Mosquito Inlet near New Smyrna) and on
the Ais (Indian) River which produced sugar that
was very white and of the best quality. From the
head of the said river to the Florida cape all the high-
er lands are good for this, but as there are no people
settled in those localities no one ventures to risk his
negroes and property to the inroads of the Indians,
pirates and rogues from the Bahamas who infest all
Ruins of old cane mills and syrup vats are still to be
found at various places over the State, including Port
10 FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
Cultivating young cane with a mechanical four-row cultivator in the
Orange, the New Smyrna vicinity, and DeLeon Springs.
This suggests that at times during the early colonial period
sugarcane culture and sugar manufacture by crude methods
was of considerable importance in Florida. While infor-
mation concerning the old establishments is limited, it is
known that slave labor was largely used in the adventurous
enterprises. From the location of the old mills, all of which
are in the vicinity of great hammock swamps, the type of
land best adaptable to the growing of cane was evidently
well known. At Port Orange the smokestack of an old
furnace still stands, while in the vicinity is part of the steam-
driven machinery of a mill said to have been brought from
Europe 167 years ago. Traces of old kettle-cooking posi-
tions can still be seen at DeLeon Springs.
Between 1850 and 1860, Major Robert Gamble of Talla-
hassee moved to Manatee County and erected a mill for the
manufacture of sugar, but the War between the States and
fire put an end to this enterprise.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 11
In the United States census for 1860, Florida was credit-
ed with "1669 hogsheads, or 2,002,800 pounds of sugar," and
it is generally believed that this amount included the first
year's output of the Gamble mill.
The St. Cloud Sugar Factory was built at Kissimmee by
Hamilton Disston. It offered prospects until the death of
Mr. Disston in 1896, when the mill was closed.
The State Department of Agriculture was created in
1889, and in that year a systematic record of sugarcane
production and cane products was established. This has
been maintained, with records of all farm statistics, to the
The present sugar manufacturing industry in Florida is
a development of recent years, beginning in 1923 at Canal
Point with the opening of Everglades lands to cultivation
through an extensive drainage project. Intermittent at-
tempts to produce sugar in the Everglades on a commercial
basis were made as far back as 1885, with experiments at
Moore Haven, and later in the Disston Island, Hialeah, and
Canal Point districts. They failed largely because of a lack
of proper water control, unsuitable varieties and cane dis-
At present two companies are engaged in the production
of commercial sugar in Florida: The United States Sugar
Corporation with headquarters at Clewiston, and the Fells-
mere Sugar Producers Association at Fellsmere.
The United States Sugar Corporation was formed in 1931
to effect a reorganization of the Southern Sugar Company,
which was organized in 1925 but went into receivership in
1930. The 23-roll grinding tandem of the company's mill or
"Sugar House" at Clewiston is said to be the largest in the
During the operating season, the Clewiston mill has a
grinding capacity in excess of 6,000 tons of sugarcane every
24 hours. For the 1940-41 grinding season this plant pro-
Typical young cane field jp the Everglades
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 13
duced more than 555,000 bags of 96" raw sugar of 325
pounds per bag.
In Fellsmere, the Fellsmere Sugar Producers Association,
at the conclusion of the 1938-39 season, had produced 5,900
tons of refined sugar. The refinery has an output of 100
tons of sugar daily, this being consumed within the State.
The production of sugar in Florida has grown from
14,000 tons in 1929-30 to 90,000 tons for the 1940-41 season.
The principal part of this increase in sugar production
has been due to the high increase in sugar yield. Through
extensive research by United States Sugar Corporation re-
sulting in development of cane varieties particularly adapted
to climatic conditions and soils of the Everglades, improved
methods of cultivation, drainage and water control, sugar
production in the Everglades has increased from an aver-
age of one and a half (1 '/) tons of sugar per acre-year ten
years ago, to an average exceeding four (4) tons of sugar
per acre-year. Because of the restrictions imposed by the
Federal Government's Sugar Control Program, there has
been very little increase in acreage planted to sugarcane for
extraction of sugar therefrom. Ten years ago, the Sugar
Corporation had approximately 23,000 acres of land planted
into sugarcane. At that time there was not a single acre
grown by independent sugarcane farmers, whereas, during
the last crop year, there were approximately 27,500 acres
planted into sugarcane in the Everglades area, 2,500 acres
of which were grown by independent cane farmers.
As previously stated, there are between 1,500,000 and
2,000,000 acres of Everglades land suitable for the produc-
tion of sugarcane. Of this acreage, there are approximately
200,000 acres bordering the southern rim of Lake Okeecho-
bee which is now properly drained and under cultivation and
which could be planted almost immediately into sugarcane.
This acreage would be capable of producing approximately
600,000 tons of sugar annually. Such a sugar production
would provide gainful employment for upward of 100,000
heads of families with a revenue to the citizens of Florida
of approximately $70,000,000.00.
A view showing average height of Everglades sugarcane
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 15
Sugar production from the vast Everglades plantations
is a romance of large-scale ingenuity and effort. The grow-
ing area of the United States Sugar Corporation, radiating
from Clewiston, covers a frontage of 52 miles, reaching from
just south of Moore Haven on the west around the lower rim
of Lake Okeechobee through Liberty Point, Clewiston, Bare
Beach, Lake Harbor, South Bay, Belle Glade, Pahokee and
Canal Point. Spread over this district are 10 plantation
villages at which are housed over 4000 Negro laborers as
well as the white overseers, their assistants, timekeepers
The plantation villages, actually small towns in them-
selves, have attracted much favorable comment from official
and casual visitors, not only on the sanitary conditions and
attractive appearance, but on the many conveniences pro-
vided the employees without cost. Clean, sanitary, weather-
proof cottages are provided for the employees and their
families. The villages contain accommodations for single
employees, stores, shops and equipment sheds, churches,
schools, recreational and first aid facilities. Employee hos-
pitals are maintained in Clewiston on the West and Canal
Point on the East.
The homes are provided the family employees rent-free,
as are likewise, necessary housing accommodations for single
employees. Employees and their families receive medical
care, fuel, ground for vegetable gardens and education with-
out cost. Stores, operated by the Corporation, on a cash and
carry basis, supply all the staple necessities substantially at
cost. Community facilities are provided for reading, games,
recreation and entertainment at each village.
