Submitted to: Sugar Journal
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/4/2016
Publication Date: 5/1/2016
Citation: White Jr, P.M. 2016. Spring reflections on Louisiana sugar cane. Sugar Journal. 78(12):25-26.
Technical Abstract: The Louisiana sugar industry continues to produce high cane and sugar yields despite a short growing season. Spring fallow land management is essential for the upcoming crop. In the past few years, wide row spacing, billet cane planting, and cover-cropping have received significant attention. The eight-foot wide row was observed in Brazil and brought to the U.S.A. by researchers and facilitated by industry personnel. These wide rows are double planted with two narrow furrows of cane on each row. This contrasts with the conventional six-foot wide row with one larger cane planting furrow. The practice has seen about 5% adoption of acreage in Louisiana as of 2016. Larger acreage tests harvested in 2014 and 2015 have so far demonstrated that wide rows produce between 7 – 10 tons/acre more cane. Future tests will attempt to mirror cultural practices for eight and six foot rows, incorporate billet planting, and modify existing cultural practices and pest management between the two spacings. Billet planting continues to be a topic of research as Louisiana is one of few remaining sugarcane industries that plants mostly whole stalks. Billet seed cane, when compared to whole stalk seed cane, lack the reserve buds to fall back on in the event of a hard, damaging freeze, and are more susceptible to microbial and insect damage because of a higher amount cut, damaged cane pieces. Recent work employing chemical seed treatments is promising. The chemicals are applied as a drench prior to planting. Plant-cane yield of certain billet treatments out performs control, non-treated billets and whole stalk seed. Finally, cover crops are again receiving significant attention by the USDA-NRCS as an important component of soil health strategies. The crops can add significant organic matter and nitrogen to our depleted, alluvial soils. Leguminous cover crops have, in other countries, reduced cane root pathogens as well. A detailed cost-benefit analysis is needed to estimate the profitability of these cultural practices. However, so far field data available is positive and shows the practices have promise in Louisiana.