Sugarcane farming is a very common and popular business throughout the world. It is a widely grown crop in India, Bangladesh and some other south Asian countries.
Sugarcane actually refer to several species and hybrids of tall perennial grass in the genus Saccharum, tribe Andropogoneae, that are used for sugar production.
Depending on the variety, most of the sugarcane plants are 6 to 20 feet tall with stout, jointed and fibrous stalks. And this stalks are rich in sucrose, which accumulates in the stalk internodes.
A mature stalk is generally composed of 11-16% fiber, 12-16% soluble sugars, 2-3% non-sugars and 63-73% water.
You probably know, sugarcane belongs to the grass family, Poaceae. It is a very economically important flowering plant family that includes rice, sorghum, wheat and maize, and also many other forage crops. It is native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of India, Southeast Asia and New Guinea.
Most of the sugar produced globally comes from a species of sugarcane called Saccharum officinarum and hybrids of this species. All sugarcane species can interbreed, and the major commercial cultivars are complex hybrids.
The sugarcane crop is sensitive to climate, fertilizers, irrigation, soil type, insects, diseases control, varieties and harvest period. Depending on the variety, the average yield of cane stalk is 60-70 tonnes per hectare.
Although, exact yield depends on various factors. And yield can vary between 30 and 180 tonnes per hectare depending on knowledge and crop management approach used in sugarcane farming.
About 70% of world’s total sugar production comes from sugarcane, and rest is made from sugar beets. Sugar beets generally grow in the colder temperate regions, while sugarcane predominantly grows in tropical and subtropical regions.
Sugarcane is the world’s largest crop by production quantity. Around 1.8 billion tonnes of sugarcane produced in 2017, with Brazil accounting for 40% of the world total.
In 2012, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimated it was cultivated on about 26 million hectares (64 million acres), in more than 90 countries.
Uses of Sugarcane
Sugarcane has many different uses. It is mainly cultivated as a cash crop, but is also used as livestock fodder. Here we are shortly describing about the uses of sugarcane.
Sugarcane as Food
Sugarcane is mainly used as food in the countries where it is cultivated. There are several foods and popular dishes derived directly from sugarcane. Raw sugarcane, sayur nganten, juice, syrup, molasses, jaggery, falemum, cachaca, rum, basi, panela, rapadura, rock candy etc. are some popular food processed from sugarcane.
Sugarcane as Feed
Many parts of the sugarcane plants are generally used as animal feeds where the plants are cultivated. The sugarcane leaves make a good forage for ruminants.
Sugarcane is one of the plants with the highest bioconversion efficiency. The crop is able to efficiently fix solar energy (yielding some 55 tonnes of dry matter per hectare of land annually).
After harvest, the sugarcane crop produces sugar juice and bagasse, the fibrous dry matter. This dry matter is biomass with potential as fuel for energy production. The bagasse can also be used as an alternative source of pulp for paper production.
Sugarcane bagasse is a potentially abundant source of energy for large producers of sugarcane, such as India, Brazil and China.
According to one report, with the use of latest technologies, bagasse produced annually in Brazil has the potential of meeting 20% of the country’s energy consumption by 2020.
The countries lacking fossil fuels have implemented energy conservation and efficiency measures to minimize the energy used in sugarcane processing and export any excess electricity to the grid.
Bagasse is usually burned to produce steam, which in turn creates electricity. Current technologies, such as those in use in Mauritius, produce over 100 kWh of electricity per tonne of bagasse.
With a total world harvest of over one billion tonnes of sugarcane per year, the global energy potential from bagasse is over 100,000 GWh.
A greener alternative to burning bagasse for the production of electricity is to convert bagasse into biogas. Technologies are being developed to use enzymes to transform bagasse into advanced biofuel and biogas.
Sugarcane Nutritional Benefits
The most common and popular ways of enjoying sugarcane is it’s juice. The sugarcane juice is made by pressing the liquid out of sugarcane. The juice is a sweet, sugary beverage commonly consumed in parts of India, Africa and Asia.
The juice is a good source of antioxidants and other nutrients. The juice is high in sugar and it has a high glycemic load despite having a low glycemic index. That’s why it impacts blood sugar significantly.
One cup (240 ml) of serving offers 183 calories, 0 gram fat, 0 gram protein, 0-13 grams fiber and 50 grams sugar. It is rich in iron, magnesium, calcium and other electrolytes, so it’s great for dehydration.
