Everglades Station Mimeo Report EES64-w ,r tober, 1963
INFLUENCE OF PHOSPHORUS AND SULPHUR APPLICATIONS E GR H CHEMICAL
ANALYSIS OF SUGARCANE GROWING ON ORGA CSQ
F. le Grand and F. H. Thomas
Sugarcane growth on organic soils in South Flcrida has often been retarded
by unbalanced nutrition. Additions of copper, zinc, and manganese to the soil
are necessary for satisfactory cane growth (1). Availability of manganese to
the cane plant is decreased by the high pH of the soil which is caused by the
underlying limestone (2, 3). Soils with a pH of 6.0 or higher often require an
application of 200 to 500 pounds per acre of granulated sulphur in the furrow
at planting time to lower the pH within the row (5).
Neller (8) applied different dressings of superphosphate and rock phosphate
to sugarcane variety P. O. J. 2725. The total soluble phosphorus levels of the
leaf and cane stalk saps were increased by soil applications of citrate soluble
phosphorus. Applications of sulphur to the soil increased the assimilation of
phosphorus by the plant saps.
Bourne (4) reported that additions of c0 rate soluble phosphorus reduced
the tonnage of sugarcane grown on "new peat"'. This reduction did not occur
when slightly soluble phosphorus was applied. Following several years of
cropping with no phosphorus applications a soil application of superphosphate
increased the yield by 0.89 to 1.22 tons 960 sugar per acre over the control in
plant fields. The residual effect of the phosphorus application was even greater
in the ratoon crops.
Stevens (9), however, reported that combined applications of phosphorus
and potassium to organic soils with low mineral content did not increase the cane
tonnage or sugar yield.
Many fields in the Everglades have been converted from vegetable to sugar-
cane growing during the recent expansion of the sugarcane industry. Sugarcane
growth is often reduced when the soil contains 12 to 20 pounds of water soluble
phosphorus per acre in the top six inches.
The effect of soil applications of sulfur and triple superphosphate on the
phosphorus uptake by the cane plant and cane tonnage are reported in this paper.
An experiment was initiated in the fall of 1959 with variety CL.l-.223 on
Everglades peat that had been cultivated for more than five years, to study the
effect of soil applications of sulfur and different rates of phosphorus on the
phosphorus uptake and the growth of the cane plant. Split plots, replicated
three times in a randomized block design were used with no sulfur and 400 pounds
of sulfur per acre comprising the whole plots. Each whole plot was split into
l/ Assistant Sugarcane Agronomist and Assistant Chemist, respectively.
2/ Refers to peats being cropped for the first to fourth or fifth years.
five sub-plots and 0, 17, 51, 153 or 306 pounds of phosphorus per acre as triple
superphosphate (45% P205) applied. Each plot received 170 pounds of potassium
as muriate of potash, four pounds of copper as copper sulfate, four pounds of
zinc as zinc sulfate, eight pounds of manganese as manganese sulfate, and one-
half pound of boron as borax per acre. All nutrients were applied in the furrow
at planting time.
Twenty of the highest dewlap leaves in each plot were taken from the plant
crop and first ratoon when the cane was three feet high. The leaf blades were
cut into three equal parts and the center portion, after discarding the mid ribs,
was dried in a forced draft oven at 720 C., ground in a Wiley mill with a stain-
less steel chamber and analyzed for phosphorus, sulfur, potassium, calcium,
magnesium, manganese, iron and copper from the plant crop and for phosphorus and
sulfur from the first ratoon. When the plant crop was 12 months old, 20 stalks
from each plot were ground in a small mill. The juice was analyzed for total
phosphorus and sulfur.
The plots were uniformly top-dressed with 150 pounds of potassium per acre
as muriate of potash after the plant crop was removed. Yields were taken from
the first ratoon crop and juice from a.sample of five stalks per plot was extracted
in a laboratory mill and the percent brix in juice was determined with a hydro-
An increase in phosphorus application to the soil, alone or in combination
with sulfur, resulted in a significant increase in the phosphorus content of the
leaves and juice (Tables 1, 2 and 3). The sulfur application increased signi-
ficantly thb phosphorus content of the leaves in the plant crop when comparing
the treatments receiving 153 pounds of phosphorus or more and sulfur with the
treatments that received a lower application of phosphorus and no sulfur.
