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Sugarcane in the EAA Sugarcane in the EAA Curtis Rainbolt Belle Glade, FL.

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Presentation on theme: "Sugarcane in the EAA Sugarcane in the EAA Curtis Rainbolt Belle Glade, FL."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sugarcane in the EAA Sugarcane in the EAA Curtis Rainbolt Belle Glade, FL

2 Everglades Agricultural Area Consists of about 500,000 acres of land on the southern and eastern shores of Lake Okeechobee Approximately 80% is sugarcane and the remainder is mostly vegetables, sod, and rice Total sugar acreages are ~450,000 Primarily grown on muck soils, but some is grown on sandy soils


4 Muck Soils Formed over a period of ~5,000 years from decaying remains of saw grass and other marsh plants under flooded conditions Soil organic matter contents are high, typically ranging between 80 to 90% Depths range from 6 in to over 4 ft Histosols range from 0.5 to over 3.5% total N, with EAA histosols averaging 2-4% N (Porter and Sanchez, 1994).


6 Subsidence Drainage of soils resulted in oxidation and mineralization of large quantities of organic N Microbial oxidation has been reported to be responsible for 50 to 75% of the subsidence The reported subsidence rates for EAA Histosols range from 0.13 to 1.71 inches/yr Influenced by soil type, carbon content, water table level, bulk density, and temperature Other factors (compaction, erosion) contribute

7 In 1924 a 9ft post was driven into the bedrock at the EREC

8 Taxonomy Sugarcane is a giant grass (Poaceae) Tribe: Adropogoneae Genus, species: Saccharum officinarum L. Saccharum officinarum L. is the so called ‘noble cane’ with long, thick, heavy, juicy, and sweet stalks Other species include: S. barberi, S. robustum, S. sinese, and spontaneum Commercial clones are typically 3- part hybrids

9 Growth and Development The EAA is well suited for sugarcane growth Grows well in the summer period of warm temperatures and high rainfall Matures, ripens, and is easily harvested during the cool, dry winters The lake provides a winter warming effect It is also well adapted to the photoperiod and light intensity

10 Temperature Requirements Grows slowly at temperatures above 70 F Ambient temperature above 80 F are ideal Prolonged temperatures above 90 F and water stress can slow growth Very sensitive to cold, few buds will survive temperatures below 27 F

11 General Agronomy Sugarcane is perennial that is harvested annually The first year is referred to as plant cane and the successive years are ratoon or stubble crops Typically replanted every 3 to 5 years Grown on 5 ft row spacing

12 Planting Vegetative pieces are planted Sugarcane cultivars are clones of a single plant produced from seed Typically planted from late September through December/January Fields that are planted earlier are more actively growing and consequently more susceptible to frost damage Traditionally planted by hand with large crews

13 Furrows are opened (6-8 inches deep) and two stalks of cane are laid side by side Workers follow with knives and cut the cane into shorter pieces to stimulate germination and allow it to lay flat in the row Insecticides are placed into the furrow The cane is covered with soil and in 2-3 weeks shoots emerge


15 Mechanical Planting Currently ~50% of the cane is mechanically planted Modified harvesters cut the cane into billets Billets are loaded into a mechanical planter and metered out Shorter seed pieces are more susceptible to disease Damage to eyes (buds) requires higher seeding rates



18 Fertility Soil tests are used by all (BMP requirement) Sugarcane requires all essential elements and yields are typically improved with added Si Prior to planting fertilizer is placed in furrow N is typically not needed on muck soils Excessive N can reduce sucrose contents P tend to be deficient, particularly in ratoon crops K is the element most deficient for sugarcane production in the EAA

19 Water Management Sugarcane requires substantial amounts of water to produce high yields Fields are irrigated by sub-irrigation (seepage irrigation) and open ditch drainage Sub-irrigation is defined as supplying water to the crop root zones by controlling the water table A water table is established above an existing water table or above a restrictive (impermeable) soil layer by pumping water into open ditches


21 Lowering ditch water levels allows water to flow out of the soil profile back into the ditches. South Florida lends itself to water table management because of its flat land, relatively high soil hydraulic conductivity underlain by a restrictive layer, and large quantities of available water Pump stations are used to remove excess water following rainfall events

22 Weed Control Weeds are controlled primarily through the use of pre- and post- emergence herbicides and cultivation Warm season grasses tend to be the most troublesome Sugarcane is very competitive and can out compete most weeds once the canopy closes




26 Disease Management Disease issues in sugarcane are handled primarily through planting of resistant or tolerant cultivars A collaborative breeding effort between the USDA-ARS at Canal Pt. and the University of Florida works to continuously develop new high quality disease resistant cultivars

27 Cultivar Selection A variety release committee comprised of growers and researchers meets and votes on which cultivars are released from the breeding program Selection criteria include: disease resistance, yield (tonnage), sucrose content, ratooning ability, freeze tolerance, growth habit and characteristics, fiber content, and others

28 Harvest Harvest occurs from October to March If there are no freezes yields are highest after January Because of milling limitations some fields must be harvest prior to optimum dates Fields are burned immediately prior to harvest to remove dead leaves and reduce the amount of trash delivered to the mill



31 A 40 acre field typically requires 20 minutes to burn Burning is strictly regulated based on air quality and wind directions Prior to the mid 80’s a majority of cane was hand harvested Labor issues and costs resulted in shift to 100% mechanical harvesting by 1993 The cane is deposited from the harvester into wagons that are hauled to ramps and dumped in highway trailers or rail cars



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