BULLETIN NO. 53 NEW SERIES OCTOBER, 1960
SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
STATE OF FLORIDA
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
NATHAN MAYO, Commissioner
,-u- -n- .,-,)-- -- -.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Nathan Mayo, Commissioner of Agriculture..........................Tallahasse
Early History in Florida ...................................................... 5
Member of Grass Family....... ........... .. .... . 6
Climatic Requirements ........ ................................ ... ....................... 6
Soil Requirements .. ................ ..... .... ................ ................. 7
Plant Food Requirements .............................8................ 8
V a rieties ..... ............. ... ......... ......... ........... .........9.............. ... .... 9
Propagation ............. ............ ... ................. ....... . 11
Saving Sugarcane for Seed ......... .......................... ... ........... 13
Preparing the Soil ........................... .................. ........... ................. 15
P lan tin g th e C ane................ ................................................................ ......... 17
C u ltiv a tio n .......... ........................... .................. ..... .............................. 1 8
H arvesting .. ...... ......................................... ............ ... ....... .......... ..19
Cooking the Juice .................................................... ........................ 22
Yields of Juice and Syrup .................... ......... 24
D diseases ............................................ ..... ............. .. . .. .. ................... 25
In s e c ts ...... ... ...... ..... ................. .............. ..... ..... ... ..... .... ... ..... ... . .. 2 6
Everglade Developments ..........................................................27
Acknowledgments ... .. .. ..... ............. .................................... 28
Growing Sugarcane for Syrup
BY RALPH STOUTAMIRE
SUGARCANE is a staple crop in Florida. Until quite
recently it has been grown here almost exclusively for
syrup production, and in the main it has been grown in
small "patches," often of less than an acre to the farm.
However, within the past few years extensive develop-
ments have been underway in parts of the Everglades
where considerable acreage of sugarcane is now being
grown for sugar. Everglade land is very rich in organic
matter and nitrogen and when it is drained and properly
managed it produces a heavy tonnage.
Although the acreage of sugarcane for syrup is small
in Florida, there is a worthwhile need for some to be
grown on many of our farms. It is the first duty of any
farm-especially the general farm-to feed the people and
domestic animals living on that farm. Sugarcane contrib-
utes directly to this end. Only a very small patch of it will
produce enough syrup for the average family, and fre-
quently 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.
4 GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
This bulletin is for just this purpose-to discuss the
growing of sugarcane on the small or average farm for
syrup manufacture. Since the large sugar producers
maintain their own research staffs, which enables them to
know as much, or more perhaps, about the sugarcane
and its culture as many state governments, this phase of
sugarcane growing will not be discussed in this bulletin.
I-g'i. I. Footprints of the sui:rcr:ite industry in Florida during r:arly colonian
days. At left picture of smoke (clck still st;nrdingi of old furnace at Port Or;ngze.
near New Smyrn;. Ulppe right is view of rld kettle positions r(malinig :it Del ron
Spriinrigs nenr IDetIlid. Note tIhe growthh of tri .e. Lower right shows crusher rollers
and part of l111 mnacihin tir: (rstemn-driven) of tlc- old Port Orange mill which. it is
200 years. Indian and Spanish slave labor manned it and thi 400 nere:- of s::gai
ceant fields adjoining, it.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
EARLY HISTORY IN FLORIDA
Sugarcane is grown in all the warm regions of the
world. Its original habitat is not definitely known, but it
is thought to be southern Asia or some of the islands
south of that continent. It probably was introduced into
North America at or near New Orleans by Jesuit fathers
about 1750, though there are stories to the effect that it
was grown in various parts of this country as early as
1650. Louisiana still is America's largest sugarcane-grow-
ing state, both for syrup and for sugar.
This plant was brought to Florida, it is thought, soon
after its introduction into Louisiana, and since that time
has maintained some importance among the staple crops
of the Florida farmer.
Easily identified ruins of old cane mills and syrup vats
are to be found in a number of localities in this state.