The sulfur application did not change the sulfur content of leaves or juice
significantly. Phosphorus and sulfur applications did not significantly influence
the uptake of potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron or copper during the
plant crop (Table 4).
Cane tonnage from the first ratoon decreased with soil applications of 51
pounds of phosphorus or more per acre at planting time (Table 5). Tons cane per
acre was significantly decreased with an application of 306 pounds of phosphorus
per acre. Also, cane tonnages were significantly decreased with an application
of 153 and 306 pounds of phosphorus when compared with the 0, 17 and 51 pounds
per acre rates.
Increased soil applications of phosphorus reduced the brix of cane juice
(Table 5). Brix of juice from plots that received 153 or 306 pounds of phosphorus
was significantly lower than that from plots receiving 51, 17 or no phosphorus.
No significant difference in brix was found between 0, 17 and 51 pounds or between
153 and 306 pounds of phosphorus.
The sulfur applied at planting time did not influence significantly the cane
tonnage or the brix of juice in the first ratoon.
Soil samples taken at the beginning of the first ratoon from plots that did
not receive a phosphorus application showed a water soluble phosphorus content
of one pound of phosphorus per acre six inch.
Phosphorus was banded in the.furrow at planting; therefore, any increase in
residual soil phosphorus could not be determined because of the presence of
sugarcane stools at the first ratoon. However, results in other crops where
phosphorus fertilizers were applied broadcast indicate that an application of
about 8.5 pounds of phosphorus per acre is required for each pound of increase
of water extractable phosphorus (6). Since the original phosphorus content of
the soil in the first ratoon was one pound of water extractable phosphorus per
acre, the soil applications of 17, 51, 153 and 306 pounds of phosphorus as triple
superphosphate should theoretically increase the phosphorus content per acre to
3, 7, 19 and 37 pounds, respectively.
A steady decline in cane tonnage and brix of juice was obtained in the first
ratoon when the soil received 51 pounds or more phosphorus per acre at planting.
The average phosphorus content of leaves from each treatment declined between the
plant and first ratoon crops. The optimum level of 0.22 per cent of P in dry
leaves, as determined in a previous article (7), was exceeded in all treatments
of the plant crop. However, only the soil application of 306 pounds of phos-
phorus at planting time raised the phosphorus content of the leaves to the
reported optimum level in the first ratoon crop. The significant reduction in
cane tonnage obtained with a below optimum phosphorus level in leaves suggests
that the decrease in cane tonnage did not result from an excessive uptake of
Phosphorus uptake exceeded the reported optimum in the plant crop and was
below optimum in nearly all treatments of the first ratoon; therefore, the phos-
phorus in the soil might have been fixed in the first ratoon, since phosphorus
moves slowly in organic soils. The fixation of soil phosphorus might have caused
other elements to become less available to the plant and prevent their uptake
with the resulting reduction of cane tonnage.
Phosphorus fertilizer should not be applied to organic soils containing more
than 19 pounds of water soluble phosphorus per acre. Also, sugarcane growers
should be aware of the risks involved when planting cane in "old vegetable land"
where the residual soil phosphorus may be at a high level.
1. Allison, R. V., 0. C. Bryan and J. H. Hunter. The Stimulation of Plant
Response on the Raw Peat Soils of the Florida Everglades Through the Use
of Copper Sulphate and Other Chemicals. Fla. Agr. Exp. Sta. Bul. 190:
2. Allison, R. V. Field Fertilizer Experiment. Fla. Agr. Exp. Sta. Ann. Rpt.:
3. Allison, R. V., R. W. Bledsoe, J. R. Beckenbach, G. H. Backnon, J. L.
Malcolm and R. W. Kidder. The Importance of Trace Elements in Florida
Agriculture. State of Fla. Dept. of Agr. Bul. 153: 100-5. 1953.
