Title: Sugar cane
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00026371/00001
 Material Information
Title: Sugar cane
Alternate Title: Bulletin 14 ; Florida Agricultural Extension Service
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Spencer, A. P.
Publisher: University of Florida, Division of Agricultural Extension
Publication Date: January, 1919
Copyright Date: 1919
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00026371
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aab7770 - LTQF
amt5596 - LTUF
47285032 - OCLC
002569294 - AlephBibNum


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The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source

site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
of Florida

January, 1919



P. H. ROLFS, Director


Conditions indicate that an increased acreage of sugar cane
will be cultivated in Florida during 1919, and that considerable
attention will be given to the crop, particularly on the muck and
heavier lands.
Sugar cane in Florida is grown almost exclusively for sirup
production, practically all of which comes from a small acre-
age on the average farm. Usually the amount grown is less

Fig. 1.-Planting Seed Canes

Bulletin 14

Florida Cooperative Extension

than five acres per farm and the sirup is made with a small
equipment. Only a few farmers have as much as fifty acres, or
sufficient to justify the operating of an extensive sirup manu-
facturing plant.
Most of the sugar cane is produced as one of the staple
farm crops so that very little extra equipment over that used
in general farming practices is necessary. The same cultivating
machinery is used as for corn, and the only special equipment
needed is an outfit for making up the sirup.
The sugar cane industry is small in comparison with other
staple crops, and there are only a few sections where the amount

Fig. 2.-Sugar Cane in Bloom
(Photo by Fla. Photographic Concern)

of sirup produced is sufficient to justify the buyers coming to
that section to purchase the crop.
Sugar cane requires a long growing season without frost.
It thrives best in a climate where there is a rainfall of forty
inches or more and makes its best growth during the warmest
season, The abundant rainfall and semi-tropical temperatures
of Florida are favorable for the crop. Florida is the only state
where sugar cane matures sufficiently to produce seed-heads
(figs. 2 and 3), and it is not unusual to find sugar cane in bloom in
South Florida by January 15, and occasionally it blooms in Mid-
dle Florida if the canes have some protection against freezes.
This condition is particularly favorable for both sugar and sirup
production as the more mature the cane the higher the percentage
of sucrose it contains.

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

Much interest has been developed in sugar cane production
on the large areas of muck soils of South Florida. These lands
are very rich in organic
matter and produce a
tremendous growth of
vegetation, which makes
it possible to produce a
heavy tonnage of sugar
cane, and with only
slight danger of injury
by the cold before it is
well matured. Much in-
terest has been directed
toward that section with
a view of establishing
the commercial produc-
tion of sugar.
During the past ten
years the greatest sugar
cane production has been
made on the pinelands of
Gadsden and adjoining
counties. The greater
part of it is grown on
small farms and handled
with ordinary farm labor Fig. 3.-Bloom of the Sugar Cane
and with small equip- (Photo by Fla. Photographic Concern)
ment. The soils resemble very closely the soils near Cairo,
Georgia, which is the largest cane sirup producing area in the
United States. Practically all of the cane around Cairo is
grown on the best grades of rolling pineland having a clay sub-
soil. The soil is sufficiently compact to retain moisture in dry
seasons and yet porous enough for good drainage during rainy
seasons. Fairly heavy crops are produced even on thin sandy
lands if the soil has been improved and a sufficient amount of
fertilizer used. There is nothing, however, to indicate that cane
production will be profitable except on fertile lands.
Sugar cane is practically a sure crop wherever the land is
suitable and proper methods of growing the crop have been
observed. The future development of the industry depends more
on the cost of production, distribution and marketing the pro-
ducts than on any natural condition of the soil or climate.

Florida Cooperative Extension

According to the latest United States general census the
sugar cane acreage in the United States is as follows:
Louisiana .....................329,684 acres Mississippi .................... 24,861 acres
Georgia ........................--- 37,046 acres Florida ......................... 12,928 acres
Texas .--......................... 34,315 acres South Carolina ............ 7,053 acres
Alabama ..---.----.. ....... 27,211 acres Arkansas ...................... 3,330 acres
with a small acreage in Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina
and Oklahoma.
The production of cane sirup is as follows:
Georgia .................-- 5,533,520 gallons Florida ...................-2,533,096 gallons
Louisiana .............4,125,083 gallons South Carolina .... 881,558 gallons
Alabama ................3,078,531 gallons Arkansas ................ 286,637 gallons
Mississippi ............2,920,519 gallons
These figures show that Florida stands sixth in acreage of
sugar cane and fifth in quantity of sirup produced.
Taking these figures in consideration and the fact that the
average production per farm in Florida is less than one acre,
it is unnecessary to emphasize further the possibility of a greatly
increased production if the products can be marketed at a profit
to the grower.
The variety of soils in Florida that produce heavy yields of
sugar cane give reason to conclude that sugar cane may be made
a profitable crop in many sections of the state. Under favorable
conditions 25 tons of cane or more may be produced from one
Hammock lands vary a great deal in fertility and only the
better grades can be expected to produce good crops for more
than two or three years without seriously depleting the soil fer-
tility. Where there is a layer of vegetable matter mixed with
sand two feet deep or more, and underlaid with clay or marl the
soil conditions for the production of sugar cane are exceptionally
favorable. But on hammocks that have only a thin surface layer
of black soil or leaf mold and this underlaid with porous open
sand, one cannot expect to produce average yields after the second
or third year without liberal applications of fertilizer. These
soils are usually less productive than good pinelands.
Of the pinelands the rolling sandy clay loam with a mixture
of pebble and underlaid with clay is considered the best for cane.
While they usually lack sufficient fertility and require liberal
applications of fertilizer to produce good crops, they can be im-