Notable among these are those at Port Orange near New
Smyrna and at DeLeon Springs near DeLand. These would
indicate that at some time during the early colonial period
sugarcane culture and sugar manufacture by crude methods
were of major importance in Florida. As these old mills
are to found in or near great hammock swamps, it is evident
the early settler knew the type of land most suitable for
growing sugarcane. No one seems able to give any very
definite facts concerning these old establishments. Pre-
sumably slave and captive Indian labor was utilized by
enterprising adventurers. Also sugar must have com-
manded high prices in those days, for otherwise ventures
of this scope certainly would not have been profitable. The
apparent gcod prices in those days were probably due to
the fact that syrup was then the only known source of sugar.
6 GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
One must see, therefore, that Florida has been regarded
as something of a "sugar bowl" in other ages than the
MEMBER OF GRASS FAMILY
Sugarcane, like corn and many other common cultivated
plants, is a member of the large grass family. The plant
usually consists of a number of stalks growing together in
a large clump or cluster. The stalks vary in heights, but
usually range from 7 to 12 feet on good land.
The stem is jointed and the internodes or spaces between
the nodes are of varying lengths, being shorter near the
ground and increasing in length as the top of the plant is
approached. The leaves are attached at the nodes and are
somewhat similar to those of corn.- With each node is
associated a stem bud or eye, and it is from these buds that
new stalks arise when the seed canes are planted. The buds
are protected by the sheath of the leaf which folds around
the stem and prevents injury to the bud.
In tropical countries one planting may afford two, three
cr even more harvests, the stubble remaining alive from
season to season. This may hold true in southern Florida,
but in the northern part of the state the stubble may be
injured by cold and growing a second crop from one plant-
ing is not common.
Sugarcane is essentially a tropical plant and for best
growth it requires a high mean temperature with a heavy
rainfall. A temperature gradually cooling from summer
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 7
heat, accompanied by dry weather, is best for the maturing
proce:s. This increases the sugar content. Heavy rains
at the time of maturity may be detrimental to sugar forma-
tion. Low temperatures and frosts 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
confined to just one type of soil. Some of the lighter
lands lack sufficient 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 poorer, lighter soils.
The sandy loam soils are considered favorable for pro-
ducing a superior quality of sugarcane syrup, better in
color, clearness and flavor than that grown on heavier
lands. This is probably due to the fact that cane on the
lighter lands comes nearer maturing in a growing season
and consequently has more mature joints on each stalk
with a better grade of syrup resulting therefrom.
A rich loamy surface soil underlaid at about 12 or 14
inches, or even two feet, by clay is excellent for sugar-
cane, if it is not high and dry or too low and wet. In
the latter case drainage would remove the disadvantage,
but it ir seldom possible, easy or practical to irrigate the
higher land. Hammock or reasonably high pine sand:.
loams are ordinarily regarded as suitable for growing
The muck soils of which there are thousands of acres
in various parts of Florida, are capable of producing heavy
crops of cane. Some of this land is already producing
good yields, while large bodies of it need only to be cleared
and made ready for planting. Some of it has first to be
drained for best results. These muck lands have a great
abundance of nitrogen, but often they are improved by the
addition of mineral matter. Applications of phosphoric
GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
1.. .. L
Fig. 2. Bedding sugarcane stalks for rlnnting purposes. Buried with the leaves
nnd covered with n few inches of earth, the stalks are safe from the low temperatures
common to this state.
acid and potash are often made. However, yields of more
than 50 t-lns per acre have been reported from muck soils
even without the use of either of these fertilizers. An appli-
cation of from 50 to 75 pounds of copper sulphate per acre
has been found essential for good crops on raw muck or peat.
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 the
crop has been grown for several years the nitrogen supply
usually is low or depicted. Phosphoric acid and potash
are al:o required and should be applied to the average
soil where sugarcane is grown. Since this crop make a
heavy growth it must have liberal amounts of available
plant fcod. The richer the soil in organic matter the less
likely it will need heavy applications of commercial fer-
tilizers. The usual application on sandy loam soil should be
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
from 500 to 1,200 pounds per acre. This should analyze
about 4 percent of nitrogen, 8 percent of phosphoric acid
and 4 percent of potash.
Frequently commercial fertilizer is applied in two appli-
cations. The. first of these is applied at or just before plant-
ing time in order that the young plants will grow off much
more vigorously. The second application is applied as a
side dressing near the end of the cultivating season. If
rainfall has been ample and the cane does not show reason-
able growth, a top dressing of about 200 pounds of nitrate
of scda in August or early in September usually will prove
a good investment.