Over this area 450 miles of farm roadway and 325
bridges have been built. In addition to this, 970 culverts,
aggregating about 27,280 lineal feet of culvert, have been
installed. The roadway is graded and kept in first-class
condition. Railroad equipment owned and operated by the
FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
company includes 394 cane cars, seven mainline locomotives,
and 26.33 miles of tracks with 20 sidings, at each of which
is a loading hoist for the cane cars. Cane trains are operated
over tracks of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the
Florida East Coast Railway under trackage agreement. In
the initial movement of the cane from the fields, 524 cane
wagons are used, all equipped with crawler-type tracks,
and drawn by 96 tractors. The company owns or controls
125,000 acres of Everglades land, with about 30,000 under
As a tourist attraction the giant "Sugar House" at Clew-
iston draws thousands of visitors annually. Over 29,000
visitors registered at the Sugar House during the 1940-41
grinding season, which started in the early part of Novem-
ber and ended in April. The United States Sugar Corporation
extends an invitation to the public to visit the Sugar House
where competent and courteous guides are on duty during
the hours of 9 to 4 each day except Monday, while the Sugar
House is in operation. The United States Sugar Corporation
produces only raw sugar and its entire production of sugar
is shipped to the Savannah Sugar Refining Corporation to
The sugar plantations of the Everglades are almost com-
pletely mechanized. First, the land is installed with an elab-
orate system of drainage and water control equipment. It
is next cleared of growth and then aerated by rotary plowing.
Following a predetermined "resting" period, it is ready for
furrowing and planting. The actual planting of the cane is a
manual operation. The seed cane is cut into pieces of desig-
nated lengths and dropped into the furrows which are then
closed in. Present varieties have been developed by breed-
ing the original tropical types with hardy, disease-resistant
sub-tropical canes from Northern India. Commercially
sugarcane is not propagated by true seed but by stalk cut-
tings, the eyes of which, like the eyes in potatoes, sprout
after planting to form the future cane stalk. In the Ever-
glades it is unnecessary to replant the fields each year be-
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 17
Harvesting sugarcane in the Everglades
cause, after the matured cane is cut, the old roots put out
new stalks. These are known as "ratoon" crops. It is
necessary to plow up and replant about every sixth year.
The harvesting season in Florida extends from early
November until the last of April. When ready for harvest,
the cane is cut, stripped and topped by hand. The workers
use long knives called "machetes." A swing of the knife
cuts the stalk close to the ground, another swing or two
strips it of leaves, after which the top is cut off. The stripped
stalks are placed in piles which are loaded into the field
wagons and conveyed to the field hoists. Here the cane is
weighed, loaded into the standard-gauge cane cars, and
hauled to the "Sugar House" where it is again weighed.
The cars are emptied by being tilted on a special table; the
cane falling into a hopper onto a conveyor. From the hop-
per the cane is dumped onto another carrier, passing into
the mill, and the process of sugar manufacture begins.
FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
Transporting sugarcane in field wagons to company owned railroad
loading hoist for transportation by rail to Clewiston Sugar House
of United States Sugar Corporation.
While still on the carriers, the cane is spread evenly and
partly shredded by two sets of revolving knives. It is now
ready for the powerful 23-roll tandem. First, the cane passes
through two heavy crusher rolls, with interlocking teeth,
where most of the juice is removed and the cane is pressed
into a mat of uniform thickness. By other carriers it then
passes through six additional sets of three rolls each. Each
set is arranged with two rolls below and one above. The rolls
have circular grooves, meshing into each other, which cut
the cane into fine pieces. As the cane passes from one set to
another, it is sprayed with hot water and juice to aid in more
complete extraction. By the time the cane has passed
through the last of the rolls, the juice has been so thorough-
ly pressed out that the resultant fibre, or "bagasse," is
practically dry. This material is automatically conveyed to
the boiler house and used for fuel. Practically all of the fuel
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 19
needed in operating the steam plant at Clewiston consists
As the juice flows downward from the rolls it is strained;
milk of lime is added to further clarify it and to neutralize
its acid condition. In various mills other chemicals are
sometimes used but all methods have for their chief objects
the precipitation of impurties and neutralization.
The liquid is heated to approximately 220 F. and then
passed on to continuous clarifiers from which there is a
steady flow of clear juice. The muddy residue from the
clarifiers is pumped through presses and additional clear
juice recovered. The juice now passes into evaporators
where it is boiled into syrup under partial vacuum. A reason
for boiling in a partial vacuum is because a liquid will boil
more quickly and with less heat as the atmospheric pressure
is reduced. This is not only more economical but eliminates
the danger of scorching.
The syrup is then ready for the "vacuum pans" where,
also under partial vacuum, it is boiled into thicker consis-
tency due to the further evaporation of water. Small crys-
tals gradually appear and as the syrup increases in concen-
tration, the crystals grow in size. From time to time fresh
syrup is added. When the crystals have reached the proper
size the contents of the pans, known as "massecuite," are
drawn off and passed on to the revolving "centrifugals"
where the operation of separating the crystals from the
mother liquor (molasses) takes place.
The battery of centrifugal machines consists of basket-
like devices, with perforated sides, enclosed in iron jackets.
As each basket revolves at high speed, the molasses is
thrown through the openings against the walls of the jacket.
The sugar is retained within the basket and when all the
molasses has been thrown off, the centrifugal is stopped and
the sugar is scraped out of the basket by a mechanical arm.
The molasses is returned to the vacuum pans where addi-
tional sucrose is recovered. This is repeated twice. The
sugar from the centrifugals is carried by conveyors to a bin
where it is automatically weighed and sacked in 325-pound
bags. It is then shipped to Savannah for refining into vari-
ous forms of sugar sold at the stores.
r. I .. W
r i~~wP-~ *
;ir. I I' 'i
Transferring sugarcane by hoist from field wagons to railroad cars
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 21
The manufacture of raw sugar at the plant of the Fells-
mere Sugar Producers Association is practically identical
with the method employed at Clewiston. However, here
sugar is refined from the raw stage into the finished, white
granulated product used in the home.
The company's grinding equipment consists of a set of
crusher rolls and 12 grinding rolls with a capacity of about
1,000 tons of cane in 24 hours. The cane from the field goes
into the receiving end of the factory and the refined product
is bagged at the other end.
In refining, the Sucro-Blanc process is used. This is a
chemical procedure of oxidation, consisting of the purifica-
tion and decolorization of sugar solutions by vegetable car-
bons. The chemical materials used in the process oxidize
the non-sugars and the color in the solutions which result in
a water-white liquor from which the refined sugar is boiled.
The raw sugar is first mingled, centrifuged and washed
to the desired purity. This affinedd" sugar is then melted
and chemically treated; involving a physical and chemical
reaction between the sugar liquors and the chemicals used.
The treated solution is then filtered and the resulting prod-
uct is the refined, water-white filtrate. This is pumped to
the "pan floor" for boiling in the white-sugar pans.
