Location: Sugarcane Research Unit
Project Number: 6052-13210-001-00
Start Date: Jul 02, 2012
End Date: Jul 01, 2017
Field studies will be conducted in Louisiana to develop an integrated system of crop, soil, and water management practices for a sustainable production of sugarcane for sugar and/or bioenergy feedstock. The tests will focus on identifying strategies to improve soil health, conserve moisture, and grow cane in marginal areas, such as those prone to flooding. The project will focus on traditional sugarcane growing parishes and into new areas to expand the limit of high-fiber “energycane” production. Cold tolerance is a limiting factor for cane production in the northern areas of Louisiana as well as in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Experiments will be conducted to maximize survival of cane including increasing depth of cover at planting, and using crop residue as a mulch layer after harvest. Currently, nitrogen needs for energycane are unknown. Nitrogen rate studies will be conducted to determine optimal nitrogen rates that maximize crop yield and minimize off-site transport of excess nitrate. Additionally, modeling (EPIC, ALMANAC) will be conducted to evaluate the water balance and crop production of energycane. In south Louisiana expanding cane production in areas prone to flooding would increase the state cane supply available for milling. We will screen cane varieties for tolerance to flooding as well as evaluate the benefits to ecosystem services (e.g., carbon sequestration, nitrogen losses in water) of growing cane. We will also collaborate with economists to determine the costs and benefits of energycane production, as well as the effects of harvest date on energycane quality and yield. The product of the research will be more advanced best management practices for sugarcane either grown for sugar and/or bioenergy feedstock.