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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Research Project #437753

Research Project: New Crop Production and Protection Practices to Increase Sugarcane Ratoon Longevity and Maximize Economic Sustainability

Location: Sugarcane Research

Project Number: 6052-21000-017-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Feb 19, 2020
End Date: Feb 18, 2025

1. Develop systems-level precision agriculture strategies and tools based on climate, soil, water and nutrients to increase sugarcane yield, sustainability, and ratoon longevity. [NP 305, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A] 1.A. Develop variable-rate nutrient application systems to increase yields, ratoon longevity and sustainability. 1.B. Utilize UAV-based remote sensing systems to estimate yields prior to harvest. 2. Analyze the impacts of existing and emerging pathogens that affect sugarcane or its wild relatives to enhance genetic control and chemical control strategies. [NP 305, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A] 2.A. Identify germplasm of hybrid sugarcane and wild relatives of sugarcane for resistance to economically limiting diseases that breeders can use for parental clones. 2.B. Characterize races, strains, or other biotypes of endemic pathogens and monitor the Louisiana sugarcane industry for the emergence of new pathogens. 3. Optimize and integrate the chemical and cultural control of weeds including identifying key factors that promote proliferation in sugarcane production. [NP 305, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A] 3.A. Develop new herbicide programs that optimize application timing, placement, and herbicide use rates for management of problematic grass and broadleaf weed species in sugarcane. 3.B. Identify weedy characteristics that promote divine nightshade proliferation.

To address the first objective, precision agriculture (PA) methods such as soil electrical conductivity (EC) mapping, variable-rate application and remote-sensing will be utilized to increase sugarcane yield, sustainability, and ratoon longevity. All research will be conducted on commercial sugarcane farms in Louisiana on silt-loam and clay soils and treatments will be arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replications. Soil EC mapping will be used to develop management zones to optimize nutrient application with variable-rate application procedures. This will ensure that nutrients are not under or over applied which can lead to decreased yields or adverse environmental impacts, respectively. Sugarcane yields in the successive ratoon crops of PA systems will be used as an index of the progress made in increasing ratoon longevity as compared to conventional management methods. Finally, imagery acquired by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be utilized to predict cane and sucrose yields prior to harvest. This will allow farmers to more accurately determine harvest schedules and adjust crop management strategies to optimize cane and sugar yields. To address objective two, we will identify and develop parental germplasm with resistance to the economically limiting diseases affecting sugarcane in the United States. Highly domesticated and wild clones of sugarcane and near relatives will be evaluated for disease resistance following either natural infections or artificial inoculation. Genotypic and phenotypic expressions of variability within populations of pathogens will be used to identify the genetic variability among pathogen populations and determine the distribution of races, strains, or biotypes. The domestic sugarcane industry will be monitored for the introduction of exotic pathogens. To address the third objective, a holistic weed management strategy designed for sustainable sugarcane cultivation will be developed that addresses application optimization, herbicide mixtures, use rates that result in adequate weed control, crop tolerance, and evolution of herbicide resistant weeds. Three new 4-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase (HPPD) herbicides will be evaluated for their efficacy in controlling problematic weeds postemergence in sugarcane. Treatments will be arranged in a randomized complete block design with at least four replications. The HPPD herbicides will be applied separately and tank-mixed with various herbicides to evaluate the weed spectrum controlled. Analysis of both herbicide efficacy data and yield data, will allow us to determine effective herbicides and herbicide use rates that maximizes weed control while at the same time minimizes injury to the sugarcane crop. Research will also be conducted to understand the phenology of divine nightshade during a sugarcane cropping cycle to assist in developing the necessary management tactics to prevent weed proliferation. The end product of this research will be new crop, soil, disease, and weed management strategies that ensure efficiency and sustainability of sugarcane production while increasing ratoon longevity.