4. Bourne, B. A. Physiological Effects of Soil Phosphorus Deficiency and Excess
on Sugarcane on Low Mineral Peat Soil. Proc. Inter. Soc. of Sugarcane Tech.:
5. Forsee, W. T., Jr. Conditions Affecting the Availability of Residual and
Applied Manganese in the Organic Soils of the Florida Everglades. Soil
Sci. Soc. Amer. Proc. 18: 475-8. 1954.
6. Forsee, W. T., Jr., V. E. Green, Jr., and R. H. Webster. Fertilizer Experi-
ments with Field Corn on Everglades Peaty Muck Soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer.
Proc. 18: 76-9. 1954.
7. Le Grand, F., H. W. Burdine and F. H. Thomas. Phosphorus and Potassium
Requirements for Growing Sugarcane on Organic Soils in South Florida.
Sugar Journal 24. 1:22-6. 1961.
8. Neller, J. R.
Related to the
Phosphorus Content and Buffer Capacity of Plant Sap as
Physiological Effect of Phosphorus Fertilizers in Fibrous
Jour. of Agr. Research. 51. 4: 287-300. 1935.
9. Stevens, F. D. Agronomic Studies with Sugarcane.
Rpt. 192-193. 1947.
Fla. Agr. Exp. Sta. Ann.
This paper will be presented at the annual meeting of the Sugarcane
Technologists Association of Puerto Rico, November, 1963.
Table 1. Average Phosphorus and Sulfur Contents of Leaves of the Plant Crop by Rates of Phosphorus With and
Without Sulfur, Applied to the Soil at Planting Time. 1/
phosphorus per acre
applied to soil
sulfur per acre
400 pounds sulfur peF acre
17 pounds 51 pounds 153 poundss 306 pounds
phosphorus phosphorus difference phosphorus phosphorus difference
leaves, percent 0.27 0.31 0.04* 0.31 0.36 0.05*
0, 17 and 51 pounds of
With 400 pounds sulfur
153 and 306 pounds of
No sulfur 0.29 0.30
Difference 0.03 0.07**
I/ Average of three replications.
Table 2. Average Phosphorus and Sulfur Contents of Leaves of the First Ratoon Crop by Rates of Phosphorus
With and Without Sulfur, Applied to the Soil at Planting Time. 1/
Phosphorus per acre
applied to soil
400 pounds sulfur per acre No Sulfur
400 pounds sulfur per acre
0, 17 and 51 153 and 306 153 pounds 306 pounds
pounds of pounds of of of
phosphorus, average phosphorus, average difference phosphorus phosphorus difference
leaves, percent 0.17 0.21 0.04** 0.20 0.22 0.02**
1 Average of three replications.
Table 3. Average Phosphorus and Sulfur Contents of Cane Juice of the Plant Crop by Rates of Phosphorus With and
Without Sulfur, Applied to the Soil at Planting Time. i/
per acre applied
400 pounds sulfur per acre
400 pounds sulfur per acre
0, 17 and 51 153 and 306
pounds of pounds of 153 pounds 306 pounds
phosphorus, phosphorus, of of
average. average difference phosphorus phosphorus difference
juice, ppm. 91 240 149** 207 272 65**
!/ Average of three replications.
Table 4. Average Contents of Potassium Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Iron and Copper in Leaves by Rates of
Phosphorus, in Combination with Sulfur, Applied to the Soil at Planting Time. 1/
0.63 0.5 -
Average of three replications, plant crop.
Table 5. Tons Sugarcane Harvested and the Percent Brix in Juice of the First Ratoon
Applications of Phosphorus at Planting Time. l/
Crop by Different Soil
Pond poshousBrx n uie
applied to soil
tons per acre
Brix in juice,
0, 17 and 51 153 and 3C6 153 pounds 306 pounds
pounds of pounds of of of
phosphorus phosphorus, difference phosphorus phosphorus difference
Cane per acre, tons 46.4 31.0 15.4** 35.8 26.2 9.6**
Brix in juice, percent 17.8 16.6 1.2** -- -
Average of Six replications.