In these pans the solution is concentrated and grained
and the resulting massecuites are centrifuged in the white-
sugar centrifugal station. The sugar, when still wet, is car-
ried from the centrifugals by a system of conveyors and ele-
vators to a set of sugar bins and from there to the granulator
where it is dried to the proper moisture content and bagged
The remelts from the refinery are sent back to the raw
sugar section of the house for the production of further
Fellsmere farms are not in the Everglades.
Young sugarcane near Fellsmere, showing sugar house in background
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 23
raws. These are again put through the refinery, producing
further refined sugar.
In the refining process, exhaust steam from the mill's
power is used. At this plant bagasse is also used for feul,
but because of the extended procedure of refining, this is
augmented with wood. It requires 107 pounds of 96' raw
sugar to produce 100 pounds of refined sugar.
For the 1938-39 season, the company refined 118,000
bags of sugar of 100 pounds each. In all, 76,164 tons of cane
were ground with a molasses output of 600,000 gallons. The
sugar is sold to wholesale grocers, chain stores, manufactur-
ers, etc., within the State; about 90 percent being handled by
customers' trucks from the company's warehouse at Fells-
PLANTING AND HARVESTING
In the preparation of the land and in planting, the pro-
cedure is practically the same as used at Clewiston. Har-
vesting, however, is somewhat different. After the cane is
cut, stripped and topped, it is thrown into piles of 500 to
1,000 pounds each. The cane is then picked up by dragline
machines with slings and loaded into caterpillar wagons.
The company has a railroad in the field and the maximum
tractor haul is about one-half mile. The cane is transferred
to the railroad cars and hauled to the factory.
To produce the 1938-39 crop, 3,600 acres were harvested.
This area was practically in one block with the factory near
the center. Harvesting lasted 135 days; ending March 24,
1939, during which time 525 workers were employed. Ne-
groes are used for common labor and for cane cutting.
Cane tonnage realized today by the company has been
somewhat lower per acre than on certain lands in the Ever-
glades; particularly such lands known as "custard apple".
This has been chiefly because of mistakes in varietal selec-
tion during the initial stages of the company's development,
according to J. J. Bustin, Assistant Treasurer:
Aerial view of sgarane storage yard at Clewiston Sgar Ho
Aerial view of sugarcane storage yard at Clewiston Sugar House.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 25
"Operating schedules for the past two years show an
average production of 26.5 tons per acre. While this figure
exceeds the average tonnage obtained from Louisiana cane
lands, it is by no means a criterion for the Fellsmere lands,
as has been shown by subsequent plantings. When our pres-
ent development began, no reliable information was avail-
able on commercial sugar production in Florida and there-
fore selection of cane varieties, and to some extent cultural
practices, were more or less guess work.
Mistakes made in the planting of large acreages of sugar-
cane are longlasting unless, of course, capital is available for
prompt correction. The fact that two thirds of our acreage
consisted of low tonnage-producing cane, was a material
handicap that took several years to correct. The last of this
cane has now been destroyed and the fields have been plant-
ed to a heavier-producing variety.... As an instance, a block
of 200 acres was planted to a low-yielding variety. Plantings
were made five and one-half feet apart and, as plant cane,
this variety yielded 22 tons an acre, but the 'ratoon' crop the
following year dropped to 14 tons. This acreage was de-
stroyed and was replanted in the fall of 1934. The new plant-
ing was made in rows four and one-half feet apart; the cane
used being known as CO-290, the company's standard variety
at present. In 12 months this cane was harvested and pro-
duced an average of 41 tons an acre. The following year
this acreage produced an average of 38 tons an acre as a
ratoon crop and indications are that it will produce from 35
to 36 tons for the third crop. In view of this it is safe to
assume that average cane tonnage, in a short time, can be
brought up to approximately 35 tons per acre."
Experimental work is carried on in connection with the
Federal and State experiment stations in the Everglades.
Both maintain experimental plots at Fellsmere. Information
is also exchanged with Clewiston.
The Fellsmere property is unique from the standpoint of
water control facilities. In Indian River County, it is with-
in the boundaries of the Fellsmere Drainage District. About
I : '
Hauling sugarcane to mill-direct from the fields by railroad
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 27
50,000 acres have been levied off from the headwaters of
the St. Johns River. This tract is surrounded by water from
the north, south and west which offers a mildness of winter
climate comparable to lands lying farther south along the
east side of Lake Okeechobee. About 500,000 acres of marsh
land surrounding the Fellsmere property, together with Blue
Cypress Lake, with an area of 10 miles, provide an unlimited
water supply for irrigation. During a period of 26 years
records show that at no time has water reached a stage too
low for gravity irrigation. Also, the value of the water for
flooding the fields during low temperatures has been demon-
strated by raising temperatures as much as six degrees.
Drainage of the land is provided by a canal system which
discharges into the Indian River, about 10 miles to the east.
As an added precaution against excessive rains, a complete
pumping system has been installed to prevent overflow
should the canal become surcharged.
The land under cultivation consists of 35 percent sandy
loam and 65 percent shallow muck, all of which is underlaid
with a marl subsoil. This type of soil has proved its adapt-
ability to cane growing and under proper cultural practice
will produce heavy tonnage. A large portion of these lands,
planted to suitable varieties, has produced upwards of 40
tons of cane an acre.
The Fellsmere Sugar Producers Association was origi-
nally the Fellsmere Sugar Company, formed in 1931 and sold
to the present organization in 1937. The association is com-
posed of 11 members. The raw sugar mill was begun in 1932
and completed in 1933. The refining plant was added in the
fall of 1935 and since that time refined sugar has been
Dumping a carload of sugarcane into conveyor for grinding
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 29
The molasses byproduct, from which the raw sugar has
been separated, is known as "blackstrap" molasses. At one
time this material was thrown into the lakes and bayous as
useless. It is now used for a number of things, principally in
the manufacture of ethyl alcohol, actetone, butanol, and in
the production of high quality silage and cattle feeds. The
high-speed presses necessary for the publication of modern
newspapers and magazines are partly made possible by this
product. The inking rolls consist of a mixture of molasses
and glue. No economical substitute for the molasses has
been found. Due to the high-nitrogen organic soils of the
Everglades, "Blackstrap" molasses from this area is con-
sidered much higher in food value than "Blackstrap" from
other sugar-producing areas. Typical analysis of this "Black-
strap" molasses will average better than 8V'I/ Protein. Be-
cause of this, practically the entire production of Everglades
"Blackstrap" molasses is used in the manufacturing of
There was also a time when "bagasse" was hauled into
the fields and burned. As has been described, this residue
used as a fuel at the Clewiston plant furnishes its source of
power. The "bagasse" which is now burned contains a very
high percentage of "alpha cellulose" and when means have
been discovered for the extraction of this valuable product,
the use of this material as a fuel probably will be ended.
