Louisiana: Sugar Professionals Discuss New Techniques, Strategies

On the heels of a highly successful sugarcane harvest, LSU AgCenter experts provided their insight at the annual Feburary meeting of the Louisiana Division of the American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists. 

At the meeting, held in conjunction with the American Sugar Cane League, farmers and sugar mill operators gathered to discuss new techniques and strategies for growing cane and producing sugar.

Al Orgeron, LSU AgCenter pest management specialist, said the tricyclopyr herbicide, Trycera, works well on Merril’s nightshade, resulting in higher sugarcane stalk weights, increased plant populations and a positive effect on sugar per acre. It is applied between Oct. 1 and May 31 because of drift considerations.

Orgeron explained that the herbicide Armezon provides good bermudagrass control but it must be used with a crop oil and a nitrogen fertilizer. Even better control can be obtained when it is mixed with a triclopyr herbicide, he said.

Anna Hale, USDA, said the public sugarcane breeding program is developing varieties with cold tolerance and resistance to brown rust and mosaic disease. Her program focuses on developing parents useful for the commercial breeding programs. She said the breeding program has resulted in record sugar production from such varieties as LCP 85-384 which took 30 years to develop from crosses and backcrosses.

“Continuing this program is key,” Hale said. “If you stop, it’s going to take 10 years to catch up.”

Weather is the biggest determinant of a cane crop according to Kenneth Gravois, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist,. He cited his undergraduate student weather study that correlated rainfall and temperatures to sugarcane production.

From an analysis of 59 years of Louisiana weather and statewide sugar yields, Gravois concluded that low rainfall in April results in better cane yields because of increased tillering. A warm, wet August is usually followed by higher total sugar per acre. “If you struggle to plant cane, you’re going to make a better crop,” Gravois told the group.

Herman Waguespack, American Sugar Cane League agronomist, said work continues on perfecting a planting machine to reduce labor costs. Most prototypes now cause damage to seed cane, he said.

Jeff Hoy, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said using the insecticide Platinum and the fungicide Quadris combined in a seed-cane treatment has been shown to increase yields. No label for either product as a seed treatment has been obtained, but adding billet planting of longer stalks seems to hold an advantage. “We’ve seen better performance with larger billets, and higher quality.”

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