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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #383642

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

Location: Sugarcane Research

Title: Cover crops for Louisiana sugarcane production

item ORGERON, ALBERT - LSU Agcenter
item GRAVOIS, KENNETH - LSU Agcenter
item TUBANA, BRENDA - LSU Agcenter
item White, Paul

Submitted to: Extension Service Bulletins
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/2/2021
Publication Date: 5/4/2021
Citation: Orgeron, A., Gravois, K.A., Tubana, B., White Jr, P.M. 2021. Cover crops for Louisiana sugarcane production. LSU AgCenter Extension Service Bulletin. PUB3791. Available:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Sugarcane in Louisiana is grown on about 500,000 acres and is the state’s highest valued row crop. Successfully production has occurred since the 1750s. Sustainable production is critical as the Louisiana sugar industry continues to have a positive impact on rural economies. And taking advantage of cover crops contributes to sustainable sugarcane production. Fields where sugarcane is planted are fallow following plow out after the last harvest of the crop cycle. Sugarcane is a perennial crop where three to five annual harvests can be made from an initial planting. To start a new sugarcane crop, stalks or billets of sugarcane are planted in an open furrow on bedded rows in these fallow fields. Research has shown the greatest potential for soil losses in sugarcane production occur during these two distinct periods within the production cycle: the fallow period and during the fall and spring in newly planted fields. Cover crops are grown throughout the United States in many annual row crops to stimulate soil microorganism growth (particularly nitrogen fixing bacteria), control weeds, regulate soil temperature, translocate nutrients, and reduce soil erosion. Long-term effects include increasing soil organic matter, which improves overall soil fertility. Research documented that cover crops can be used in the sugarcane fallow period and after planting as a cultural practice to improve soil health for Louisiana sugarcane production. The cover crops did not negatively impact any subsequent sugarcane crop grown. Some Louisiana sugarcane producers have begun to utilize these practices.