This cellulose content is a basic constituent of paper, rayon,
and other like products. "Bagasse" also contains large quan-
tities of ingredients which are basic to the manufacture of
adhesives. Lately it has been found that non-fibrous, pith
particles of this product sifted through a screen, dried and
mixed with molasses, make an ideal food for livestock. Many
experiments in the United States for the manufacture of
paper from "bagasse" have been made but so far these
have not been entirely successful from a financial stand-
point. In several states wallboard, called "celotex", and other
building materials are now being made extensively from
Grinding tandem, interior Clewiston Sugar House
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 31
"bagasse". The manufacture of such byproducts is an im-
portant part of the Louisiana cane industry.
Cane tops, now largely left in the fields as a mulch, con-
tain many possibilities for future profit. Alcohol can be dis-
tilled profitably from this material, and already cane tops
are being used to a considerable extent for silage, which
makes an excellent food for livestock.
Filter cake; manufactured from the final residue of im-
purities from the cane juice and formerly wasted except for
its use as a fertilizer, is now making appearance in Louisiana
as feed for mules. Including the limitless number of patches
of sugarcane grown over the state for the manufacture of
syrup, this product could easily be made in quantity in
Florida. Set aside during the grinding season and salted
down, it will keep almost indefinitely.
Research Laboratory, Clewiston, Florida
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Magic from Experiments
One of the principal factors in the development of the
Florida sugar industry, has been the laborious experiments
in testing the progeny from numerous crosses with a view
of finding varieties or strains of sugarcane most suitable
to the Everglades.
Because the first sugarcane varieties introduced into
Florida were mostly tropical types, unsuited to their new
sub-tropical environment, they reacted unfavorably to the
shorter growing and maturing seasons and high-nitrogen
organic soils of this country. Sugarcane fundamentally de-
mands a uniformly high temperature, ample sunshine, rich
soil, and a large and constant supply of moisture to mature
the plants quickly before the cold weather. But it is a very
particular plant, and the many varieties differ in disposition
The problem at the beginning of the Everglades' devel-
opment lay in breeding and selection of suitable commercial
varieties. Mistakes were apt to be costly. Some varieties
with a high sugar content, and especially adaptable to the
soil of the Everglades, were found to be more susceptible to
disease in that region than certain other varieties. However,
other varieties more resistant to disease had too low sugar
content for profitable culture, or the stalks presented diffi-
culties in stripping at harvest time; some varieties, ideal in
most respects, matured too late.
One of the first conclusions drawn from these prelim-
inary studies was that the Everglades lands were unlike
any other sugar-producing area, and that only adequate
experimental evidence should be the basis of varietal selec-
tions and agronomic methods which should be employed.
Then began a complicated series of experiments that re-
sulted in many failures and few successes. However, a few
successes were all that were needed, and important results
FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
Clewiston Sugar House, United States Sugar Corporation
were attained. Out of approximately 125,000 new varieties
of sugarcane propagated for testing, only four have so far
established themselves to commercial plantings. The re-
quirements for a successful variety of sugarcane in the
Everglades include resistance to wind, water, temperature
and disease, together with early maturity, high cane tonnage
and sugar production per acre.
About 10,000 new varieties of sugarcane are propagated
yearly for testing by the United States Sugar Corporation.
The company conducts it owns varietal, fertilizer, and agro-
nomic field experiments on all soil types scattered over its
properties. A private cane breeding station, plant quaran-
tine station, chemical, soils, entomological, and botanical re-
search laboratories are all maintained by the company at
Clewiston. The State has also been expending money for
similar work as an independent project.
Partly as a result of these experiments and the faithful
commercial application thereof, the added tonnage of cane
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 35
produced per acre, together with the improvement in the
percentage of sugar yield per ton of cane, from 1929-30 to
the 1937-38 season, amounts to an increase in the yield of
sugar per acre of over 175%. The growing of sugarcane for
syrup is not so restricted by climatic conditions and many
other southern localities have acreage planted to this crop.
36 FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
Diseases and Pests
Sugarcane, like all other things that live, is subject to
a measure of diseases and pests. Victory over these scourges
is won for the commercial planters through the persistent
efforts of the cane breeder who develops types resistant or
immune to damage.
Of the diseases, red rot, root rot, mosaic disease, ring
spot, brown stripe, and eye spot are the most common. Cane
planters also wage war on the cane borer, the mealybug,
the wireworm and the nematode, and considerable damage
is done each year by rodents, chiefly several species of rats
and rabbits. In the Everglades, studies and experiments for
combating these afflictions are constantly being carried on.
Red rot is a disease usually carried to the growing cane
from seed cane where it has had time to develop while the
cane has been stored in banks or window from the preced-
ing season. The outside of the infected stalks may not show
the disease, but badly infected plants often die. Red rot re-
duces the sucrose content of the growing cane. The fungus
causing it also persists in the soil.
In root rot, the roots are invaded by fungi, causing the
roots to rot.
Mosaic disease was imported into the United States from
foreign countries and through the agency of man as well
as certain insect vectors has spread rapidly. The disease
destroys the green coloring matter of the plants and reduces
So far, mosaic disease, red rot, eye spot, brown stripe,
and ring spot have been the major diseases seriously threat-
ening Everglades cane but damage has been greatly reduced
by elimination of susceptible varieties of cane and their re-
placement by resistant and immune types.
The insect menace is a source of considerable trouble to
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 37
Sugar Office Building, United States Sugar Corporation
the grower. The cane borer is the caterpillar of a moth that
tunnels inside the stalk so that the stalk becomes weakened
and often breaks off. So limited is any method of control
over this insect, that frequently in badly infested areas over
the country it has been necessary to discontinue the growing
of cane altogether for several years. Damage from the cane
borer has not been serious as a whole in the Everglades. The
common egg-parasite and also a parasitic wasp, introduced
from Peru, are proving valuable aids in destroying the eggs
and larvae of this pest.
The mealybug infests fields of young cane, causing the
plants to become stunted. In dealing with this pest the in-
teresting discovery was made that a relationship exists be-
tween it and the Argentine ant. Apparently, the bugs are
tended and protected by the ants and under these conditions
they increase rapidly. Eliminating the ant by poison bait re-
duces the infestation. Seed cane can be freed of mealybugs
by immersion in water heated to 520 C. for 20 minutes and
38 FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
thus spread of the insect into new territory may be pre-
The nematode, a microscopic worm, damages sugarcane
by boring into tender roots, thereby stunting and deforming
the roots and frequently killing the plant. As the nematode
lives, breeds and remains in the ground and will only infest
the roots of certain plants, crop rotation or growing resistant
plants is about the only method of control.