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

proved by crop rotation and it is on this kind of soil that the
largest acreages are grown thruout the sirup areas of Florida,
Georgia, and Alabama. The cane seldom stops growing because
of lack of moisture, while on the more sandy pinelands more fer-
tilizer is required and the crop is likely to be cut short during a
dry season. There is also a wide variation in quality and pro-
ductiveness of such land for cane growing.
Flatwoods pinelands that have a retentive subsoil and a
fair amount of humus usually produce good crops, but like high
pinelands, require liberal fertilization for a heavy crop. The
poorer grades of flatwoods with insufficient drainage and under-
laid with sand are usually very unsatisfactory. And it is doubtful
if they will grow profitable crops of cane under normal con-
Muck lands will produce heavy crops of cane with a min-
imum amount of fertilizer. They have a great abundance of am-
monia, but usually lack mineral matter. Where muck has a fair
amount of mineral matter it will grow heavier crops of cane with-
out any additional fertilizer than any other type of soil in Florida.
It is important particularly on muck soil that the water table
comes not closer than three feet below the surface, and that the
top soil be decomposed and firm, so that the cane will have
anchorage to prevent lodging when mature.
On muck lands with a loose surface, a heavy cane crop is
likely to lodge and become tangled, making it difficult to harvest.
This can be overcome to a limited extent by planting such hard
upright growing varieties as D-74. As the muck settles and the
excessive amount of surplus ammonia disappears there will be
less trouble from over growth and lodging.

The type of soil on which the cane is grown has a consider-
able effect on the color, clearness and flavor of the sirup. It is
generally considered that sugar cane grown on the light sandy
lands produces a better colored sirup than when grown on the
moist heavy richer soil. This is supposed to be due to a greater
amount of immature cane on the rich lands at harvesting time.
These lands have a tendency to continue growth late in the sea-
son, while on the lighter lands the cane matures earlier, making
a better grade of sirup. Heavy applications of manure also
have a tendency to produce darker colored sirup. However, the
use of stable manure in cane growing is to be recommended for

Florida Cooperative Extension

increasing the yield. The humus and fertility it adds to the soil
is very beneficial for increasing the yield of cane, even tho it
might have a deleterious effect on the color of the sirup.
The method of making up the sirup has even a greater effect
on the quality, so that the type of soil is not the only factor to
be considered in the production of high grade sirup.

The varieties of sugar cane most generally planted and best
known thruout the sirup producing areas of Georgia, Alabama
and Florida, are the Red or commonly called Purple cane, Red
Ribbon cane, Green cane, Green Ribbon cane, frequently spoken
of as Simpson cane, and Japanese cane. Many other varieties
have been introduced from tropical sugar cane producing coun-
tries, but most of these have not proven as satisfactory, due
largely to their lateness in maturing. In Florida, excepting in
the extreme southern part, the crop must mature in nine to
eleven months. Early maturing varieties are therefore prefer-
The Red or Purple cane is most generally grown. It suc-
ceeds fairly well under average soil and moisture conditions, and
matures sufficiently for sirup production in nine months. The
seed cane is also well matured before early frosts are likely to
injure it.
The Red Ribbon cane is second in importance. It yields a
heavier tonnage than the Red cane on rich hammock or muck
land, but requires more fertilizer to make a good crop on sandy
pinelands. While no careful tests have been made this variety
is considered preferable to the Red for rich muck soils.
Green cane is next in importance. It is better adapted to
South Florida than West Florida, but has never become an im-
portant sirup variety. It matures slower, and therefore requires
the longer season. The production of sirup is usually satisfac-
tory, especially where small horse mills are used as it is soft and
is easily crushed.
Green cane also produces a light colored sirup which is de-
sirable, and being soft it is preferred for chewing purposes. It
is one of the best varieties where small patches are planted for
chewing purposes only. It is considered to be more susceptible
to disease than harder varieties.
The Green Ribbon cane has about the same characteristics

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

as the Green cane, and is not an important commercial sirup
Two varieties, known as D-74 and D-95, are extensively
grown in Louisiana and to some extent in Florida. These have
given large yields on the rich alluvial soils of Louisiana and for
similar soils are considered superior varieties. However, on
the sandy soils where liberal fertilization is needed they have not
proven as productive as either the Red or the Red Ribbon. They
are also more sensitive to the lack of moisture and can be recom-
mended only for richer lands that will not suffer from drought.
On the muck soils of South Florida they seem to be preferable to
most others as they make a more erect growth and are not so
likely to lodge when mature, which is a decided advantage in
harvesting. These varieties were introduced into Louisiana from
Demerara, South America, in 1873 by Dr. W. C. Stubbs, Lou-
The D-74 variety is green, quite hard and brittle. In general
appearance it resembles the Green cane. The D-95 variety is
purple colored and somewhat softer than D-74.
Japanese cane produces sirup of an excellent quality, lighter
in color than most other varieties. The yield of sirup per ton,
however, is usually lower because the canes are hard and it
requires more power to express the juice. Japanese cane re-
quires more labor to strip the canes, as it has more leaves and
these are attached very close to the stalk. There are, however,
some varieties of Japanese cane now under test that promise to
give better results as sirup producing canes than the ordinary
Japanese cane is very hardy. It will withstand more cold
without injuring the juice, than other varieties, altho the eyes
are no more hardy. It stools much more than other varieties
and more crops can be grown from the stubble. Some claim it is
not necessary to reset Japanese cane for several years. However,
the test plots on the Experiment Station farm show a much
greater yield on the newly planted plots than from stubble
planted four years previous. (Fig. 4.)
Other varieties are being tested by the Office of Sugar Cane
Investigation, Bureau of Plant Industry, at the Experiment
Farm, Cairo, Ga., under the direction of Dr. P. A. Yoder, Sugar
Cane Technologist. Inasmuch as the soil and general conditions
in that section are similar in many respects to much of the pine-
lands of North and West Florida, the results of these tests will

