Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #349169

Research Project: The Effects of Water-Driven Processes on Sugarcane Production Systems and Associated Ecosystem Services in Louisiana

Location: Sugarcane Research

Title: Yield and water quality for different residue managements of sugarcane in Louisiana

item SELIM, H - LSU Agcenter
item TUBANA, BRENDA - LSU Agcenter
item ARCENEAUX, ALLEN - LSU Agcenter
item ELRASHIDI, MOUSTAFA - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item COREIL, CHRIS - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item White, Paul

Submitted to: American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/22/2017
Publication Date: 2/6/2018
Citation: Selim, H.M., Tubana, B.S., Arceneaux, A., Elrashidi, M.A., Coreil, C.B., White Jr, P.M. 2018. Yield and water quality for different residue managements of sugarcane in Louisiana. Journal of the American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists. 38:1-22.

Interpretive Summary: When sugarcane is harvested, substantial leaf and top stalk material is deposed on the soil surface. Often this material is referred to as crop residue. Leaving this mulch layer on the soil surface can negatively affect cane regrowth. Thus, the crop residue is usually burnt prior to spring regrowth. But, burning can leave the soil more exposed to erosion, and the ash produced when burning can reduce air quality. A third option to burning and mulching involves sweeping the leaf material off of the row tops into the wheel furrows. Recent advances in sweeper design may make this method preferred to mulching and burning. From 2013 to 2017, we tested the three methods of managing the crop residue at multiple farms and locations in Louisiana. Our goal was to determine if sugarcane yield and water quality can be maintained by sweeping the material instead of burning. Our results indicate that water quality is not negatively affected by sweeping, when compared to burning or mulching. And, sugarcane yields were similar for the sweep, mulch or burn treatments. Sweeping the sugarcane crop residue is a viable management practice where burning may not be feasible, such as near roads, schools, and hospitals.

Technical Abstract: The focus of the study was to provide information on implementation of a modified post-harvest crop residue sweeper on sugarcane yield and water quality. Field experiments were established at three different locations in south Louisiana: Paincourtville, Duson and Baton Rouge. In each location, large plots were selected for the following treatments, burn, mulch, and sweep. For the burn treatment, the residue was burned on the ground following sugarcane harvest, whereas for the mulch treatment the residue was not removed from the surface. For the sweep treatment, a modified sweeper was used following harvest. The sweeper removed the residue from the top of the mulch to the furrows. Sugarcane yield was collected at harvest and subsamples were processed for sucrose analysis. To monitor water quality, selected sites were instrumented with water samplers, flow modules, area velocity meters, rain gauges, and 18-inch H-type flumes. Our results indicated that there was no significant differences observed for the total soil loss (dissolved and total solids), turbidity, phosphorus and nitrogen among the three treatments. In fact, the influence of the sweeper on soil and nutrient losses were comparable to runoff from burn and mulch management strategies. Moreover, sugarcane yields were not significantly different from mulch or burn treatments. This finding was based on results from five growing seasons (2013-2017) and 5 different farms at the 3 locations.