The wireworm is especially attracted to corn but also
damages sugarcane severely. By destroying the buds of
freshly planted cane, they cause a poor stand. By constantly
destroying the root system, the cane tonnage is lessened and
early maturity affected. By destroying the underground
rhizomes and buds, the cane fails to stubble well. No para-
sites have been discovered for this pest, as yet. Following
the land with clean cultivation between April and October is
an effective control measure.
Rodents, which chew away the plants and roots and raise
havoc generally, are responsible for heavy damage in cane-
growing areas. An elaborate system of poison baits, traps,
and various preventatives has been worked out. Often, in
isolated patches over the State, when the old formula "eter-
nal vigilance" is neglected, a good deal of damage may be
done by these pests in a single night.
In the Everglades no appreciable damage is being done
by mealybugs or nematodes, and so far rodents have been
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Florida's Sugar Prospects
Most of the sugar produced in the United States is manu-
factured from sugar beets. Florida and Louisiana are the
only two states in this country producing commercial sugar
from sugarcane; the latter's annual production being six
times greater than that of this state.
Growing sugarcane in Florida differs greatly from Louis-
iana. Not only is the Everglades harvest season twice as long
as in Louisiana but the development of new types of cane is
giving Florida a harvest season three times as long.
Sugarcane is grown by one of two methods. It may be
propagated each season from "seed cane", or cuttings plant-
ed between August and December or in the spring from cut-
tings banked in the ground from the previous fall. Banking
of seed cane is not practiced in the Everglades. The method
of planting by cutting into pieces has been described. The
other method is to allow the roots to remain in the ground
after the cane has been cut at harvest. The roots put out
new shoots and bear additional crops over successive seasons.
These crops are known as "stubble" or "ratoon" crops. While
the tonnage of sugarcane per acre tends to decrease in the
"ratoon" crops, such decreases are offset by the improve-
ment in the sucrose content of the juices. In Louisiana two
"ratoon" crops are generally obtained and in some instances
three crops. Sugarcane in the Everglades is good for an
average of six "ratoon" crops from one planting.
With its abundant rainfall and ideal growing conditions,
including the extreme fertility of Everglades soil, this is
the only section in the country where sugarcane grows to
a frequent height of 20 feet and produces between 40 and 80
tons of cane an acre. Florida sugarcane can stand much
longer after it reaches maturity than in other sections of
the country with small chances of damage by frost. This
means a relatively higher sugar content.
Fellsmere Sugar Refinery the sweetest place in Florida
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 41
Because of these many advantages, the cost of Florida
sugar production is lower than in almost any other area of
the world where sugar is produced from cane. For the sea-
son 1929-30, which was considerably before the latest de-
velopments of Everglades sugar production, the U. S. Tariff
Commission gave out the following figures representing the
average cost of production of raw sugar per pound in various
Louisiana .................................. 4.813 cents
Hawaii ...................... .............. 3.005 cents
Porto Rico .................................2.856 cents
Philippine Islands ....................2.466 cents
FLORIDA ................................ 2.556 cents
The above costs included the cost of delivering the raw
sugar to a refinery. It should be noted that while the cost of
sugar production in Florida is negligibly higher than in the
Philippine Islands, plantation laborers in the islands receive
from 13 to 29 cents a day while the wages of the Everglades
workers are equal to or higher than those of farm laborers
anywhere in the United States. Since the publication of the
above cost figures, Florida's cost of production has been re-
duced to as low as 2.0343 cents per pound of raw sugar. The
average cost for the last three (3) crop years has been less
than 2.10 cents per pound.
As before stated, with the almost unlimited acreage of
rich Everglades soil, ideal for the production of sugar, a
sufficient quantity could be produced to nearly supply the
entire country with this product. However, not only is
Florida restricted in the production of sugar but the entire
country, under Federal control, is allowed to produce only
about 29';* of its consumption. In 1934 Congress set up
quota percentages for Florida, Louisiana and other states.
Importation of sugar from Cuba, Porto Rico, Philippine Is-
lands, and Hawaii supplies the balance of sugar consumed
in this country and is responsible for these restrictions.
FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
Florida growers feel that a modification of the quota
restrictions would not only bring a new era of prosperity
to the Everglades, but to the whole State. According to
Clarence R. Bitting, President of the United States Sugar
Corporation, if Florida were permitted to expand her sugar
industry along conservative lines, it would mean a yearly
increase of about $2,500,000 in payrolls for the next 10
years, so that by the end of this period the sugar industry
of the Everglades would have an annual payroll of approxi-
With conditions in Florida for the production of com-
mercial sugar from sugarcane ideal as in no other section
of the country, there is no reason to believe that Florida will
not one day take her place among the great cane-growing,
sugar-producing areas of the world. With the experimenta-
tion and improvement in this field, the byproducts that
may be evolved should bring many new developments and
The production of sugar in Florida has stepped out of
the experimental stage and has become one of the State's
permanent and most promising businesses.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Growing Sugarcane for Syrup
Florida's sugarcane acreage harvested for syrup has re-
mained fairly constant over a period of years. From 1928
to 1932 a yearly average of 10,000 acres of cane was planted
for this purpose. This increased in 1936 to 13,000 acres. In
1936 Florida produced 2,145,000 gallons of cane syrup with
a value of $815,000; ranking fifth among the sugarcane-
syrup producing states. For the 10-year period, 1923-32, the
State's average production of syrup per acre was 163 gallons,
which figure was higher than that of any state with the ex-
ception of Louisiana.
Although the production of sugarcane for syrup is a
minor industry in Florida, confined chiefly to small farm
units, there is a worthwhile need for growing this product on
many more of our farms. It is the first duty of any farm-
especially the general farm-to feed the people and domest-
tic animals living on that farm. Sugarcane contributes di-
rectly to this end. Only a very small patch of it will produce
enough syrup for the average family, and frequently will
give a surplus to be sold for cash. On almost all farms there
is some land which can be grown to sugarcane, even though
it may not be ideal for this crop.
For best growth sugarcane requires a high mean temper-
ature with a heavy rainfall. A temperature gradually cool-
ing from summer heat, accompanied by dry weather, is best
for the maturing process. This increases the sugar content.
Heavy rains at the time of maturity may be detrimental to
sugar formation. Low temperatures and frost are injurious.
Heavy frosts make the cane unfit for both syrup and sugar.
The wide variety of soils on which sugarcane is to be
found growing in Florida is evidence that the crop is not con-
fined to just one type. Some of the lighter lands lack suffi-
44 FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
cient fertility and require liberal applications of commercial
fertilizer to produce good crops. However, frequently the
most desirable and best-flavored syrup is made on the poor-
er, lighter soils.
