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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Research Project #435392

Research Project: New Crop and Soil Management to Improve Sugarcane Production Efficiency

Location: Sugarcane Research

Project Number: 6052-12210-003-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 1, 2018
End Date: Oct 31, 2019

Objective:
1. Develop soil management systems that overcome limitations in soil and nutrient resources and maximize production efficiency. 1.A. Determine the potassium and phosphorus requirements for new varieties on both silt loam and heavy-clay soils. 1.B. Develop practices for the application of phosphorus and potassium that are more accurate and cost effective. 2. Develop crop production practices to increase management flexibility, reduce input costs, and maximize profits. 2.A. Develop mechanized planting methods that increase management flexibility and reduce input costs. 2.B. Develop management systems to replace post-harvest burning of crop residues. 2.C. Develop techniques to estimate yields prior to harvest and maximize production efficiency. 3. Integrate pest management systems into sugarcane production systems including genetic sources of host-plant resistance for greater sugarcane yield, sustainability, and ratoon longevity. Benefits will include an integrated approach to pest and disease control in sugarcane production, enhanced genetic understanding and development of new varieties with host-plant resistance to insect pests and diseases vectored by insects, and increased understanding of integrated pest management in the sugarcane agroecosystem environment for sustainable and profitable production.

Approach:
To address the first objective, a series of experiments will be initiated to investigate the response of sugarcane to variations in macro- and micro-nutrients. Results from these experiments will be used to identify critical fertility components and to optimize fertility rates for sucrose production. Initial macro-nutrient experiments will focus on potassium (K), and phosphorus (P), two critical components of a sugarcane fertility program whose costs have risen dramatically. Micro-nutrient experiments will focus on boron, molybdenum, copper, nickel, and cobalt. There is a critical lack of research data for these nutrients in Louisiana and these studies will help to fill this void. All treatments will be arranged in randomized complete block design (RCBD) with six replications. To address the second objective, studies will be initiated to investigate new mechanized planting methods and to develop new management systems that can replace burning of post-harvest crop residues. Finally, scientists will investigate the utility of a newly designed yield monitor and multiband aerial imagery collected with unmanned aerial systems as potential indicators of cane biomass levels and sucrose content. The sugarcane borer (SCB) and Mexican rice borer (MRB) continue to be the major economic pests in Louisiana sugarcane. In replicated field experiments, sugarcane cultivars will be evaluated for resistance to MRB and SCB. Data collection will include % bored internodes, adult emergence and yield loss assessment. Field experiments will also be conducted to identify control tactics for managing damaging infestations of a four-species hemipteran complex infesting sugarcane (e.g., sugarcane aphid, yellow sugarcane aphid, West Indian canefly, and sugarcane delphacid). These experiments will seek to better refine damage thresholds and ultimately establish action thresholds for initiating insecticide applications. The most effective insecticide formulations will need be to be identified as well as determining their most economical application rates. Ultimately, the findings from these studies will be used to develop improved and sustainable integrated pest management strategies for insect pests of sugarcane primarily in Louisiana, but the findings are generally applicable for sugarcane grown in Florida and Texas.