Sugarcane juice is not good for the people with diabetes. However, here we are trying to describe more about the health benefits of consuming sugarcane.
- Sugarcane juice is a diuretic, which means that it helps treat urinary tract infections, kidney stones and ensure proper functioning of the kidneys.
- According to Ayurveda, sugarcane juice helps to strengthen liver. And that’s why it is suggested as a remedy for jaundice.
- Sugarcane juice is rich in good kind of carbohydrates, protein, iron, potassium and other essential nutrients that make it the ideal drinks.
- A glass of cold sugarcane juice will give you much energy, especially in the summer months.
- According to Ayurveda, sugarcane juice exhibits laxative properties, and it helps to improve bowel movement and relieving constipation.
- Sugarcane juice also has alkaline properties. That means it is good for treating acidity and stomach burns.
- The juice is extremely rich in minerals which helps to prevent tooth decay and bad breath.
Advantages of Sugarcane Farming
Commercial sugarcane farming business is very easy and simple. And this business has many advantages or benefits. The sugarcane plants generally require less care, so it’s very easy to start and maintain this business.
If you have land and want to start sugarcane farming business commercially, then you can start it without having prior knowledge. It is a great way for making profits, even the beginners can also start this business.
However, commercial sugarcane farming business has many advantages. Here we are shortly describing about the top advantages or benefits of sugarcane farming business.
- Sugarcane farming is a very old business idea.
- Sugarcane plants grow well in many areas around the world. And many people around the world are already doing this business.
- Caring and other maintenance of the sugarcane plants are very easy and simple.
- The beginners can also start this business for making profits.
- The sugarcane plants generally grow well in tropical and subtropical regions.
- Commercial sugarcane farming can be a good business idea for the educated unemployed people.
- Demand and price of sugarcane both are very high in both domestic and international market. So, you don’t have to worry much about marketing your products.
- Returns or profits in this business is very high, as compared to the total production costs.
- Marketing sugarcane is very easy, and you will probably be able to sell your products in the local market.
- Sugarcane is used for making many different products.
- Consuming sugarcane juice has some health benefits. And you can enjoy fresh sugarcane juice or other products if you grow of your own.
How to Start Sugarcane Farming
As we have mentioned above, starting both small scale and commercial sugarcane farming is very easy and simple. The sugarcane plants generally require less caring and other management.
So, you will be able to start this business easily, even if you are a beginner.
The sugarcane plants generally grow well in tropical and subtropical regions. And the plants can grow in a wide variety of soil types.
If you are willing to start sugarcane cultivation business, then follow the steps mentioned below carefully. Here we are trying to describe more information about starting and operating sugarcane farming business from planting, caring to harvesting and marketing.
Best Soil For Sugarcane Cultivation
Sugarcane plants can be grown on many soil types ranging from highly fertile, well-drained Mollisols, through heavy cracking Vertisols, infertile acid Oxisols and Ultisols, peaty Histosols, to rocky Andisols.
Plentiful sunshine and adequate water supply increase sugarcane production. This has made the dry countries with good irrigation facilities such as Egypt is one of the highest yielding sugarcane cultivating regions.
You should do a soil test before preparing the soil for sugarcane farming. Generally, a well-drained, deep and loamy soil with a bulk density of 1.1 to 1.2 g/cm3 (1.3-1.4 g/cm3 in sandy soils) and total porosity, with an adequate balance between pores of various sizes, is higher than 50%; groundwater table below 1.5 to 2.0 m from soil surface and an available water holding capacity of 15% or more is considered ideal for sugarcane cultivation.
For maximum production, the optimum soil pH is about 6.5. But the sugarcane plants can tolerate a considerable degree of soil acidity and alkalinity. So the plants can grow in soil with pH range between 5 and 8.5.
Prepare the Soil
You have to prepare the soil perfectly before planting the sugarcane plants. Plough the soil perfectly and the soil to a fine tilth. Bringing the soil to fine tilth is essential for proper germination of the sets and field emergence and root growth.
Add as much organic fertilizers as you can while preparing the soil. At the time of planting, add 45 kg Nitrogen, 85 kg Phosphorus, 85 kg Potassium and around 50 tonnes of well rotted manure per hectare.