The sandy loams are considered favorable for producing
a superior quality of sugarcane syrup, better in color, clear-
ness and flavor than that grown on heavier lands. This is
probably because cane on the lighter lands comes nearer ma-
turing in a growing season, and consequently has more ma-
ture joints on each stalk with a better grade of syrup re-
A rich loamy surface soil underlaid by clay at about 12
or 14 inches, or even two feet, is excellent for sugarcane, pro-
vided it is not too high and dry or too low and wet. In the lat-
ter case drainage would remove the disadvantages. But it is
seldom possible, easy or practicable to irrigate the higher
lands. Hammock or reasonably high pine sandy loams are
ordinarily regarded as suitable for growing sugarcane.
The muck soils, of which there are thousands of acres in
Florida, are capable of producing heavy crops of cane. Some
of this land is already producing good yields, while large
areas need only to be cleared and made ready for planting,
although some of it must be first drained for best results.
These muck lands have a great abundance of nitrogen, but
frequently they are improved by the addition of mineral
matter. Applications of phosphoric acid and potash are often
made. However, yields of more than 50 tons an acre have
been reported from muck soils even without the use of either
of these fertilizers. An application of from 50 to 75 pounds
of copper sulphate an acre has been found essential for good
crops on raw muck or peat.
"Peat soils, provided they have a high percentage of min-
eral matter and are well drained, will produce large yields of
cane, and with a long, favorable season, as in southern Flor-
ida, the cane will contain satisfactory percentages of sugar.
It is questionable, however, whether peat soils that contain a
very low percentage of mineral matter, and that are, there-
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
fore, deficient in natural plant food, can be used successfully
for sugarcane culture even if well drained. One disadvantage
of any peat land is that it affords such poor anchorage for the
roots that the cane lodges easily and gives a tangled mass of
stalks instead of erect rows. Compared with other soils, heat
radiation from the black peat is rapid, and during cold, clear
nights in winter this results in lower temperatures and great-
er injury to the cane. In Georgia, it is commonly reported
that rich, dark soils along the edges of swamps, while pro-
ducing high yields of cane, exert a deleterious effect upon the
color, clearness, and flavor of syrup made therefrom. Such
soils are not generally used, the growers preferring the light-
er-colored loamy upland soils." (Circular No. 284, U. S. D. A.,
It is usually advisable for the farmer to select his best
available land for growing sugarcane.
PLANT FOOD REQUIREMENTS
Sugarcane requires fertilizers rich in nitrogen. Where
crops have been grown for several years the nitrogen supply
usually is low or depleted. Phosphoric acid and potash are
also required and should be applied to the average soil. Since
this crop makes a heavy growth it must have liberal amounts
of available plant food. The richer the soil in organic matter
the less likely it will need heavy applications of commercial
fertilizers. The usual application on sandy loam soil should
be from 500 to 1,200 pounds an acre. This should analyze
about four percent of nitrogen, eight percent of phosphoric
acid and four percent of potash.
Frequently commercial fertilizer is applied in two appli-
cations; the first at or just before planting time, in order to
give the young plants a vigorous start, and the second as a
side dressing near the end of the cultivating season. If rain-
fall has been ample and the cane does not show reasonable
growth, a top dressing of about 200 pounds of nitrate of
soda in August or early in September usually will prove a
46 FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
Stable manure stimulates growth and increases produc-
tion, but tends to produce a darker-colored syrup. However,
heavy applications of manure are often made by the best
farmers and its liberal use is generally recommended on any
but muck soils.
As a general rule it may be said that sandy soils, of
which Florida has an abundance, require liberal additions of
organic matter for sugarcane. This can be provided in many
ways; by growing cover crops on the land before planting
sugarcane on it, or by applying stable manure, cottonseed
meal, humus, tankage, pomace, dried blood, etc. Applying
cottonseed meal as a direct fertilizer is wasteful, for by feed-
ing it to cattle and applying the manure as a fertilizer, a
feeding value is realized. The manure retains a large per-
centage of the fertilizer nutrients in the meal before con-
sumed by the cattle in milk or meat production.
The farmer has certain standards of quality to demand of
the variety of sugarcane he grows for syrup. Early matur-
ity is of first importance, particularly in the northern part of
the State where early frost is a concern. Every farmer
wants a high tonnage and at the same time cane which pro-
duces a high content of juice. The juice should analyze well
in solids, mainly sugar. A light-colored stalk which does not
impart a dark color to the syrup is preferred, other things
Since disease is a factor to be considered, varieties that
show resistance in this respect, both during growth and also
while the seed stalks are in winter storage, are particularly
desirable. Good germinating and stooling habits are also
desired, whether the cane is planted in spring or fall.
There are numerous varieties of sugarcane. Practically
all of them possess some of the above qualities, and those
possessing the greatest number in the greatest degree are
the most valuable. Varieties are identified mainly by size,
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 47
height and especially by the color of the stem, which may be
green, yellow, red, purple or variously striped.
Some authorities classify sugarcahe into two main
1. The genuine sugarcane with rather large, colored
stems, the rind of which is not very thick, and with broad,
somewhat harsh leaves which strip easily from the stalks.
2. The Japanese group of canes which have relatively
slender stalks with thick, hard rinds and narrow, less harsh
leaves which do not strip easily.
Red, or commonly called Purple sugarcane, Red Ribbon,
Green, Green Ribbon and Japanese are some of the most
generally planted and popular older varieties in Florida. Red
or Purple cane is probably the most popular and most fre-
quently grown variety for syrup. Red Ribbon, Green and
Green Ribbon are varieties of considerable importance. The
green canes produce a syrup lighter in color than the red or
purple canes. Green cane is soft and popular for chewing.
A variety, introduced by the United States Department
of Agriculture, is known as Cayana-10. This cane possesses
many of the best qualities of some of the older established
ones, and in addition has shown a high resistance to mosaic
disease which makes it desirable in many areas.
Japanese sugarcane is grown chiefly as a forage crop for
cattle, but also to some extent for syrup. This cane has cer-
tain disadvantages, as a syrup cane, in that the stalks are
smaller and harder than the regular sugarcane varieties and
the leaves are not so easily stripped from the stalks. The
stalks, being slender and hard, require more than the usual
force to extract the juice. The juice yield is also lower than
from the softer varieties. It has shown a rather high de-
gree of resistance to some of the more common diseases, and
because of this fact it is grown somewhat for syrup produc-
tion. Japanese cane is very hardy and is more drought re-
sistant than the red or green canes.
FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
In the United States sugarcane rarely goes to seed except
in the southern part of Florida. Even in that area viable
seeds are so seldom produced and themselves produce such
poor cane that other methods are used for propagation.