Florida Cooperative Extension

Fig. 4.-Japanese Cane
be the best information obtainable for Florida cane growers.
A variety of sweet sorghum generally spoken of as Texas
Seeded Ribbon cane has been highly recommended for sirup
production. This has led to some confusion in that it is a variety
of sorghum and not a sugar cane. Its only advantage over sugar
cane is that it can be propagated from seed and requires about
four months from seeding to maturity. As compared with sugar
cane it is much less expensive to plant, and where sorghum sirup
is desired it is a good variety of sorghum to plant. However, it
is not a sugar cane and will not produce sugar cane sirup. Nor
is it to be recommended over sugar cane for commercial sirup
Sugar cane may be planted in Florida either in the fall or
spring. The location determines the best time to plant. In the
northern counties fall planting is not generally practiced, due to
the uncertainty of getting a uniform stand. When the canes
are planted in early November and lay in the ground until late
February or March some of the buds, especially those in the
upper portion of the stalk which are always less mature, are
likely to germinate very slowly, if at all. When the seed cane
is not planted until spring, remaining in the bank during winter,
the joints with dead buds can be cut out and nothing but good
seed planted. Due to the uncertainty of getting a full stand fall

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

planting in North and West Florida is not considered a good
In Middle or South Florida, or wherever conditions are
favorable, fall planting has several advantages. The labor in-
volved in banking is omitted and the canes are planted when they
are in a sappy condition, causing the growth to start very soon
afterwards, usually producing a full stand. With the exception
of unusual seasons, cane may remain standing in the field thru-
out South Florida until December without danger of frost injury.
If planted at that time it will remain in the ground only a short
period before growth starts.
Aside from the extra labor saved by fall planting, the usual
loss of 15 to 25 percent of seed cane in the beds is avoided. When
banking seed cane one should bed 25 percent more canes than is
actually needed to plant in order to insure against a shortage of
seed, should there be the usual loss in the beds.
Fall planting may be done as late in the season as it is safe
against freezes. Spring planting should be done on or before
March 15.
When ready to plant lay off the furrows four to five feet
apart on pine land and five to seven feet apart on rich hammock
or muck land, and about six inches deep. If the soil is unusually
dry the furrows may be somewhat deeper so that the seed cane
will be laid in moist soil. If the land is wet and needs drainage
it may be necessary to put it in a small bed, but under average
conditions level planting is best.
After selecting good seed the cane should be cut into lengths
of about four joints each, and planted in the furrow. (Fig. 1.)
If the seed is good a continuous row is sufficient for a uniform
stand, but if the seed is uncertain it is advisable to use more
seed, overlapping it sufficiently to insure a good stand. The seed
cane should then be covered with about three inches of soil. Too
shallow covering will not hold sufficient moisture to the canes,
whereas, covering too deeply will delay the growth after the buds
have started. If the cane is fall planted and has a deep covering
of soil it may be necessary to remove some of the dirt so that the
growth may begin just as soon as spring opens. This is a general
practice in Louisiana. Sugar cane is a tropical plant and re-
quires a warm soil to start growth. This must be taken into
consideration when planting, and especially if the land is wet
and likely to remain cold until late spring.

Florida Cooperative Extension

The buds should start to grow as soon as spring growth
begins, otherwise they grow off slowly or may die, giving a
poor stand. The best cane growers in the Cairo, Georgia, sec-
tion plant closer than is usually practiced in Florida. Practically
all cane in that section is planted in four and one-half foot rows
so that the ground will be shaded in early summer. For varieties
that stool considerably, such as Japanese, or where the crop is
to be grown from the stubble for two or more years, it is ad-
visable to provide more distance between the rows so that culti-
vation may be kept up when the cane rows have widened out
due to stooling.
For forage purposes, Japanese cane does best when planted
in six foot rows.
To plant an acre of cane in four and one-half foot rows re-
quires from 2000 to 2500 canes of three to four and one-half foot
lengths; in five foot rows about 2000 canes of average length are
needed. This, in weight, amounts to about three tons per acre.
The cost of seeding is therefore a considerable item.
The seed canes should be stripped of their leaves, mainly to
avoid planting canes infected with red rot or with dead buds. If
the root stocks are planted a thoro inspection should be made to
see that they are not infested with root knot. This is a serious
disease of cane and is readily transferred to clean fields by
planting infested root stocks.
Seed canes that have been bedded should be planted im-
mediately after they are uncovered in the banks, so that the
buds will not dry out. If they are to be transported, requiring
several days, every precaution should be taken to keep them
Wherever cane stubbles or ratoons can be held over in good
condition for planting it is always economical and advisable to
do so. However, the heaviest crops of cane are usually produced
in newly planted fields, but as planting involves a heavy expense
for seed and labor it is advisable to depend on stubble for at least
a part of the crop. Under favorable conditions the first crop
from stubble is nearly as heavy as from newly planted fields.
The second stubble crop is usually lighter than the first.
When the stubble is to be left for seed the cane should be
cut quite close to the ground so that there will be very little of
the stalk left above the ground to be frozen and dried out. Where
the stubble is likely to be injured by freezes it should have some

