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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. 4. Integrate pest management systems into sugarcane production systems including genetic sources of host-plant resistance for greater sugarcane yield, sustainability, and ratoon longevity. [NP305, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A] 4.A. Determine the required level of sugarcane borer control after subsequent borer damage to ratoon crops. 4.B. Assess compatibility of billet seed treatments with biological control of the sugarcane borer.

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. Soil EC mapping will be used to develop management zones to optimize nutrient application with variable-rate application procedures. 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. Imagery acquired by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be utilized to predict cane and sucrose yields prior to harvest. 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, three new 4-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase (HPPD) herbicides will be evaluated for their efficacy in controlling problematic weeds postemergence in sugarcane. 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. To address the fourth objective, methods will be developed to assist in preventing and managing infestations of the primary economic pest of sugarcane in Louisiana, the sugarcane borer (Diatraea saccharalis (F.); Lepidoptera: Crambidae). We will determine the required level of sugarcane borer control after subsequent borer damage to ratoon crops by comparing yield, borer infestation levels, and natural enemy presence in the first and second year of growth after plants have accumulated different levels of borer damage. We will also assess the compatibility of billet seed treatments with biological control of the sugarcane borer by estimating the arthropod community activity density changes after treatment with insecticides (neonicotinoid) and fungicides (azoxystrobin and propiconazole) alone and in combination. The end product of this research will be new crop, soil, disease, weed and insect management strategies that ensure efficiency and sustainability of sugarcane production while increasing ratoon longevity.