Stable manure usually stimulates growth and increases
production. But it tends to produce a darker colored syrup.
Notwithstanding this disadvantage, 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 or-
ganic 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 to cattle and applying the manure as a fertilizer a feed-
ing value is realized from the meal. The manure contains
a large percentage of the fertilizer nutrients that were
present in the meal before the cattle consumed it for milk
or meat production.
The farmer has certain standards of quality to demand
of the variety of sugarcane he grows for syrup or for
sugar. Early maturity is of first importance, particularly
in the northern part of the state where early-winter frost
is a concern. Every farmer wants high-tonnage, and at
CROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
the same time cane which produces a high percentage of
juice. The juice should analyze high in solids, mainly
sugar. A light colored stalk which does not impart a
dark color to the syrup is preferred, other things being
Since disease is a factor to be considered, varieties that
show resistance to disease, both during growth and also
while the seed stalks are in winter storage, are of immense
importance. Good germinating and stooling habits are
desired whether the plant is spring- or fall-planted.
There are numerous varieties of sugarcane. Some-if
not all of them-possess some of the qualities just enum-
erated, and those possessing the greatest number in the
Fig. 3. Everglades land ready for sugarcane stalks to b- dropped in the furrows.
At the right cane is still bcing harvested. (U. S. 1). A. photo.)
greatest degree are the most valuable. Varieties are
identified mainly by size, height and especially by the color
of the stem, which may be green, yellow, red, purple or
Some authorities classify the sugarcane into two main
groups. These are:
1. The genuine sugarcane with rather large, colored
stems, the rind of which is not very thick, and with broad,
rather harsh leaves which strip easily from the stalk.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
2. The Japanese group of cane 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 old varieties grown in
Florida. Red or Purple is probably the most popular and
most generally grown variety, especially for syrup. Red
Ribbon, Green and Green Ribbon are varieties of consider-
able importance. The green canes produce a syrup lighter
in color than that from the red and purple canes. This is
attributed to the presence of less coloring matter than is
found in the darker colored canes. Green cane is soft and
most popular for chewing.
A variety that was introduced by the United States De-
partment 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 it has shown a higher re-
sistance to mosaic, which makes it popular in many areas.
Japanese sugarcane is grown occasionally as a forage
crop for cattle. It is grown to some extent for syrup. This
cane has certain disadvantages, as a syrup cane, in that
the stalks are smaller and harder than the regular sugar-
cane varieties, and the leaves are not 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 degree of resistance to some of the more com-
mon diseases, and because of this fact it is frequently grown
for syrup production. Japanese cane is very hardy and is
more drought resistant than the red or green canes.
In the United States sugarcane seldom produces flowers
except in the southern part of Florida. Even in that area
12 GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
viable seed are so seldom produced and themselves produce
such poor cane that other methods are used to propagate the
crop. The seed are small and often germinate very poorly.
Practical propagation is by planting the stripped stalks.
Healthy vigorous canes are best for this purpose. At each
ncde the stalks have buds or eyes from which the new
plants grow. Roots push out around the old stalks imme-
diately below the buds.
In southern Flor:da where the climate is mild a crop is
often grown for two or maybe three seasonss from the root-
stocks which are left in the ground after the crop is har-
vested in fall or winter. Whe: the rootstocks remain alive
during winter, the following spring they may send forth
Fig. 4. Sutarcnne talks already dropped into the painting fNrrown now ready
to be covered. Not" how the stalks overhip. (U. S. D. A. pholo.)
sprouts, called ratoons, from the buds. From these are
developed a so-called stubble or ratoon crop. This ratoon
crop is sometimes grown on northern Florida farms, though
it is not as common as in more southern localities.
Stalks to be used for seed cane should be allowed to grow
mature as possible. The plant matures faster and better as
matur as possible. The plant matures faster and better as
the season advances. Eight or nine months' growth pro-
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 13
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
In the northern part of the state stalks for planting
must be protected from frost and freezes. This is done by
banking, bedding 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 sensitive to 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 cus-
tomary time in the northern part of the state to cut and bed
sugarcane for seed, while a month or six weeks later is time
enough in central and southern counties.
The seed canes should be cut and bedded while still moist.