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

covering to protect it. This covering is also beneficial to prevent
dry rot. If a furrow can be opened on one side of the row and
the stubble turned into this furrow and covered, then turned
back with a plow when spring opens, there will be only a small
loss of seed. One can also protect the stubbles by plowing a
furrow on them, and without disturbing the roots. When spring
opens remove enough dirt with some convenient implement to al-
low growth to start early. The protection usually requires more
dirt than should be left on the canes. In protected places the
stubble can be held in good condition over winter by covering
it with the tops and leaves of the canes.
Cane growers find that they get a better stand by planting
the root stocks than from the stalks alone and, therefore, utilize
the roots just as far as it is practicable.
A good crop of cane can be grown from the ratoon for three
or more years on the well drained muck or hammock lands of
South Florida.
As sugar cane makes a heavy growth it must have liberal
amounts of available plant food. On the pinelands it is usually
necessary to supply liberal applications of nitrogenous fertilizer.
Even on the better grades of hammock lands the ammonia be-
comes depleted where sugar cane is grown several years in suc-
cession. Potash and phosphoric acid should also be applied to
average soil. It is probable that most of the muck soils as well
as the pinelands are benefited by sufficient applications of these
materials. The richer the soil in humus the less will be the need
of heavy fertilization. When the cost of fertilizer is above nor-
mal it is questionable if cane growing will be profitable except on
the better grades of Florida soil. Sandy lands very deficient in
humus usually require more expense for production than the crop
will justify.
The usual application of fertilizer on good sandy, loam lands
is from 600 to 1500 pounds per acre. This should analyze four or
five percent of ammonia, four percent phosphoric acid, and three
to five percent of potash. As sugar cane is a long season crop
with an intensive root system, almost any kind of fertilizer that
supplies the fertility needed during the growing season gives
good results. As far as growth is concerned it seems to make
little difference as to the source of the ammonia in the mixture.
However, cane growers in the largest cane producing areas pre-
fer cottonseed meal for the ammonia, with eight tons or more of

Florida Cooperative Extension

stable manure per acre if it can be secured. A common practice
is to apply about one-half of the commercial fertilizer before the
seed is planted, either mixed into the planting furrows or ap-
plied broadcast. The second application is made during June or
July, and if the crop seems to be making a slow growth due to
insufficient ammonia, an application of 200 pounds of some
readily available form of ammonia is applied as a top dressing
during September. Either nitrate of soda or sulphate of am-
monia is satisfactory, depending altogether on the relative cost
per unit of ammonia. During the past three years cane growers
have used very little potash on account of the high price. Some
of the most careful growers claim the yield has been somewhat
reduced because of the lack of potash, while others claim they
can see little or no difference, and that the application of am-
monia fertilizer is a more important consideration than either
the potash or phosphorus.
Bulletin 144, Florida Experiment Station, reports the re-
sults of fertilizer tests extending over three years with Japanese
cane on sandy loam soil with different forms of ammonia and
phosphorus. In these experiments sulphate of ammonia pro-
duced 1.9 tons per acre more than dried blood, and nitrate of
soda gave an increase of 1.8 tons per acre over sulphate of am-
monia, and 3.5 tons per acre over the dried blood. These results
indicate that sulphate of ammonia and nitrate of soda are
economical sources of ammonia fertilizer.
On account of the present high cost of all organic forms of
ammonia, particularly cottonseed meal, sulphate of ammonia
should be used for the spring application with an additional ap-
plication of nitrate of soda applied as a top dressing about Sep-
tember first.
The use of cottonseed meal as a direct fertilizer for cane
is a wasteful and expensive practice, for by feeding it to cattle
and applying the manure as fertilizer a double value is realized
from the meal. The manure contains about eighty percent of
the original fertilizer value of the meal, after the cattle have
consumed it for milk or meat production.
It was also found that the plots receiving an application of
thirty two-horse loads per acre of stable manure produced on the
average for the three years more than fifty percent greater
tonnage than any plots fertilized with commercial fertilizer,
and is therefore highly recommended.
In comparing different forms of phosphorus covering the

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

same period the plot receiving acid phosphate yielded 11.8 tons
per acre, the plot fertilized with floats yielded 12.1 tons, and the
Thomas slag plot yielded 10.2 tons per acre.
The results from these tests indicate that there is very little
difference in the values of acid phosphate or floats and that either
one is better than Thomas slag for fertilizing Japanese cane.
It has been considered that the kind of fertilizer used would
effect the quality of the sirup, but later information goes to show
that the variety of cane, the stage of maturity when the sirup
is made and the methods of manufacturing have more to do with
the quality than the kind of fertilizer applied. Sugar cane is
fairly expensive to plant, cultivate and harvest, so that it is not
profitable to grow a light crop if the soil can be made to produce
a good crop by proper and liberal fertilization.

Sugar cane to be used for seed should be as mature as it
is possible to have it. Unless the cane has eight or nine months
for growth the buds are not likely to be sufficiently mature to
give a good stand. Seed cane should be selected from parts in
the field that have made the earliest and best growth.
Seed cane should be bedded before it is likely to be frosted.
The buds or eyes are very sensitive to a light freeze, even one
that would not seriously injure the cane for sirup making. In
North and West Florida seed cane should be bedded by Novem-
ber 10. Farther south where the frost comes later bedding any
time during November is a safe practice. Killing frosts are
likely to occur earlier and more frequently on dark colored flat
lands than on sandy rolling lands where the circulation of air
is better. One should make sure that the seed is safe against
even a light freeze.
Seed cane should be bedded when sappy and moist. The
more moisture in the canes when they are laid down, the better.
Drying out of the canes and buds during the time it is in the
beds causes the greatest losses in seed-beds. This often amounts
to from fifteen to twenty-five percent of the total cane bedded.
In fact, successful cane growers bed much additional cane so
they will be assured of having sufficient for their planting. Seed
canes should be bedded and covered just as soon as they are
dug. If the seed cane lies around even for a day or more during
dry weather it is likely to cause a dry condition in the seed beds,
and were it not for the inconvenience in handling the seed it

Florida Cooperative Extension

would be advisable to bed the cane when wet, even during a
rain. This, however, is not necessary as there is usually suf-
ficient moisture so that if the canes are bedded immediately they
will go into the beds in good condition. (Fig. 5.)

Fig. 5.-Bedding Seed Cane
The beds may be as wide as is convenient. Seed cane usu-
ally comes out of a wide bed in better condition than from a nar-
row one. As it requires considerable hand labor to cover the
beds with dirt, eight to twelve feet in width is sufficient. Some
prefer a narrower bed for the convenience in spreading the dirt
over it.
If the top soil is moist the beds can be made on the surface,
but if it is dry it is, an advantage to plow out a bed so that the
canes can be laid on moist soil. This also puts the bed a little
lower than the surface and makes it somewhat easier to cover.
Cane should be laid in the beds, with all the leaves. The
butts are laid on the ground and the tops overlapping. This
places the canes in a slanting position and the beds about thirty
inches high. A covering of moist soil about three inches thick
is spread over the bedded cane to hold the moisture and protect
the seed against the freezes. Some cane growers consider it
advisable to lay a small amount of moist earth on the roots or
butts of the canes when it is placed in the beds. That is, on each
layer of cane there is a layer of dirt covering the butts. It is
questionable if seed canes absorb any moisture from this layer
of dirt.

