The Unit’s mission is to provide research-based solutions that enhance the viability of sugarcane as a sugar and/or biofuels feedstock. The mission utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to develop improved varieties and environmentally friendly production strategies that will insure industry profitability, expand the cropping range, and combat a constantly evolving pest complex that includes diseases, insects, and weeds.
Sugarcane producers must utilize different cultural practices to manage their crops. SRU scientists are leaders in the development of these practices including important work in soil fertility and plant nutrition. In collaborative studies, recommendations were developed that reduced nitrogen rates by 15-25% and eliminated phosphorus fertilizer without a corresponding decrease in yields. SRU scientist are also leaders in the area of sugarcane precision agriculture studies evaluating variable rate application methods, remote sensing and yield monitoring.
The sugarcane borer has been the primary insect pest for sugarcane producers in Louisiana. However, two recent insect incursions into Louisiana: the sugarcane aphid and the Mexican rice borer have shown the potential to disrupt the existing IPM programs in Louisiana for sugarcane borer by changing insecticide usage.
Weeds are a major factor that limit sugarcane yield potential, particularly from fall planting to spring canopy closure. Grassy perennial weeds that establish adjacent to sugarcane on raised beds are primarily controlled by herbicides; however, no herbicides labeled in sugarcane completely control perennial weeds without resulting in some degree of crop injury. Integrated weed management strategies that include herbicides and cultivation are primary areas of research currently being conducted at the Sugarcane Research Unit.
Sugarcane growers are constantly faced with managing a diverse and constantly changing complex of diseases. Mosaic is a disease that was responsible for the near collapse of the industry at the beginning of the 20th Century. Planting resistant varieties is the most effective method of control; however, finding varieties that are resistant to the genetic variability found in the two viruses that cause the disease, Sugarcane mosaic virus and Sorghum mosaic virus, is a constant challenge.
Genetically unique sugarcane seedlings are planted from crosses made for introgression of wild germplasm or elite varieties for selection of improved cultivars. Sugarcane cultivar release is a twelve year process of selection and evaluation throughout the Louisiana industry for high yield and disease resistance.
The Sugarcane Research is located in Houma, LA and is part of the Southeast Area.
The Research Leader is Michael Grisham.
USDA, ARS Sugarcane Research Unit
5883 USDA Road
Houma, LA 70360