Drying out reduces their value for seed purposes. The more
moisture in the cane when they are bedded the better. 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 the 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 over the canes
until the following spring, when it may be removed at plant-
time. The beds are usually made 8 or 10 feet wide for con-
venience and as long as the amount of cane requires.( See
It is not safe to locate the seedbed where water is likely
to stand during wet weather, nor should it be located on
very high and dry land. Even though a suitable location
is found for the bed and other conditions are ideal, it is
safe to assume ,ome of the seed stalks or seed eyes will
14 GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
usually decay or dry out before planting time. The wise
farmer beds as much as 25 percent more canes than needed
for planting the next spring patch, in order to offset those
which are likely to decay or dry out.
What quantity of seed cane to save or, rather, the amount
of cane necessary to plant an acre is a question frequently
asked. With rows 5 feet apart, there would be 42 rows,
each 210 feet long, to an acre. This would require 8,820
feet of canes, placed end to end. If it is assumed that each
stalk would be 4 feet long, it would require 2,205 stalks per
acre. Should it be desirable to plant thicker or thinner, the
number of canes would necessarily be increased or de-
creased. Or if the rows are to be closer together or wider
apart, simple calcaluation will give the change in quantity
of seed to secure.
Fiw. 3. Two viewsr of young sugareane. Lower view is of very young c-ne
drul:nr. fL !rry vvvre dci rht. Notv thC e.CCllont. cleanr. shicilow cu'tiviacL.w'. Ph-io
t'_n oil Iar-ri Pf NN. IL 110b, n si Flamhunic in Nstrttir Couint:t
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 15
Some farmers bed seed stalks with the roots attached,
since the lower joints usually have mere well-matured buds,
and some of them think that the presence of the roots helps
to preserve the stalks. The only advantage of banking the
canes with their roots attached is that less moisture evap-
orates than would if he stalks were cut off above the roots,
, which would expose the tissue to the air. A serious objec-
tion to bedding of rootstocks for seed purposes is the possi-
bility of spreading diseases and insect pests from one field
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 crops
are planted. Though only a single-horse plow is the means
Vig. 6. Suwtarcane near Oc 'i: in Marion County. The fran' rows hive 1een
striplcd. The farmer holds in his hand :a simple trippintz implet-enl. (Photo by
tu.,rt iy of S. A. .. Railway.)
16 GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
of cultivation, there is no valid reason why stumps should
be left in the land, at least longer than the first year or two
Sugarcane, being a ravenous feeder, the land must be
broken as deeply as consistent with good agricultural prac-
tices. Broadcast slightly deeper than the land was broken
the year before, in case of old land. In breaking new land,
do not turn up more than an inch or two of subsoil, if any.
And the land should be broken completely. Break every
inch. Sugarcane roots grow wide and deep; aid their
growth by giving them a well pulverized soil.
Fi;. r. A ftr s ripl intr com -s tonmin; Then tlic stulks I.e c it down., som-
tim.es. tld. .ndt then hauled to the mill.
Moreover a soil so prepared is a great aid in case of dry
weather. Land broken only a few inches deep or in a hit-
and-miss, here-and-there manner, will dry out much quicker
than that broken deep, evenly and well. The better the job
the better soil will hold the water supply for the use of the
crop, and bear in mind that a good reedbed is perhaps the
,most essential requirement in the growing of any crop.
Without it the farmer faces a serious and unnece-sary
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 17
PLANTING THE CANE
Sugarcane may be planted in Florida in either 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 most southern areas.
Fall planting may be done as late in the season as it is safe
against frost. Planting in the spring is usually completed
by the middle of March, and frequently earlier.
The seed stalks should be stripped of their leaves, mainly
to avoid planting stalks infected with red dot or possessing
dead buds. It is necessary to inspect the stalk, particularly
the eyes, as they are stripped. If the rootstocks are planted,
thoroughly inspect them to make sure they are not infected
with root-knot. This is a serious sugarcane trouble in some
vicinities and may be easily transferred to clean fields by
planting infested rootstocks.