Practical propagation is by planting the stripped stalks.
Healthy, vigorous canes are best. At each node the stalks
have buds or eyes from which the new plants grow. Roots
push out around the old stalks immediately below the buds.
As has been explained, in southern Florida where the
climate is mild, a crop is usually grown for a number of sea-
sons from the rootstocks which are left in the ground after
the crop is harvested. Such crops are sometimes grown on
northern Florida farms, though they are not so common as
in more southern localities.
Stalks to be used for seed cane should be allowed to grow
as late in the fall as cold weather will permit, so as to be as
mature as possible. The plant matures faster and better as
the season advances. Eight or nine months' growth pro-
duces buds sufficiently mature and strong to give good
stands. In some cases in southern Florida these seed stalks
can be planted in the fall directly in the field where they are
to sprout and grow into a new cane crop.
SAVING SUGARCANE FOR SEED
Stalks for planting must be protected from frosts and
freezes, and from drying out. This is done by banking, bed-
ding or windrowing; an operation of burying the canes in
beds or trenches and covering with trash or soil or both.
This should be done before frost. The buds are very sensi-
tive to a light freeze and may be injured even though the
cane is not damaged materially for syrup or sugar purposes.
Late October or early November is the customary time in
northern Florida to cut and bed sugarcane for seed, while a
month or six weeks later is time enough in central and
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 49
The seed canes should be cut and bedded while still moist.
Drying out reduces their value for seed purposes. The leaves
should be left on the stalks so as to protect the buds and to
prevent drying out. In bedding the cane, place the base of
each stalk on the ground, then lay the stalk on those already
in place, as shingles on a house. As soon as the seed canes
have been placed in the bed, cover with three or four inches
of moist earth. Let this remain until the following spring
when it may be removed at planting time. The beds are usu-
ally made eight or 10 feet wide for convenience and as long
as the amount of cane requires.
It is not safe to locate the seedbed where water is likely
to stand during wet weather, nor should it be placed on very
high and dry land. Even though a suitable site is found for
the bed and other conditions are ideal, it is safe to count on
some of the seed stalks or seed eyes decaying or drying out
before planting time. The wise farmer beds as much as 25
percent more cane than needed for planting.
The amount of seed cane necessary to plant an acre is
frequently asked. With rows five feet apart, there would be
42 rows, each 210 feet long, to an acre. This would require
8,820 feet of cane placed end on end. If it is assumed that
each stalk would be four feet long, it would require 2,205
stalks an acre. Should it be desirable to plant more thickly
or thinly, the number of canes would necessarily be increased
or decreased. Or, if the distance between the rows should be
altered, simple calculation will give the change in quantity
Some farmers bed their seed stalks with the roots at-
tached, since the lower joints usually have better matured
buds, and many think that the roots help to preserve the
stalks. The only advantage to this is that less moisture
evaporates than would if the stalks were cut off above the
roots, thus exposing the tissue to the air. A serious objec-
tion to the bedding of rootstocks for seed purposes is the
possibility of spreading diseases and insect pests from one
field to another.
FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
PREPARING THE SOIL
The best soil can hardly be regarded as an asset unless
it is properly prepared and cultivated. Even if the land is
new all stumps and roots should be removed before the crops
are planted. Though only a single-horse plow is used for
cultivation, there is no valid reason why stumps should be
left in the field, at the most longer that the first year or
two after clearing.
Sugarcane being a ravenous feeder, the land must be
broken as deeply as consistent with good practice. Broad-
cast slightly deeper than the land was broken the year be-
fore, in the case of old land. In breaking new land, do not
turn up more than an inch or two of subsoil, if any. Every
inch of the land should be broken completely. Sugarcane
roots grow wide and deep; aid their growth by giving them
a well pulverized soil.
Soil so prepared is also a great aid in case of dry weather.
Land broken only a few inches deep, or in a here-and-there
fashion, will dry out much more quickly. The better the
job the better the soil will hold a water supply. It must also
be borne in mind that a good seedbed is perhaps the most
essential requirement in the growing of any crop.
PLANTING THE CANE
Sugarcane may be planted in Florida either in fall or
spring, the location largely determining the time. Where
there is little frost the crop may be planted in fall with fair
expectation of success. However, spring planting is most
common in Florida, except in the southern areas. Fall plant-
ing may be done as late in the season as frost will permit.
Planting in spring is usually completed by the middle of
March and frequently earlier.
The seed stalks should be stripped of their leaves, chiefly
to avoid planting stalks infected with red rot or possessing
dead buds. It is necessary to inspect the stalks particularly
the eyes, as they are stripped. If the rootstocks are planted,
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 51
thoroughly inspect them to make sure they are not infested
with root rot. This is a serious trouble in certain vicinities
and may be easily transferred to clean fields.
Space between rows varies from four to six feet, accord-
ing to locality and richness of the soil. The better the land,
the wider should be the rows, for under such conditions more
suckers sprout (stooling) and more tonnage is produced.
Planting furrows are usually about six inches deep; however,
on dry land they should be deeper. Unless the soil is either
wet or dry, it is customary not to bed the land but merely
to lay off the planting furrows in level, broadcasted land.
The furrows are opened and the seed stalks are distributed in
them end-to-end. After this, the furrows are turned from
both sides to cover the stalks with about three or four inches
of soil. If the land is very good, the quantity of stalks
planted may be increased; if it is poor, the quantity de-
creased. Some farmers claim they secure better stands by
cutting the seed stalks into pieces from 18 to 24 inches long.
Sound, healthy buds will start to grow as soon as the
soil warms up in spring. Thus the cane should be planted
early; in northern Florida ordinarily as early as the first of
March. Seed cane which has been bedded should be planted
as soon as it has been taken from the banks so that the buds
will not dry out and die. Should it be necessary to transport
seed cane for some distance, exercise care that the stalks are
not exposed to the sun or to the air for any length of time;
keep them covered.
The first cultivation given sugarcane by many of the best
farmers is with a smoothing harrow or a shallow cultivator
run perpendicular to, or across the rows. This has two ad-
vantages: it removes part of the earth from over the seed
stalks, speeding the "coming up" of the sprouts, and it de-
stroys the first crop of weeds.
Subsequent cultivation is much the same as that given to
52 FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
cotton or corn, except that early cultivation should not throw
the earth around or close to the young plants. This retards
stooling, an essential to high yield. Because of the method
of early cultivation, it becomes necessary to use the hoe to
remove weeds, as well as to pull the earth from around the
young plants. The hoe is probably more important in the
culture of surgancane than with almost any other farm crop.
Late in the season the earth should be worked well up around
the base of the young plants.
