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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Research Project #423236

Research Project: Integrated Crop, Soil, and Water Management Systems for Sustainable Production of Sugarcane for Bioenergy Feedstock

Location: Sugarcane Research

Project Number: 6052-13210-001-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 2, 2012
End Date: Apr 11, 2017

Objective 1: Develop best management practices (BMPs) for a growers guide for sustainable production of sugarcane for sugar and/or bioenergy feedstock. Sub-objective 1.A. Identify cultural practices to increase the cold tolerance and establishment of energycane growing in temperate areas. Sub-objective 1.B. Identify date of harvest impacts on energycane growth. Objective 2: Determine limiting input requirements for sugarcane. Sub-objective 2.A. Determine effect of nitrogen (N) rate on energycane yield. Sub-objective 2.B. Determine N budget for energycane production systems. Objective 3: Assess risks of sugarcane production to soil health and water availability. Sub-objective 3.A. Determine the effects of complete biomass removal on soil health and soil water conservation. Sub-objective 3.B. Determine the benefits and risks of complete biomass harvest on ratooning ability of sugarcane and energycane. Objective 4: Identify landscape positions/geographic locations where sugarcane production can enhance ecosystem services.

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.