Everglades Station Mimeo Report 61-1
GROWING SUGARCANE ON ORGANIC SOILS FOR SUGAR PRO TION
BY INDIVIDUALS AND FARM GROUPS b 20 6J
F. le Grand
This mimeograph was prepared as a source of general informational a
guide for farmers without experience in growing sugarcane and the cultivation
of sugarcane is discussed without going into detail. It is felt that the
mimeograph will serve a purpose because of the increased interest lately in
growing sugarcane for sugar production.
Varieties.- New sugarcane varieties for Florida are developed by the USDA
Sugar Crops Field Station, Canal Point, Florida and by the Research Department
of the U. S. Sugar Corporation in Clewiston, Florida. Every year thousands of
new seedlings are planted and evaluated by the Everglades Experiment Station,
Belle Glade, Florida and by the USDA Sugar Crops Field Station in Canal Point,
New sugarcane varieties are selected and released for commercial produc-
tion by the USDA Sugar Crops Field Station, in cooperation with the Everglades
Experiment Station. Limited seed stock of newly released varieties will be
available according to terms prescribed and agreed upon by the Release Committee
which determines each new release.
The release of new varieties is made known to the farmer by an Experiment
Station or USDA Circular describing the variety, yield tests and other agronomic
data. The Florida Experiment Station Circulars can be obtained through the
County Agent's office.
Sugarcane varieties do not carry names but numbers. C.P. 50-28 means that
the variety was bred in Canal Point in 1950 and the variety represents the 28th.
selection of that year. Similarly CL 41-223 was bred in Clewiston in 1941 as
selection No. 223.
Field Lay-out.- Inasmuch as the cane has to be burned prior to harvesting
and the burned sugarcane has to be passed through the sugarmill within 48 hours
to prevent deterioration of the cane, it is suggested that the farmer not grow
sugarcane in field units larger than 20 acres each. This will safeguard from
burning accidently more cane than can be harvested in a particular time and
gives sufficient space for maneuvering mechanical equipment. For each field
unit proper facilities for water control with dikes and reversible pumps to
provide drainage or irrigation should be installed. This layout will also pro-
vide additional safeguard against spreading of fire when the fields are burned
prior to harvest. Every field unit should have hard surfaced roads for the
transportation of the heavy cane crop at harvesting time. Drainage facilities
should provide one inch of run-off per 24 hours at the minimum and preferably
* Assistant Sugarcane Agronomist, University of Florida, Agricultural
Experiment Stations, Everglades Experiment Station, Belle Glade, Florida.
Soil preparation.- To establish a good cane crop it is necessary to prepare
the soil thoroughly including leveling and moledraining every 12-15 feet.
Thereafter furrows should be made five feet apart and 10-12 inches deep. It
is preferred to make three furrows simultaneously and use the same unit later
for fertilization, planting and mechanical or chemical weeding, to facilitate
all mechanical operations.
Planting, fertilization and insect control.- After adequate land prepara-
tion and furrowing the field will be ready for planting. The best commercial
variety at present for mucklands is Cl 41-223. As the variety is rather suscep-
tible to a virus, Ratoon Stunting Disease (R.S.D.), it will be advisable to
obtain plant material from a field which was started from seed that had been
hot-water treated originally. If such plant material is not available, the
farmer should make arrangements for treating a small quantity of plant material
with hot water and use this material to obtain a future seed stock free from
R.S.D. disease. Further information about this disease and how to treat the
cane seed against R.S.D. can be obtained from reference number 1 (see last page
of this mimeograph).
The amount of seedcane required will be approximately 2-2- tons of seed
cane per acre, and the cane furrows should be placed 5 feet apart.
When seedcane is bought or harvested the cane should only be topped slightly
with no removal of dry ash or leaves. This will prevent damage of the cane
eyes during handling and transportation to the field to be planted.
Two systems of planting are used presently. With the first one the cane
is dropped whole into the bottom of the furrow and cut by labor into 2- to 3-
foot pieces while in the furrow. The second system cuts the cane into pieces
two feet long before transporting the seed to the plant field and the cane
pieces are dropped into the bottom of the furrow.
Often the caneseed is infested with wireworms particularly when other crops
such as corn have been growing previously. To prevent damage, the seedcane
lying in the furrow should be treated with four pounds chlorodane, three pounds
aldrin or two pounds B.H.C. (2,3.) directly after the seedcane has been dropped
into the furrow. While the furrow is still open, the fertilizer should be
applied. The sugarcane plant is very sensitive to pH. When the pH is 6.0 or
higher the cane plant will suffer from manganese deficiency and therefore suffi-
cient sulphur, normally 500 pounds per acre, should be applied into the furrow
to insure a pH of 6.0 or lower for several years. If the soil has never been
cultivated, 50 pounds of copper sulfate or its equivalent of copper oxide and
20 pounds of zinc sulfate should be broadcast and disced into the soil six months
prior to planting.
The soils of sugarcane fields should be analyzed by a soil testing labora-
tory in order to determine optimum fertilization. A normal application given to
the cane fields is 350 Ibs. of 0-8-45 with 1% CuO, 1 n, 3% MnO and J B203
together with sulphur. After the application of the fertilizer and sulphur in
the open furrow the seedcane is covered with four to six inches of soil leaving
a furrow of about six inches.
Maintaining the cane crop.- After covering the seedcane, the field should
be kept clean by mechanical or chemical means. For chemical weed control infor-
mation the farmer is referred to the mimeograph reports concerning this subject
(4,5,6,7). It should be pointed out that several chemicals used, although not
harmful to the cane, may damage other crops. Since the small cane farmer is
likely to be surrounded by several other nearby crops he will likely depend
mostly on mechanical means to control the weeds.
