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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: NEW AND IMPROVED CULTURAL PRACTICES FOR SUSTAINABLE SUGARCANE PRODUCTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

Location: Sugarcane Research Unit

Title: Exploiting sugarcane for energy

Authors
item Gravois, Kenneth -
item Grisham, Michael
item Viator, Ryan

Submitted to: Sugar Journal
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 15, 2012
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Citation: Gravois, K., Grisham, M.P., Viator, R.P. 2013. Exploiting sugarcane for energy. Sugar Journal. 75(8):8-12.

Technical Abstract: Energycane can be described as sugarcane varieties with fiber content that is higher than the level seen in sugarcane varieties used for commercial sugar production. This fiber content is composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Approximately 70 percent of the dry weight of sugarcane is cellulose and hemicellulose, which are two carbohydrates that can be used for conversion to biobased fuel sources. Lignin contains no sugars and encloses the cellulose and hemicellulose molecules, making them difficult to reach for conversion processes. Louisiana is uniquely situated to exploit energycane because of the basic breeding efforts conducted by the USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma. Basic breeding is an introgression program whereby commercial sugarcane varieties are backcrossed to clones from Saccharum spontaneum, other species of Saccharum, and closely related genera, such as Erianthus. These cycles of backcrossing can occur for three to four generations with the goal of improving cold tolerance, ratooning ability, pest resistance, and sugar yields. With each backcross, the goal is to produce varieties with high sugar content and fiber content in the range of 11 to 13.5 percent, optimal for sugar production and processing in Louisiana. It is just as important that one understand the cultural practices necessary to maximize production and how an energycane crop can possibly become a companion crop to sugarcane. In a planting date experiment, sucrose content and fiber content yields of three sugarcane varieties and one energycane variety were compared when planted on August 1 (optimal), September 1, and October 1. The August planting increased both sugar and fiber yields relative to the average of the September and October planting dates for all varieties. However, there were no differences between the fiber yields for the September and October planting dates, but sucrose yields continued to decline. Research on post-harvest residue management indicated that energycane tolerates the blanket of leaf litter better that sugarcane. In an experiment where flood tolerance was compared, energycane tolerated the flooded conditions better than sugarcane when fiber and sucrose yields were compared between treatments. An alternative to sugarcane in flood prone areas may be energycane. Research needs to continue to refine sustainable agronomic practices for energycane production because often these practices differ from those established for sugarcane.

Last Modified: 4/24/2014