Space between rows varies from 4 to 6 feet, according to
locality and richness of the soil. The better the land, the
wider should be the rows; and under these conditions more
suckers sprout out (this is stooling) and more tonnage is
produced. Planting furrows are usually about 6 inches
deep; however, on dry land they should be deeper. It is
customary, unless the land is either wet or dry, not to bed
the land for sugarcane, but merely to lay off the planting
furrows in level, broadcast land. The furrows are opened
and the seed stalks are distributed end-to-end in them after
the furrows are turned from both sides to cover the stalks
with about 3 or 5 inches of soil. If the land is very good,
the quantity of stalks planted could be increased: if it is
p:cr, the quantity might be decreased. Some farmers claim
they secure better stands by cutting the planting stalks into
pieces from 18 to 24 inches long. This may increase the
stand; it surely increases labor costs.
18 GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
Sound, healthy buds will start to grow as soon as the soil
warms up in spring. Thus the cane ought to be planted
early, ordinarily as early as March 1 in northern Florida.
Seed cane' tht 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 long at a 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 which speeds the "coming up" of the young sprouts,
and it puts an end to the first crop of weeds of the year.
Subsequent cultivations are much the same as those given
to cotton or corn, except that early cultivation should not
throw the earth around or close to the young plants. This
retards stooling or suckering, an essential to high yield.
Late in the season the earth should be worked well up
around the base of the young plants. Because of this method
of early cultivation it becomes necessary to use the hoe to
remove weeds, as well as to pull the earth away from about
the base of the young plants. The hoe is probably more
important in the culture of sugarcane than of almost any
other farm crop.
All cultivation should be shallow, because the roots of the
plants are very numerous and grow extensively in all direc-
tions. Deep cultivation destroys or injures them and, thus,
hinders the growth of the plant.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 1
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 of the season. In case of freezing
l ;-. .
Fig. 8. Sugtreane h-rvesting tools. At left are two views of a hand stripper.
Center show's a topping knife. At right is hoe for cutting down stalks. (Halftone
by courtesy of Florida Agri. Ext. Service.)
weather threatens before 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 frost-
ing. Cutting down the whole plants, windrowing them
much as seed stalks are bedded for winter, and covering
....I : :
: : ~'~I$
GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
with a quantity of leaves, bagasse or hay will usually pro-
vide ample protection. Juice in cane that has been exposed
to a freezing temperature will ferment, and this injures it
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 implement made of
two pieces of thin steel about 15 inches long by 1 i"ih v.-i::'.
and 1/16 inch thick. These pieces are bent and flared at one
end and set far enoo1.h anpat an a lhfn:lle that the steels will
I-i'. 9i. An old-f:.shioned suga rc:ln mill, d'riwn by one or two horses. The
n 'Ict i:r ec fed in through thle slot in thc woofk'n facic. The juice runs down. IKvurs
in' th*, sl;nlliil .ri tluic.w;yi :at the bottom ;ind finally uIs noCts into corl.ni ners at
slip over and fit around a stalk of cane. The handle is
about 3 feet long. The stripper removes the cane leaves with
a single downward stroke of the implement. This tool has
been found very useful and practical by many farmers. (See
The tops are cut off with a sharp knife. Then the stalks
are cut down with a short-handled hoe and thrown into
piles from which they are later loaded into wagons or trucks
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 21
which carry them to the mill. At the mill they are passed
between powerful steel rollers which extract the juice. The
juice is in turn passed to the boiler or cooking kettle.
Mills of various makes are in use. These mills are simi-
lar in de. ign but vary in capacity according to the acreage
of cane grown. The vertical horse-power mill has a capacity
of 25 to 75 gallons of juice per hour. Heavier mills operated
Fi f. 1h. Cookersi of this tytp are common on the small (lrms throughout the
sugairene belt. though they are growing proportionately fewer. The' fire is on the
opposite sidle from the roller. the coukini kiLttI- or .it is in thi center, smoke stack
is onie ine.:'r s;ile. To tIhr ext cmre left is a trouvli for hohlinx .nyrup. The barrels
)y steam cr gasoline power have a capacity of from 125 to
500 gallons of juice per hour. In large syrup factories the
capacity of the mill is much greater.
Where one has four acres or less to grind, and there are
few general farmers who have more, the small one or two-
horse mill should handle the crop. But where there are
more than four acres, perhaps a more elaborate grinding
equipment should be provided. A gasoline engine may be
the most desirable and economical source of power for the
To save labor and for convenience, a mill should be
located on a slope. This makes it easy to unload the cane
22 GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
from the wagon to the platform. It also gives opportunity
to locate 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. Much labor is
involved in syrup making and much thought should be
directed to lighten the work. All necessary conveniences
should be carefully planned so there will be no delay or
unnecessary waste of time and labor.