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

While the canes must be kept moist while in the beds they
must not be placed where standing water is liable to surround
the bed and perhaps cover it.
The best seed cane is usually bedded with the roots attached
as the joints nearest the roots usually have well matured buds.
So that, there is a considerable saving in seed by digging up the
root stocks. It is necessary, however, to dig out the roots in
order to have good seed cane as the stalks can be cut as if for
grinding, and bedded in the usual way. A serious objection to
bedding the root stocks is the probability of spreading disease
or insect pests from infested to non-infested fields.
During the past two years the attention of county agents
has been called to a general prevalence of root-knot in cane
fields. This condition has caused serious loss in one of the most
important cane growing sections in Florida. It is estimated
that the injury this year in one region will reduce the output of
sirup about one third. Should this trouble continue some change
in the general method of planting must be adopted and in all
probability the planting of root stocks entirely discontinued.
Where cane is known to have root-knot or is grown in an area
where this disease is known to exist, no roots of cane should be
taken from these fields to be transplanted. Undoubtedly the
root-knot has been widely scattered thruout this section because
of the general practice of digging up the seed cane and planting
the roots, thereby transferring the root-knot from one field to
another on the seed. As the nematodes causing the root-knot
cannot readily be transferred on the stalk the spread of root-knot
can be materially reduced if no root stocks are planted. In the
same locality referred to some newly planted fields were found
to have severe infestation of root-knot which, no doubt, was
transferred on the root stocks of the seed cane.

The harvesting of sugar cane involves considerable labor and
expense. The canes are first stripped, topped, then cut and
piled for loading. This is all done by hand. The stripping is
done with a light stripper, the tops cut off with a cane knife,
and the canes cut with a heavy short handled hoe. (Fig. 6.)
If the crop is badly lodged, the labor of harvesting is very much
increased. To facilitate harvesting, the stripping may be done
sometime before cutting. Some claim that it hastens maturity,
but it is doubtful if it has any effect on the maturity. On account

Florida Cooperative Extc'sion

of the very heavy growth of sugar cane no satisfactory machines
have been designed to harvest it, altho several have been built
for the purpose. Even the largest cane growers in Louisiana
have their cane cut and stripped by hand.
Where the acreage is sufficient much labor can be saved by
using the loading equipment. Most of the large planters and
many small planters use hoists for lifting the cane from the
wagon to the platform. After the cane is wind-rowed it may
remain there for some time, two months or more if necessary.
Should a freeze occur during the harvesting it is necessary to
cut and wind-row the cane at once. If left standing after the
canes are frozen the juice in the stalks will ferment, which injures
it for making sirup. Cutting it down immediately prevents this
fermentation. Should the weather remain cool this fermentation
will be slow,
but if warm
weather fol-
lows the cane
should be
handled with-
in three or
four days,
otherwise it
is impossible
to make good
sirup from it.
covering is
as the tops
will suffi-
ciently pro-
tect the stalks
from any fur-
ther frost in-
jury. If this -
is done
promptly the
loss from a
freeze will be
very small. Fig. 6.-Harvesting Tools of Sugar Cane

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

The yield of cane is dependent very largely on soil con-
ditions and cultivation. On the richer lands of Florida, par-
ticularly on muck, as high as forty tons per acre have been made.
This, of course, is very much higher than is produced on the
average sandy lands. However, good pinelands well fertilized
produce twenty tons or more per acre. On thin sandy lands
with little or no fertilization the yield often runs five tons per
acre or less. By using heavy mills one should extract not less
than seventy-five percent of the weight of the cane in juice, while
the average small mill extracts sixty percent or less, and with
the one-horse mill commonly found on small plantations the yield
of juice is usually less than fifty percent of the weight of the
cane. The loss is considerable where light mills are used, and
it is not uncommon to find 25 percent or more of the juice left in
the bagasse.
Sugar cane contains about 85 percent moisture and 15
percent dry matter. The heaviest mills in use will extract 80
percent of the total weight of the cane. Estimating that the
mill will extract 70 percent of the weight of the cane one can
expect a yield of 20 to 25 gallons of sirup from each ton of cane
milled, making a yield of sirup from a 20 ton crop about 400
gallons per acre, or 200 gallons per acre where the yield of cane is
about 10 tons.
The latest census shows that the production is about 100
gallons of sirup per acre, so the yield of cane under average con-
ditions is five to eight tons per acre.

When properly adjusted the heavy sirup mills in use by
large factories will extract about 80 pounds or more of juice
from 100 pounds of cane. A good steam-power mill in use on
the larger plantations will extract about 75 percent of the
weight of the cane, while the average small one-horse mill does
not extract more than 50 to 60 percent. This means that with
the small inefficient outfit, from three to four hundred pounds
of juice is wasted for each ton of cane hauled to the mill. The
amount of sirup obtained depends to some extent on the effi-
ciency of the machinery used.
Mills of various makes are in use thruout the sirup produc-
ing sections. These mills are similar in design but vary in

Florida Cooperative Extension

capacity according to the acreage of cane grown. The verticle
horsepower mill has a capacity of 40 to 100 gallons of juice per
hour. Heavier mills operated by steam or gasoline power have
a capacity of 125 to 500 gallons of juice per hour, when operated
to the fullest capacity. In large sirup factories the capacity of
the mills used is much greater.
Where one has four acres or less to grind, the small size
one-horse mill will usually handle the crop, but where there are
twenty acres or more the mill should have a capacity of 15 to 25
tons of cane per twelve hour day or 200 or more gallons of juice
per hour. These mills cost from $250 up. Such mills will re-
quire an engine of not less than six horsepower to operate suc-
cessfully. Even small mills give better results when they are
driven by an engine, as the output of juice from any mill depends
on the adjustment of the rolls and speed that the mill is operated,
how the canes are fed into the mill, and the kind of cane.
To save labor and for convenience, a mill should be located
on a slope. This facilitates unloading and makes it easy to


Fig. 7.-Sirup Evaporator

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

unload the cane 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 vats to the evaporating pan. There is considerable
labor involved in sirup making. All necessary conveniences
should be carefully planned so there will be no delay or unneces-
sary labor needed.