Scratchers are used regularly for this purpose. Discing is also employed
to keep the inter-row spaces clean. The small furrow, left after planting, will
be filled in by light discing and, after several discing operations, the rows
will be "hilled up". The chilling has the advantage of producing a more uniform
stalk size and prevents the cane stool from making too many tillers. After 4
months or later, depending on weather conditions, the cane rows will "close in",
preventing the growth of weeds and the formation of additional tillers. From
that moment on the cane field should be left alone until harvesting time and
only provided with sufficient irrigation or drainage. During the whole growing
period from planting until ripening, the average depth of the water table should
be kept at about 1.5 feet.
Harvesting.- The sales price of cane to the processor is determined by a
government agency, and may fluctuate from one year to another. .This agency
takes into account the production cost per ton of cane and also allows the
farmer a premium for first quality cane. It is, therefore, to the farmer's
advantage to produce a crop with the highest percent sucrose in the cane and
to harvest when the cane is ripe.
The cane ripens best when it is deprived of water and the temperature
drops. Therefore, the water table should be lowered two months before harvest-
ing to obtain a better ripening effect.
Before harvesting, the cane should be burned to dispose of all dry leaves
(trash) and make the work for the cane cutter easier. More area should never
be burned than a 48-hour supply to the mill. The small cane farmer can only
deliver a limited amount of cane to the factory and he should cut fire passages
in his field prior to burning to prevent burning more cane than the 48-hour
supply. Burned cane beyond this time limit will deteriorate rapidly with a
subsequent lower price paid by the factory.
The burned cane in the field should be topped, piled, loaded into wagons
and transported to a central loading point from where the factory takes over,
Maintaining ratoons.- When cane is harvested from the plant cycle it will
grow back and can be harvested again (ratoon). Several ratoons can be obtained
by this method and the number is limited only by the law of economics. Mostly
every following ratoon will yield less tons cane per acre and it is up to the
individual farmer to decide after how many ratoons it will be economical for
him to replant the field.
Cane trash and tops from the preceding crop should be left in the field
and not disturbed as this blanket of vegetative material will suppress the
growth of weeds. It should be incorporated into the soil with the first mechan-
ical weeding. The ratoon crop should be fertilized by applying the fertilizers
as a band into the stool or as a banded shallow sidedressing. The amount of
fertilizers to be applied should be determined by soil analyses and might vary
slightly from year to year.
Some Terms Used Normally by Sugarcane Growers
early cane, A variety that has a high sugar percentage in the early
fall and is very well suited to be harvested in the early
part of the season.
late cane, A variety that has its peak sugar content late in the
season and should be harvested late.
Brix, Represents the percent soluble matter in cane. These
soluble materials include sugars, coloring matter, acids,
and all other dissolved solids or liquids.
polarization (pol), Represents the percentage sugar in the cane; therefore,
the Brix is always higher than the polarization.
purity, Is a ratio and is equal to the polarization divided by
the brix of cane juice and multiplied by 100.
fiber, Is the percent unsoluble matter in the cane.
1. Todd, Edwin H. The Ratoon Stunting Disease of Sugarcane and its Control
in Florida. Agricultural Research Service, U. S. Department of
Agriculture, ARS 34-12. 1960.
2. Annual Report, Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations: p. 215. 1956.
3. Annual Report, Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations: p. 267. 1959.
4. Guzman, V. L. Grass Control in Sugarcane Grown in Organic Soils.
Everglades Station Mimeo Report 56-14. 1960.
5. Guzman, V. L. Post Emergence Grass and Weed Control in Sugarcane.
Everglades Station Mimeo Report 57-16. 1957.
6. Orsenigo, J.R. The Tolerance of Sugarcane to Pre-emergence and Post
Emergence applied Herbicides in Screening Experiments on Organic Soil.
Everglades Station Mimeo Report 59-11. 1959.
7. Orsenigo, J.R. The Effect of Dalapon on Sugarcane Growth and Yield:
Preliminary Report. Everglades Station Mimeo Report 60-22. 1960.
LIST OF MAGAZINES, BOOKS AND CIRCUIARS IBEATED TO SUGABCANE CULTURE
The following list might supply a source of information to the farmer when grow-
1. Sugar Y Azucar,
2. Sugar Journal,
3. Sugar Bulletin,
4. The International Sugar Journal,
5. The Manuring of Sugarcane,
6. Sugar Reference Book
7. Foreign Agriculture Circular by the
Published monthly by the Russell Palmer
Trust. Editorial and Executive office
at 604 Fifth Avenue, New York 20, New
York. Subscription price $5.00 per year.
Single copies $1.00.
Published monthly by the Sugar Journal,
Inc. Editorial and Executive office at
823 Perdido Street, New Orleans, LouisianL
Subscription price $5.00 per year.
Published on the first and fifteenth of
each month by the American Sugarcane
League of the U.S.A. Editorial and Exe-
cutive office at 414 Whitney Building,
New Orleans 12, Louisiana. Subscription
price: for members 50 cents, per year,
for non-members $3.00 per year.
Published monthly by the International
Sugar Journal, Ltd. Editorial and Execu-
tive Office at Central Chambers, The Broad-
way, London W5, England. Subscription
price $5.00 per year post free. Single
copies 45 cents post free.
Published by the Centre D' Etude de
L'Azote, 42 Rue du Rhone, Switzerland,
prepared at the Jealott's Hill Research
Station of the Central Agricultural Con-
trol of the Imperial Chemical Industries
Ltd. by Halliday, D. J., 1956.
Published yearly by the Mona Palmer
Trustee. Editorial and Executive Office
at 604 Fifth Avenue, New York 20, N. Y.
U. S. Department of Agriculture: Sugar,
Foreign Agricultural Service, Washington
25, D. C.
Everglades Experiment Station
University of Florida