All cultivation should be shallow, because the roots of the
plants are very numerous and grow extensively in all di-
Sugarcane is usually allowed to grow as late as possible in
the fall and is not harvested until just before or shortly after
the first light frost. In case freezing weather threatens be-
fore grinding has been completed, all cane in the field should
be cut, piled and covered up with any material which will
keep the stalks from freezing or frosting. Cutting down the
whole plants, windrowing them much as seed stalks are bed-
ded for winter and then covering them with a quantity of
leaves, bagasse or hay, will usually provide ample protection.
Juice in cane that has been exposed to a freezing tempera-
ture will ferment; thus injuring it for syrup.
Harvesting consists of stripping the leaves, topping, cut-
ting down the stalks, and hauling them to the mill. Strip-
ping is usually done with a hand implement designed after
the style of a corn knife. It may be a thin board worked to a
sharp edge, or it may be a special device made of two pieces
of thin steel about 15 inches long by one inch wide and 1-16
inch thick. These pieces are bent and flared at one end and
set far enough apart on a handle so that the steels will slip
over and fit around the cane stalk. The stripper removes the
leaves with a simple downward stroke. This tool has been
found to be very useful by many farmers.
The tops are cut off with a sharp knife. The stalks are
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 53
then cut down and thrown into piles for loading. At the mill
they are passed between powerful steel rolls which extract
the juice. The juice in turn is passed to the boiler or cooking
Mills of various makes are in use. These are similar in
design but they vary in capacity. The vertical horse-power
mill has a capacity of from 25 to 75 gallons of juice an hour.
Heavier mills, operated by steam or gasoline power, have a
capacity of from 150 to 500 gallons an hour. The capacity
of a large syrup factory, however, is much greater.
To save labor and for convenience, a mill should be lo-
cated on a slope. This makes it easy to unload the cane from
the wagon to the platform. It also gives opportunity to lo-
cate the collecting vats on the lower side of the mill, so that
no pumping or lifting is necessary to take the juice from the
mill to the evaporating pan or kettle.
COOKING THE JUICE
Cooking primarily is the evaporation of most of the water
content of the juice and the destruction or organisms which
might cause souring or decomposition. Certain chemical
changes also take place. Cooking is usually done in a round-
bottomed kettle or flat-bottomed evaporator over a fire di-
rected immediately against the juice container. As juice
boils, impurities rise to the top and are removed as skim-
mings. The cooking is continued until the right degree of
thickness is reached, when the fire is removed and the syrup
is allowed to cool slowly. As it is dipped out it is strained
through a fine cloth to remove remaining waste or foreign
matter. The syrup should be put in tightly sealed cans,
bottles, jars or barrels as soon as possible and while it is still
hot. It takes about seven and a half gallons of juice to make
one gallon of syrup.
To know when to stop cooking, the "old time" farmer
studies the color and odor of the cooking juice. He dips his
skimmer in the hot juice, raises it high over the boiler and
watches the drop of the liquid. When it no longer falls in
FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
round watery drops, but flakes out properly into long thin
strips, he knows the syrup is about ready.
The modern and more accurate method is to use a Baume
syrup hydrometer. The density of the syrup is determined
by floating the instrument in a tall cylinder filled with the
liquid. Cooking should cease with a reading of 33 degrees
(Baume). Cold syrup should show a reading of 38 degrees.
Hot syrup weighs 11V4 pounds to the gallon. Cold syrup
weighs, commercially, 12 pounds to the gallon.
While the main portion of the small farm's syrup is for
home consumption, in most cases a surplus is available for
sale on the local market. Occasionally a farmer who makes
especially good syrup puts his surplus in sealed cans, attrac-
tively labels them, and places the product on the market as
a specialty. Where the surplus is great or the quality not so
good, it is customarily stored in barrels and sold wholesale
to merchants or through commission houses. The price paid
for such syrup is usually from 20 to 40 cents a gallon. How-
ever, a fine quality syrup that has a desirable flavor, put up
in attractive cans, usually brings considerably more.
Farmers frequently have trouble with syrup in storage.
It may either ferment or crystalize. Certain precautions
will go far to prevent such troubles.
Cook the syrup careful with an even degree of heat in
the furnace. Cook to the right stage of density. Do not
Sterilize syrup containers. Plenty of hot water should be
used. Unless the containers are sterilized, fermentation is
likely to result.
Store the syrup in a cool place. Do not handle or agitate
more than necessary.
Yields: Yields of sugarcane vary considerably, depend-
ing on soil, climate, weather, and attention in culture. From
7 to 12 tons an acre is fair on the lighter uplands and from
15 to 35 tons and better on the heavier muck soils. Twenty
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 55
tons of cane, stripped and topped, should reasonably be ex-
pected to produce 400 gallons of syrup. An important factor
in the yield of juice from the cane is the type of grinding
mill. Because of the efficiency of the equipment, usually the
larger the mill the higher the percentage of juice extracted.
Small mills of the type commonly found on small farms
remove only about 50 or 55 percent of the weight of the cane
in juice. Larger mills may extract 80 percent or more.
The syrup yield per acre depends not only upon the
tonnage of cane and the amount of juice extracted, but also
upon the sucrose content of the juice.
FLORIDA'S SUGAR BOWL
Description of the Commerce of East Florida, Luis Fatio;
Havana, Nov. 17, 1790 (The Florida State Historical Society,
Lib. No. 975.9W).
The Spanish Settlements Within the Present Limits of the
United States, Woodbury Lowery.
Pedro Menendez de Aviles, Jeanette Thurber Connor (The
Florida State Historical Society).
Some Notes on the Transfer by Spain of Plants and Animals
to Its Colonies Overseas, James A. Robertson (James Sprunt
Bulletin No. 53, Florida Department of Agriculture, Talla-
Circular No. 284, United States Department of Agriculture,
Washington, D. C.
Farmer's Bulletin No. 1034, United States Department of
Agriculture, Washington, D. C.
Condensed Proceedings of the Florida Chemurgic Confer-
ence, Gainesville, Fla., Feb. 20, 1937. File No. 57.
The Florida Planter, (periodical) Nov., 1919, Ft. Myers, Fla.
Sugar in the Everglades, United States Sugar Corp., Clewis-
F. W. Heiser, Gen. Mgr., Fellsmere Sugar Producers Asso-
ciation, Fellsmere, Fla.
Special Questionnaire, United States Sugar Corp., Clewis-
B. A. Bourne. Breeding and Performance of Some New Sub-
Tropical Canes. Facts about Sugar 348: 21-27, ill. 1939.
B. A. Bourne. Studies on the Ring Spot Disease of Sugar
Cane. Florida Agricultural Experiment Station. Bul. 267:
1-76, illus. 1934.