Most of the sirup made in Florida and Georgia is cooked
in a sirup evaporator or in a sirup kettle. A few farmers use
the long evaporating pan. The kettle usually accompanies the
small horsepower mill. The one hundred gallon, or large size
kettle is the one most generally in use. Many farmers increase
the capacity of their kettles by placing a six inch band 'of sheet
iron on the outer ring of the flange, which makes the kettle six
inches deeper. This band is put on in a local blacksmith shop
by shrinking it over the flange just as a wagon tire is shrunken
on a wheel. A second band about three inches high is set on
the inner ridge of the flange. This leaves a space of about six
inches between the band. This space is used as a skimming
trough. The inner band is set in loose and can be lifted out,
but is heavy enough to stay in place while the sirup is cooking.
With these bands the capacity of the kettle is increased 25
percent. About sixty gallons of juice is put into a 100 gallon
kettle at a time. This evaporates down to about eight gallons of
sirup, requiring about 71/2 gallons of juice to make one gallon
of sirup. In a twelve hour day about eight of these batches can
be taken off, so that the capacity of a 100 gallon kettle is ap-
proximately 60 gallons, or two barrels of sirup per day.
Sirup evaporators are made of galvanized iron or copper
and may be purchased direct from manufacturers. These are
made 44 inches wide and vary in length from 6 to 15 feet.
These evaporators are shallow and fit in a wooden frame and are
divided in three compartments with openings or gates in the
partitions. These divisions in the evaporator are made to hold
the juice or sirup at the different stages of cooking. (Fig. 7.)
These evaporators come from the factory with and without
the skimming trough on the side. Most sirup makers prefer
to buy the evaporators without the skimming troughs and have
them put on by a local tinner. These troughs are about six
inches wide and are fastened to the side of the evaporator. The

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outer edge of the trough is four inches higher than the edge of
the evaporator, allowing the skimmings to boil over into the
trough. These troughs are raised at the back end of the evap-
orator so that the skimmings will run into a barrel located under
a spout at the lower end of the skimming trough. This skim-
ming trough need not extend farther back than the second com-
partment, as there are practically no skimmings to come, off in
the finishing compartment.
These evaporators are perhaps the most satisfactory outfits
where there is not more than 25 acres of cane. A twelve foot
ev aporator
wi 11 handle
from 175 to
200 gallons of
sirup per
day, or ap-
the sirup
from one acre
of an average
crop. The life
of these evap-
orators is
about three
years, or even
longer if they
are properly
cared for af-
ter the sirup
season is
over. At pres-
Fig. 8.-Skimming Tools
ent the cost of
the evaporator is about $2 for each foot, while formerly they
were purchased for $1.50 per foot or less.
In operating these evaporators the juice is piped direct
from the juice-tank into the first compartment, which is imme-
diately over the fire. The boiling there is rapid and a heavy
green scum is thrown to the surface and taken over into the
skimming trough. It is at this stage that most of the sediment
and foreign material is taken out of the juice, and special skim-
ming tools are used for this purpose. (Fig. 8.) When this stage

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

is completed the juice is then turned into the second compart-
ment where skimming continues and is cooked until the den-
sity of the sirup is about 25 degrees Baume. When it leaves the
second compartment there should be practically no scum rising
to the surface as the skimming should be completed in the first
and second compartments. The sirup is then turned into the
third compartment and cooked until finished. Some care must
be exercised when moving the juice from one compartment to
another. If the pan is almost completely drained it is very easy
to scorch the thin layer left in the pan. This flavors the entire
batch and injures the quality.
Water may be poured into this pan to avoid this if necessary.
As cooking continues the water is driven out of the sirup
so that it becomes thicker the longer it is cooked. When it
is finally finished it should have a density of 33 degrees Baume
hot and 38 degrees when cold. The sirup is then drawn into
barrels or put up in small containers, and this should be done
immediately while it is hot.
The deep evaporating pan. resembles the ordinary evap-
orator except that it has no partitions. The cooking process is
about the same as in the kettle. These pans have a large heating
surface and the only advantage over the kettle is that more
sirup can be made in a day. And with careful handling a little
lighter colored sirup is made, as the boiling is done more
The sirup evaporator with compartments and the evaporat-
ing pans are arranged over a furnace. This furnace is built of
brick and should be about one foot longer than the pan, that is,
if a twelve foot pan is to be used the furnace should be thirteen
feet long. This leaves one foot of space between the chimney
and the pan. The walls of the furnace are made with two layers
of brick built thirty inches high. The inside measurements be-
tween the walls are 44 inches. The evaporator fits on the top of
the wall with the pan exposed to the fire. The fire box runs back
about three feet and the full height of the wall. Iron bars are
laid below the fire box to support a fire grate. In front and be-
low the grate there should be sufficient opening to give a good
draft, as the boiling of sirup requires a very quick fire. Just
behind the fire box the opening is filled in with dirt, up to within
16 inches of the pan. This leaves a throat for the passage of
the smoke and throws the heat up to the sirup end of the pan.
The chimney should be as high as the pan is long, in order to