I'f. 11. Cooking houwe and euiprcrt of n modern buszrcane cooking plant.
(1 S. A. photo.)
COOKING THE JUICE
Cooking primarily is the driving out of most of the water
content of the juice and the destroying of any organisms
which might cause souring or decomposition. Certain
chemical changes also take place. This cooking is usually
done in a round-bottom kettle or a flat-bottom evaporator
either of which is over a furnace whose fire is directed im-
mediately against the juice container. As the juice boils
impurities rise to the top and are removed as skimmings.
The cooking is continued until the right degree of thickness
is reached when the fire is removed and the syrup allowed to
cool slowly. When it is dipped out it is poured into some
type of container, being strained as it is poured through a
tightly woven cloth which removes any remaining waste or
foreign particles. The syrup should be put in tightly sealed
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
cans, bottles, jars or barrels as soon as possible, while it is
yet hot. About 772 gallons of juice will equal 1 gallon of
In order to know when to stop cooking, the "old time"
farmer studies the color and odor of the cooking juice. He
dips his dipper or skimmer in the hot juice, raises it high
over the boiler and watches the drop of the cooling liquid.
When it no longer falls off in round watery drops, but flakes
out just right into long thin strips, he knows the job has
been done, that he now has syrup.
Of course the modern and more accurate method is to
use a Baume syrup hydrometer. These may be purchased
at most farm-supply stores for about $2.00. The density of
the syrup is measured by floating the hydrometer in a tall
cylinder filled with syrup (see Fig. 12). The hydrometer
reading at the top of the syrup indicates the density. If
the hot syrup has a reading of 33 degrees (Baume), the
cooking should cease. Cold syrup should show a reading of
38. Hot syrup weights 114 pounds to the gallon. Cold
syrup weighs, commercially, 12 pounds to the gallon.
The main portion of the small farmer's syrup is for home
consumption. In most cases a surplus is available for sale
on the local market, or to merchants in nearby towns. Oc-
casionally a farmer who makes especially good syrup places
his surplus is sealed cans, attractively labels them and places
them on the market as a specialty. Where the surplus is
great (several hundred gallons) or the quality not so good,
it is customarily stored in barrels and sold wholesale to
merchants or commission houses. The price paid for barrel
syrup usually ranges from 20 to 40 cents a gallon. However,
a fine quality syrup that has a desirable flavor, put up in
attractive cans, may bring as high as $1.25 a gallon, though
half this price perhaps is a fair average.
Farmers frequently have trouble with syrup in storage.
It may ferment and "work". Or it may crystalize and form
lumps of sugar in the container. Certain precautions will
go far to prevent such troubles.
24 GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
Cook the syrup carefully. Keep an even degree of heat
in the furance. Cook to the right stage of density. Do not
Sterilize syrup containers. Plenty of hot water is effec-
tive for this. Unless the container is sterilized fermenta-
tion is apt to take place, causing souring and "working" of
Store the syrup in a cool place. Handle and agitate as
little as possible. If these precautions are taken, there is
the maximum possibility of a superior product which will be
tasteful and of high quality that will be good for a long
One other point, though it has already been suggested,
is the attractive labeling of the containers. This, of course,
is most important when the syrup is sold as a specialty.
There is no justification in 'hiding a superior product in a
plain can on the back of the shelf or ur;der the counter. You
can not expect the buyer to take any interest in your syrup,
unless you bring it to his attention in an appealing manner.
Make a high quality product. Impress the buyer with
it. Charge him a reasonable price. He will come back for
more. He will send you others. Satisfied customers means
YIELDS OF JUICE AND SYRUP
Yields of sugarcane vary, but the usual yield is from 7 to
12 tons per acre on the lighter uplands and from 15 to 35
tons on the heavier muck soils. A yield of 20 tons per acre
should be reasonably be expected to produce 400 gallons of
syrup. Another factor playing a big part in the yield of
syrup is the type of mill used for grinding the cane. The
smaller and lighter mills are not built substantially enough
to extract a high percentage of the juice. In general 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 to 55 per cent of the weight of the
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 25
cane in juice. Larger and more powerful mills may actually
extract 80 per cent or more of the cane's weight in juice.
