The USDA-ARS Sugarcane Field Station at Canal Point, Florida was established at its present site in 1920 by USDA under the direction of Dr. E. W. Brandes after he first tried to establish a site at Collins Key (Miami Beach) in 1918-19. The Canal Point location (26.52 oN and 80.36 oW) was selected because of the moderating temperature effect from Lake Okeechobee. Temperatures remain above freezing at the location even when freezes occur in South Florida. In November-December, the cool night temperatures are beneficial for sugarcane breeders because the temperatures less than 60° F naturally emasculate sugarcane flowers, thereby creating “female tassels” for use in crossing for the breeding program.
Although the Sugarcane Field Station is located in Florida, it was originally created to supply Louisiana with true seed for the cultivar development program in Louisiana. The first agreement covering this arrangement was made in 1924 between USDA, Louisiana State University, and Agricultural and Mechanical College. Since about 1960, the Canal Point station has been developing cultivars with CP prefixes for Florida under a three-party cooperative agreement among USDA-ARS, the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and the Florida Sugar Cane League.
The Florida sugarcane industry expanded in the 1960s. The 1960-61 crop in Florida was harvested on 19,800 hectares and the 1964-65 crop on 88,990 hectares. The dramatic expansion resulted in sugarcane being planted on land farther from Lake Okeechobee, with less protection from winter freezes. The cooperative public cultivar development program for Floridahelped develop cultivars for the land further from Lake Okeechobee and less protected from cooler temperatures. CP-cultivars occupied 14 % of the acreage in 1970, but increased to more than 90 % in 2005 in Florida.
Presently, the major sugarcane cultivars grown in Florida with their percent acreage in parentheses are: CP 80-1743 (19.9%), CP 89-2143 (29.8%), CP 88-1762 (20.4%), CP 78-1628 (12.4%) and CP 72-2086 (3.5%). The acreages of these top cultivars are changing due the presence of sugarcane orange rust. The susceptible cultivar, CP 80-1743 is rapidly decreasing in acreage because of yield losses due to the disease. CP 00-1101 and CP 01-1372 have recently been released and are resistant to both brown and orange rust and are rapidly being expanded and will probably be listed in 2010 list of top cultivars.
The sugarcane crossing program provides seed for USDA-ARS Houma, Louisiana cultivar development program. Presently, approximately half the sugarcane acreage in louisiana is from seed derived from crosses done at the Canal Point Sugarcane Field Station.
OUTLINE OF CP-CULTIVAR DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
The cultivar development program is a cooperative program ( Table 1) that includes the USDA-ARS, the Universityof Florida, IFAS, and the Florida Sugar Cane League. Each stage of the program is supervised by an individual scientist: Dr. Per McCord, Research Geneticist, Crosses; Dr. Serge Edmé, Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS--Seedlings (80,000); Dr. Duli Zhao , Research Agronomist, USDA-ARS--Stage I (12-15,000 clones); Vacant, Research Molecular Biologist, Stage II (1300-1500 clones); Dr Hardev Sandhu, Agronomist, University of Florida--Stage III (131 clones); Mr. Barry Glaz, Research Agronomist, USDA-ARS--Stage IV (16 clones); the Florida Sugar Cane League manages the program that increases vegetative planting material of promising clones (usually about 10 clones) on cooperating grower farms; and Dr. Jack C. Comstock, Research Leader/Research Plant Pathologist, USDA-ARS, conducts disease screening throughout the program. The CP breeding program has always been participatory in nature. Stage III, Stage IV, and expansions are planted on grower farms and managed by growers who also serve on the committee that recommends dropping, advancing, and releasing of clones. Growers who do not participate in the program purchase new cultivars from the expansion plots grown in the growers’ fields that provide land for Stage III and Stage IV tests. The cultivar increase is under the supervision of Wayne Davidson, a Florida Sugar Cane League Biologist.