Everglades Station Mimeo Report 62-6 August 11, 1961
GROWING SUGARCANE ON ORGANIC SOILS FOR SUGAR PRODUCTION
F. le Grand
This mimeograph was prepared as a source of general information and a guide
for farmers who have little experience in growing sugarcane. It is felt that
the mimeograph will serve a purpose because of the increased interest in grow-
ing 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 Com-
mittee which determines each new release.
The release of new varieties is made known to the farmers by an Experiment
Station or USDA Circular describing the variety, yield tests and other agron-
omic data. The Florida Experiment Station Circulars can be obtained through
the County Agent's Office. A new variety, F 46-136, is scheduled for release
in the fall of 1961.
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. A sugarcane variety has been selected espec-
ially on its qualities of high sugar content, high cane tonnage, disease
resistance and other favorable agronomic characteristics. A grower must avoid
mixing sugarcane varieties, since this contamination might result in a sharp
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
accidently burning more cane than can be harvested within 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. Draina facilitiess ;
should provide a minimum of one inch of run-off per 24 hours and`'preferably more.'
* A revision of Everglades Station Mimeo Report 61-1. .
** Assistant Sugarcane Agronomist, University of Florida, Agricultural Experi- /
ment Stations, Everglades Experiment Station, Belle Glade, Florida.' '
Soil preparation.- To establish a good cane crop it is necessary to pre-
pare 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.
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 sus-
ceptible to Ratoon Stunting Disease (R.S.D., a virus disease) it will be ad-
visable to obtain plant material from a field which was started from hot-water
treated seedcane. 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 seed stock free from R.S.D. Further infor-
mation 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 first quality seedcane required to plant one acre will be
approximately 2-a- tons, if the cane furrows are made 5 feet apart.
lWhen seedcane is bought or harvested the cane should only be topped high
without removal of dry trash or leaves. This will prevent damage of the cane
buds during handling and transportation to the field.
Two systems of planting are presently used. With the first one the cane
stalks are dropped into the bottom of the furrow and cut by hand into 2- to
3- foot pieces while in the furrow. The second system cuts the cane into
pieces of two-foot lengths before transporting the seed to the plant field
and the cane pieces are dropped into the bottom of the furrow.
Often the cane seed will be infested by wireworms, particularly when other
crops such as corn have been growing previously. To protect the seedcane lying
in the furrow it should be treated with one of the following insecticides on a
per acre basis: four pounds chlordane, three pounds aldrin or two pounds B.H.C.
(2,3) immediately after the seed has been placed in the furrow. While the furrow
is still open, the fertilizer should be applied. The sugarcane plant is sensi-
tive to pH. When the pH is 6.0 or higher the cane plant might suffer from man-
ganese deficiency and therefore sufficient sulphur, normally 500 pounds per acre,
should be applied into the furrow. If the soil has never been cultivated, 50
pounds of copper sulfate or its equivalent of copper oxide should be broadcast
and disked into the soil six months prior to planting.
The soils of sugarcane fields should be analyzed by asoil testing lab-
oratory in order to determine optimum fertilization. A normal application
would be 350 lbs. per acre of 0-8-45 with 1% CuO, 1% ZnO, .3% n0O and % B20,
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 about six inches deep. A somewhat shallower furrow may be left, if
pre-emergence herbicides are to be used (7).
Maintaining the cane crop.- After covering the seedcane, the field should
be kept clean by mechanical or chemical means. For information about chemical
weed control the farmer is referred to the mimeograph reports on this subject
(4,5,6,7). It should be pointed out that some of these chemicals, 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 may depend somewhat
on mechanical means to control the weeds.
Scratchers are used regularly for this purpose. Disking is also a method
to keep the inter-row spaces clean. The small furrow, left after planting, will
be filled-in by light discing and, after several operations, the rows might be
"hilled up". The hilling 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 have "closed-in",
shading the banks between the rows and so suppressing weed growth; no additional
tillers will be formed from then on.
From this moment on the cane field should be left alone until harvest time,
only providing it with sufficient irrigation and drainage. During the whole
growing period from planting until ripening, the average depth of the water tabel
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 harvest the cane only when it is ripe, so as to produce a crop
with the highest possible sucrose percent.
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 maturing of the cane.
Before harvesting, the cane should be burned to dispose of all dry leaves
(trash) and make the work for the cane cutter easier. Burned sugarcane will
deteriorate and lose sugar rather rapidly. This is the reason that cane from
burned fields should be harvested and delivered to the mill as soon possible,
and certainly within 48 hours after burning. It is not advisable to burn an
area larger than that which yields cane for a 48-hour mill supply. The farmer
with a limited daily quota to the factory should cut fire passages in his field
so as to limit the area that will be burned.
The burned cane in the field is cut,topped, piled, loaded into wagons and
transported to a central loading point from where the factory takes over.
Maintaining ratoons.- When cane is harvested, the underground parts re-
main alive in the soil; the dormant buds on these parts will sprout after
sometime and give rise to a new crop. This crop is called "stubble cane" or
"ratoon cane". 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
mechanical 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 sucrose percentage in the early
fall and is suited to be harvested in the early part of
the grinding 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, and
all other dissolved solids.
polarization(pol), Represents the percentage of all sugars 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 insoluble 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,
Bulletin 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. 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.
5. Orsenigo, J. R. The Effect of Dalapon on Sugarcane Growth and Yield:
Preliminary Report. :Everglades Station Mimeo Report 60-22. 1960.
6. Orsenigo, J. R. Preliminary evaluation of Pre-and Post-emergence applied
herbicides in sugarcane, 1960-1961. Everglades Mimeo Report 62-2,
7. Orsenigo, J. R. Chemical Weed Control for Sugarcane on Organic Soils of
the Everglades. Everglades Station Mimeo Report 62-5. 1961.
LIST OF MAGAZINES, BOOKS AND CIRCULARS RELATED TO SUGARCANE CULTURE
The following list might
1. Sugar Y Azucar,
2. Sugar Journal
supply a source of information to the farmer when grow-
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,Louisiana.
Subscription price $5.00 per year.
3. Sugar Bulletin,
4. The International Sugar Journal,
5. The Manuring of Sugarcane,
6. Sugar Reference Book
7. Foreign Agriculture Circular by the
Published on the first and fifteenth of
each month by the American Sugarcane
League of the U.S.A. Editorial and
Executive 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
Executive Office at Central Chambers,
The Broadway, London W5, England. Sub-
scription 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
Control 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