Climate Requirement For Sugarcane Farming
Sugarcane is considered as a tropical plant. It grows well in the tropical and subtropical areas. It is a long duration crop and thus it encounters all the seasons such as rainy, winter and summer during it’s life cycle.
The plants generally grow best in tropical hot sunny areas. A long, warm growing season with a high incidence of solar radiation and adequate rainfall is required for growing sugarcane. The plants uses from 148 to 300 grams of water for producing 1 gram of dry substance.
For ripening and harvesting sugarcane, a fairly dry, sunny and cool, but frost-free season is required.
Choose A Good Variety
Sugarcane is of various types. And you will find a lot of different sugarcane plants when you start investigating about the types. However, the sugarcane is basically of 3 types.
- Chewing Sugarcane: This type of sugarcane varieties have a soft, fibrous center which is good for chewing. The fibers tend to stick together as you chew so that spitting it out once the sugar is depleted easier.
- Syrup Sugarcane: This type of sugarcane varieties have a variety of sugar types that don’t crystallize easily, but are good for making sugar syrup. Most of the commercial sugarcane farmers used to cultivate this types of sugarcane.
- Crystal Sugarcane: The varieties of crystal sugarcane types are produced commercially and used to make crystallized table sugar.
There are many numerous sugarcane varieties available throughout the world. But not all these varieties are good for growing in all places around the world. Some of these varieties grow well in specific area.
And not all the varieties are good for commercial production purpose. For example, some top varieties which grow well in India are CoJ 85, Co 118, CoJ 64, CoH 119, Co 238, CoJ 88, CoS 8436, CoJ 89, Co 1148, CoH 110, Co 7717, CoH 128, CoPb 93, CoPb 94, Cos 91230, Co Pant 90223, CoH 92201, Cos 95255, CoS 94270, CoH 119, Co 9814 etc.
Sugarcane is not grown from seeds. Rather the plants are grown from buds. There are some farmers who stock and sell these buds. You can contact with the existing farmers in your area for having more information about purchasing buds.
Buds Per Acre
Exact amount of buds required for planting one acre land vary depending on numerous factors. Buds rate can vary from region to region. Generally buds rate of 20,000 three budded setts per acre.
Planting can be done at any time. But most of the commercial farmers start planting sugarcane buds from September to October and February to March or in rainy season. The sugarcane plants generally take one year to mature.
Row spacing for commercial sugarcane farming ranges from 60 to 120 cm for sub-tropical regions.
Sow the sugarcane buds at a depth of 3-4 cm and then cover it with soil.
Sugarcane is generally planted in 4 different planting methods. Here we are shortly describing about all these methods.
1) Ridge & Furrow Method
- This method is used in many different parts around the world.
- In this method, the ridges and furrows are opened with the help of ridger by keeping 120 cm distance between furrows in heavy soil and 105 cm distance in light to medium soil.
- First sets are laid on the end of the top ridge to end and later planted in furrows by to ways known as wet method and dry method of planting.
- The main and sub-irrigation channels are opened at an appropriate distance.
- Dry Method: Dry method is followed in heavy soil to avoid the pressing as setts deep into the soil. The sets are placed in the furrow end to end by facing eye buds on sided and covered by giving a layer of soil. And after successful completion of planting, water the field immediately.
- Wet Method: Wet method is followed in medium to light soil. First water the field before planting. Then plant the sets by pressing 2.5 to 5 cm deep in furrows with feet or hand. The sets are placed end to end by facing buds on sides.
2) Flat Bed Method
- For preparing the flat beds, plow, harrow and level the land.
- Depending upon the soil types, 60 to 90 cm distance is kept between two rows.
- The sets are pressed into the soil with hand or feet to a depth of 2.5 to 5 cm and covered with soil.
- This method of planting is used in the areas with lots of rainfall.
3) Rayungan Method
- This method of planting sugarcane is followed in the heavy rainfall areas.
- In such areas, the sugarcane field get flooded during the rainy season which affects germination. And in such cases, the sets cannot be planted directly in the main field.
- So, single bud sets are planted vertically in nurseries which are prepared high lying area of the farm in the month of June-July.
- The sprouted sets are transplanted in the main field after six weeks when the danger of flooding is over.
4) Trench Method
- In this method, trenches are made about 90 to 120 cm apart and 22 to 30 cm deep.
- The soil at bottom is loosened and mixed with manures. And then the sets are planted in the middle of the trenches and covered with soil. Irrigation is given immediately after completion of planting.