This difference means a loss that the average farmer is not
in a position to bear. Of course he may not get 80 percent
extraction, but he might equip himself so as to get at least
Yields per acre depend not only upon
the tonnage and the amount of the juice
extracted, but also upon the richness of
the juice. Sugar yields are, as a general
estimate, calculated on the basis of
about 10 percent of the weight of the
cane. This estimate is for the average
farm where only average mills and
methods are used.
Sugarcane is not without its insect
enemies and diseases. Red-rot is a dis-
ease confined largely to the inside of
the stalk. If an infected stalk is split
open the inside will show red disk-shape
areas. The outside of the stalk may not
show the Disease. The young cane
plants are usually infected from the
diseased seed pieces. Badly diseased
plants often die. Red-rot reduces the
sucrose content of the growing cane.
Success in controlling the disease is
largely a matter of selecting and plant-
ing canes that are disease free.
The disease known as mosaic pro-
Fig. 12. B;.umc duces a mottling or striping of the
syrpt hydrometer, leaves of the sugarcane plant, a condi-
(Halftone y ouplanters. Affectedr-
tery of Florid:i tion familiar to many planters. Affected
Agri. E.Nt. Servee,
26 GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
plants are distinctly paler than healthy ones. The green
coloring matter is partially destroyed and as a result plant
growth is retarded. Mosaic diseases the vigor of the cane
and undoubtedly causes a considerable loss. While the ton-
nage is reduced, little if any influence is noted on the sucrose
content of the juice. Cayana-10 and Japanese sugarcanes
show a higher degree of resistance to the disease than do
some of the older and more popular varieties. And others
are being tried out, several of which give promise of being
resistant to the disease. The growing of such resistant
varieties is the means of control.
Two insects give considerable concern to the sugarcane
planters, particularly in certain areas. The cane borer is a
caterpillar moth and it tunnels up and down in the sugar-
cane stalk, stunting the plant and weakening it so that the
wind may blow it over or break it. Fungus diseases may
enter the plant tissues through the same entrances used by
the borer. There seem no particular means of control. If
its damages become too severe, it may be necessary to dis-
continue growing cane for a few years.
A small worm called nematode causes a disease or con-
dition known as root-knot which frequently is quite severe.
It also makes the plant more susceptible to mosaic. It bores
into finest and most tender roots to feed, thereby stunting
and often actually killing the plant. Swollen places on the
roots appear as galls or knots. Growing nematode-resistant
plants on the land is about the only practical method of con-
trol. Thus sugarcane should be grown as part of a well-
thought-out crop rotation system, especially if root-kn:t
appears as a trouble to be combatted. Crop rotation also
may aid in the control of other troubles.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 27
Up until a few years ago the largest individual acreages
of sugarcane in Florida were to be found in the northwest-
ern part of the state. However, during more recent years,
extensive developments have appeared in southern Florida,
particularly in the Everglades and bordering on the south-
ern shores of Lake Okeechobee. Here are to be found vast
areas of muck lands which are growing enormous crops of
sugarcane. The expansion of the industry in this vicinity
is principally for the production of sugar. Here the tem-
Fig. 13. llluctrating the damage of root-knot on sugarcane roots to the left.
At right are shown uninfested roots. (Halftone by courtesy of Florida Agri. Ext.
perature is mild enough that the crop can be grown for
more than one year from a single planting. The present
annual is reported to be 40,000 acres-1950. If this rate
of increase continues very long, it is easy to see what a fac-
tor Florida will become in the sugar world.
28 GROWING SUGARCANE FOR SYRUP
Two large sugar mills are already in operation at Clewis-
ton and Fellsmere. These mills ar equipped with the latest
and most modern machinery for handling the crop in every
stage of production and in the manufacture of sugar. The
machines are able to satisfactorily do the work of a large
force of hand laborers.
Sugarcane, for eating purposes, is grown in almost all
parts of Florida. Various soils produce various flavored
syrups. However, there are by-products 6f no small import-
ance: Blackstrap molasses, which is a by-product of sugar-
factory, is used for sweetening hays for cattle feed; bagasse
is a by-product of the stalks which is used for making planks
for ceiling houses.