Florida Cooperative Extetnion

give the proper draft. For the construction of the furnace and
the chimney it will require about 2000 bricks.
When the evaporator is laid on the walls of the furnace it is
necessary to block up with clay the inner side of the frame lying
next to the fire. This clay will harden, whereas mortar will
burn out. This protection is necessary to keep the frame of
the evaporator from burning. On the outside of the frame it
should be blocked up with mortar and if a smooth job is made
it can be kept clean and sanitary. The door and grates for the
furnace can be purchased or they can be made by a local black-
With the steam evaporator the boiling is done by steam
forced thru coils. A common form of this steam evaporator
is a wooden box lined with galvanized iron, tin or copper. The
coil is laid in the bottom of the box and can be taken out for
cleaning. This coil may be either iron or copper. Copper, of
course, is the most serviceable, but decidedly more expensive.
In this outfit two or more evaporators are necessary-one for
the juice and one for finishing the sirup. These evaporators are
located so that the juice will flow from one evaporator to the
other by gravity. As soon as the juice in the first tank has been
sufficiently boiled the faucet can be opened and the juice will
flow into the pan for final evaporation. Steam evaporators have
the advantage of using less fuel and where heavy mills are used
one can burn the bagasse or refuse from the cane mill. The heat,
of course, can be kept uniform and well regulated. However,
for general use they have not proven as satisfactory as the
shallow evaporators. In large factories where greater capacity
is needed the steam cookers are used entirely and it is the
opinion of experienced operators that these evaporators should be
as shallow as can be conveniently operated.
Excellent sirup is produced by all the methods employed.
Generally a higher grade of sirup is produced on the shallow
pans where the boiling is done quickly. Sirup that is made in
deep pans is usually dark in color and contains more sediment.

Sugar cane sirup is a standard product. It should have a
density of 38 degrees Baume or over when cold and 33 degrees
Baume when hot, and should weigh 111/4 pounds per gallon.
Owing to the difficulty of weighing a gallon' of hot sirup taken

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

direct from the evaporator the density is tested with a Baume
hydrometer. (Fig. 9.) The Baume hydrometer used in making
sirup is graduated from zero to seventy. It can usually be
furnished for about $1.50 to $3 from firms
handling sirup making equipment. The density
of the sirup is measured by floating the hydro-
meter in a tall cylinder filled with sirup. The
reading of the hydrometer at the top of the
sirup indicates the density.
The sirup should be cooked until the hydro-
meter reading shows 33, then the boiling should
stop. Some sirup makers determine the finish-
ing point by dripping the sirup off of a spoon.
When the sirup flakes instead of dropping off a
the spoon it is considered finished. Experienced
sirup makers can gauge the density of the sirup
fairly accurate by this method, but anyone not
experienced should depend on the Baume hydro-
Sirup is graded according to color, sedi-
ment and fermentation. The test is made by
pouring a small amount out on a sheet of
white paper. It should show a light amber
color, free from sediment, with no fermenta-
Cane syrup will retail for a better price
when it is put up in small packages in tin or
glass. Pint and quart bottles make a readily
salable package. Tin containers are used
more extensively than bottles as the glass is
more expensive. Quart, half gallon and gallon
sizes are most generally used. These are con-
venient for storing and as they can be sterilized
and sealed, the sirup can be kept in them for a Fig. 9.-Sirup
long period without any serious deterioration. Hydrometer
The greatest bulk of the sirup is put up in barrels. As
soon as it is cooked and when still hot it is run into barrels and
these barrels promptly stoppered. If the barrels are new and
clean, there is no difficulty in keeping it in good condition thruout
the winter months or for four or five months after it is made. It
is unsafe to hold it for a much longer period as some fermenta-

Florida Cooperative Extension

tion is likely to start when the weather becomes warm. After
a barrel of sirup stands for several months the hoops are likely
to become loose and it must be handled very carefully to avoid
breakage. The standard sirup barrels used hold 30 gallons and
cost about $1.50 each in normal times, or five cents for each gal-
lon. Barreled sirup is usually sold by the gallon, estimating
twelve pounds per gallon, including the barrel.
Cane skimmings contain sufficient sugar content to justify
working them over to get out all of the sirup possible. Usually
these skimmings are wasted but with a little care the waste need
be very little.
The skimmings from a full day's run may be collected and
allowed to settle over night. By morning there will be a heavy
sediment in the bottom, then a quantity of clear juice, and a
light green scum on top. This juice can be drained off thru a
hole in the barrel about three inches from the bottom. If care
is used very little of the sediment or scum will be drained off with
the juice. The skimmings can stand for 24 hours if the weather
is cool, but in warm weather it is likely to sour slightly even in
12 hours unless it is carefully handled. The skimmings col-
lected from a single day's run should be emptied each morning,
and the vessel scalded with hot water and rinsed. An iron or
galvanized vessel is much better than a barrel as it can be more
thoroly cleaned. If dirty barrels are used it is almost impossible
to clean them sufficiently to prevent souring of the skimmings,
even tho it should stand only over night.
The cane juice drawn off can be boiled over in the evapora-
tor or kettle either separately or mixed with the fresh juice.
And if this is done before souring takes place it will not injure
the quality of the sirup with which it is mixed.
When the skimmings have become too sour to use for sirup
making they can be used for hog feeding. However, they are
even unfit for this should they become thick and rancid. When
a quantity of skimmings is collected it can be boiled until thick.
This will keep for a long time, and can be made into an excellent
molasses feed that is relished by livestock.

The tops and leaves of the cane, which amounts to three or
four tons per acre with a good crop, has considerable feeding

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

value if utilized when green and fresh, and if the cane is cut
before it is frosted.
The bagasse also has a small feeding value, but usually too
much fibre to be a satisfactory feed. Cattle will eat it with con-
siderable relish when fresh, but it ferments so rapidly that it is
difficult to use it as feed unless it could be stored in a silo. The
best use for this bagasse is to compost it with litter or barnyard
manure. It will require a year or more for bagasse to decay
sufficiently and become fine enough to apply to the soil. The
value of the bagasse converted into a compost will be much
greater than the cost of handling it and plowing it into the soil,
and as Florida soils are usually deficient in organic matter it
should not be allowed to remain in piles to waste.

