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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: REDUCING SOYBEAN YIELD LOSSES THROUGH GENETIC IMPROVEMENT Title: Sugarcane Response to High Water Tables and Intermittent Flooding

Authors
item Ray, Jeffery
item Sinclair, Thomas
item Glaz, Barry

Submitted to: Journal of Crop Improvement
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 18, 2009
Publication Date: January 1, 2010
Citation: Ray, J.D., Sinclair, T.R., Glaz, B.S. 2010. Sugarcane Response to High Water Tables and Intermittent Flooding. Journal of Crop Improvement. 24:12-27.

Interpretive Summary: Sugarcane production has caused environmental concerns of nutrient transfer to neighboring ecosystems and subsidence of organic soils on which the crop is often grown in south Florida. These environmental issues might be lessened if water was retained on the fields to minimize nutrient transfer and to decrease the rate of soil subsidence. However, for this to be successful sugarcane plants will need to withstand high water tables, including flooding. The objective of this research was to document the growth of sugarcane plants subjected to various high water table treatments. As expected, continuous flooding at all stages of growth reduced yield and root growth. However, maintenance of a continuous water table at a 6 inch depth below the soil surface resulted in no negative effect on yield and in some cases, yield was increased. Similarly, intermittent flooding throughout the season in cycles of 6 days of flooding followed by 15 days with the water table lowered either to 6 or 18 inches below the soil surface did not result in decreased yield. These results indicated that there may be important management options for sustaining sugarcane production at high water tables.

Technical Abstract: Sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) production has engendered environmental concerns of nutrient transfer to neighboring ecosystems and subsidence of organic soils on which the crop is often grown. These environmental issues might be ameliorated if water was retained on the fields to minimize nutrient transfer and to decrease the rate of soil oxidation. However, to be successful sugarcane plants will need to withstand high water tables, including flooding. Therefore the objective of this research was to document, in pot studies, the growth of sugarcane plants subjected to various high water table treatments. Two experiments were conducted over a two-year period using three sugarcane cultivars grown outdoors in large pots with controlled water table depths. A key aspect of this study was to examine the time during the growing season when the water treatment was imposed and to study the influence of intermittent flooding on cane yield. Continuous flooding at all stages of growth was deleterious. However, maintenance of a continuous water table at a 15-cm depth below the soil surface resulted in no negative effect on mass accumulation and, in some cases, yield was increased. Similarly, intermittent flooding throughout the season in cycles of 6 d flooding followed by 15 d with the water table lowered either to 15 cm or 45 cm below the soil surface did not result in decreased yield. These results indicated there may be important management options for sustaining sugarcane production at high water tables.

Last Modified: 11/22/2014
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