The cane borer, army worm, and nematode causing root-
knot are the most serious insect pests of sugar cane. At pres-
ent, the cane borer and nematode are found in a few localities.
It is important that the distribution of these is held in check,
as they cause serious damage when once established. Prof. J. R.
Watson, entomologist of the Florida Experiment Station, is an
authority on these pests, and the following treatise of these
enemies is credited to him.
The most serious enemy of cane is the borer (Diatraea sac-
charalis). In some parts of the state this is a serious pest.
Luckily it is not generally distributed, and many localities are
free from it. It is very important for growers in such places
to keep it out.
The borer is the caterpillar of a moth. The female moth
lays her eggs on the foliage. The young caterpillars, hatching
out, feed on the tender leaves for a few days, but soon enter the
cane thru a bud or "eye", thereby reducing the stand of cane.
They spend their entire larval life in the cane, tunnelling up and
down, stunting its growth, weakening it so that the wind may
blow it over, and making easy the entrance of fungus diseases.
Control is difficult once the borer becomes established in a field.

Once introduced the best the grower can do is to reduce the
numbers of hybernating larvae by burning the tops and rubbish,

Florida Cooperative Extension

cutting the canes low, and destroying shoots that start from the
roots where cane is cut early. Plant in the fall from sound canes
only. Rotation of crops must be practiced in infested fields.
Sugar cane is one of the favorite food plants of this cater-
pillar (also known as the Southern grass worm), which in some
years occurs in destructive numbers. On cane it can readily
be controlled by arsenic compounds. Use a spray of three pounds
of lead arsenate paste or one pound of zinc arsenite powder to
50 gallons of water, or dust the plants with zinc arsenite pow-
der, using air-slaked lime as a filler.
(Heterodera radicicola)
In some of the most important cane-growing sections of the
state it has recently been found that much of the cane is seriously
infested with root-knot. This is a well-known disease of many
crops, and is caused by a small worm which bores into the roots
to feed, stunting and finally killing the plant. Their roots are
swollen in places, making soft fleshy galls which give the ap-
pearance of a knotted rope, hence the name. (Fig. 10.)
There is no known remedy that could be economically used
on cane.
Ordinarily the worms are carried from one field to another in
dirt clinging to transplanted plants, to the feet of horses or men,
or to farm tools. Land that has been in cultivation for several
years is more likely to be infested than is new land, particularly if
cotton, truck crops or cowpeas have been grown. Dry sandy soils
are more likely to be infested than heavy clay or wet muck.
In planting a new field the roots of the seed cane should
never be used, for if these roots should be infested the root-knot
would surely be transplanted to the new field. The canes of even
badly infested cane may safely be used for seed provided no
dirt is carried with them. In using such cane it would be safer
to cut it and carry it out of the infested field and have it bedded
on land known to be free of root-knot.
Fields which have become heavily infested with the worms
can be at least partially freed by planting them to some immune
crop for two or three years. Among such immune or partly
immune plants are: Most of the true grasses, including crab-
grass, Bermuda, etc.; most of the varieties of corn; rye; oats;

Bulletin 14, Sugar Cane

-- *. I Id

Fig. 10-Effect of Root-knot on Cane. Infested and Clean.

velvet beans; and beggar-weed. Iron and Brabham varieties
of cowpeas are usually resistant. Peanuts, onions, parsnips,
strawberries, and turnips are but slightly affected.
While growing a rotation of crops to free the land of nema-
todes, weeds that are subject to root-knot should not be allowed
to grow. Some species of Amaranth or "careless weed" are
especially susceptible.

Red rot (colletotrichum falcatum) is a fungus disease that
causes a great deal of injury to the cane crop of Florida. It
often cuts down the yield and is frequently responsible for poor
stands. Prof. H. E. Stevens, plant pathologist of the Experiment
Station, is credited with the following treatise of this disease.

If the seed cane is properly handled and necessary precau-
tions are taken to prevent its introduction into new plantings,
the disease can be kept in check. Little can be accomplished in
the way of control after the disease appears on the growing
cane. Success in controlling red rot is largely a matter of select-
ing and planting canes that are free from it.
The disease forms characteristic markings in the pith of
the canes. If an infected cane is split, red spots or streaks appear

Florida Cooperative Extension

in the pith. Slight attacks or beginning infections may be rep-
resented by a few red spots scattered along the pith. In more
advanced stages the pith is marked by red streaks extending
from one joint to another, or the entire pith between joints may
be discolored or broken down.
In more advanced cases of the disease the exterior of the
stalks will appear blackened at the joints and the buds become
brown or black. However, the interior of the stalk is the place
to look for infection, and if the lower joints of a suspected cane
are split the presence or absence of the disease is readily de-
In order to avoid red rot only healthy canes should be
planted. Those showing the slightest discoloration of the in-
terior should not be used. In sections where the disease is
abundant, it will be advisable to obtain seed cane from some
locality where the disease is not present.
Where the seed cane is bedded healthy stalks should be
selected and carefully stripped of all foliage. Where infected
stalks are introduced in the bed the disease spreads very rapidly
and a few stalks may infect the entire bed. As an extra pre-
caution the seed canes may be dipped in Bordeaux mixture before
bedding to kill any spores that may have lodged on the surfaces
of the stalks. The 4-4-50 Bordeaux will be sufficient for this
purpose. Avoid the introduction of rubbish from canes into beds
since this material may harbor the fungus.

Acknowledgment is due Dr. P. A. Yoder, Sugar Cane Tech-
nologist, Bureau Plant Industry, who gave valuable assistance
in securing much information in this bulletin, also for furnish-
ing photos for Fig. 1 and Fig. 8.

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