- This planting method produces large clumps of sugarcane which do not lodge when tied together. The damage from wild animals is less in this method.
The sugarcane pants don’t require much caring. But it’s recommended to take additional care of the plants for getting better growth and good production.
The caring process of the sugarcane plants is very easy. Here we are trying to describe more about the caring process for commercial sugarcane farming business.
Do a soil test and apply fertilizers as recommended by an expert. Add as much organic fertilizers as you can while preparing the soil.
In winter due to low temperature uptake of nutrient by crop become less and plant give yellow appearance. To recovered crop take spray of 19:19:19@100gm/15Ltr of water. In water scarcity situation spray of Urea+Potash@2.5kg/100Ltr is helpful for crop.
Watering/irrigation play a very important role in the total production of sugarcane. The number of irrigation required will vary depending upon soil types, water availability and time of the year. The hot weather associated with dry winds and drought increases the water requirement of the crop.
Apply first irrigation when about 20-25% buds have germinated. But in monsoon, apply irrigation depending upon rainfall intensity and frequency.
In case of scanty of rainfall, apply irrigation with 10 days interval. And increase irrigation intervals afterwards, for example water with 20-25 days interval.
Do mulching in between cane rows to conserve moisture into the soil. Try to avoid water stress from April to June, because water stress during these days will reduce yield.
Avoid water logging in standing field. Tillering stage and elongation or grand growth phase are critical for irrigation.
Soil between the furrows of canes, is taken with the help of spade and applied to the sides of the plants. It help to mix top dressed fertilizer well within the soil, also it help to support plant and prevent it from lodging.
Mulching is very beneficial for retaining moisture into the soil. It will also helps to prevent weeds from the sugarcane field. You can use organic materials for using as mulch.
Weeds consume most of the nutrients from the field. So it’s very important to control weeds from the sugarcane field.
As sugarcane is widely space crop, weeding with hand or interculture operation can be easily carried out. Take 3-4 hoeing after every irrigation.
You can also use chemical for controlling weeds. Carry out pre-emergence weedicide application with Simazine or Atrazine at the rate of 600 to 800 grams per acre, or Metribuzine at the rate of 800 grams per acre, or Diuron at the rate of 1-1.2 kg per acre.
Apply pre-emergence herbicides immediately after planting. Apply 2,4-D at the rate of 250-300 g/acre as post-emergence herbicide for broad-spectrum weed control in sugarcane.
Pests & Diseases
Like many other commercial crops, the sugarcane is also susceptible to some pests and diseases. Here we are shortly describing about the common pests and diseases of sugarcane plants.
Common diseases of the sugarcane plants are red rot, wilt and pokkah boeng.
- Red Rod: Common symptoms of this disease is, leaves from top, third and fourth show yellowing and drying. Discolored lesion on rind is shown at the later stage. Plant disease resistance varieties for controlling this disease. Select disease free sugarcane for planting and disinfect soil around the diseased clump with Carbendazim at the rate of 0.1% solution.
- Wilt: Root borer, nematodes, termite, drought and water logging condition cause plant to wilt infection. It reduces germination and also reduces yield. Use disease free setts for planting. Treat the setts with Carbendazim at the rate of 0.2% plus Boric acid at the rate of 0.2% for 10 minutes. Intercropping with garlic, coriander and onion will reduce this disease.
- Pokkah Boeng: Pokkah boeng is an air borne disease. The affected plants bear distorted and wrinkled leaves. The leaves show reddish patches at base of leaf blade. Spray with Carbendazim at the rate of 4 grams per liter of water or Copper Oxychloride at the rate of 3 grams per liter of water or Mancozeb at the rate of 3 gram per liter of water.
The sugarcane plants are affected by some pests. Here we are trying to describe about the most common pest of sugarcane and their controlling methods.
- Early Shoot Borer: The sugarcane plants are attacked by these pests in the germination stage upto internodes formations. The larva make holes in shoot below the ground level and then enter into it, and thus causes dead heart. Apply Chlorpyriphos at the rate of 1 liters per acre with 100 to 150 liters of water over the setts placed on furrows with the help of rosecan.
- White Grub: The white grubs are feed on root system and thus damage to crop. Entire drying up of stalks and easily dislodging of sugarcane are the main symptoms for white grub infestation. Treat the cane with Chlorpyriphos. Apply Phorate at the rate of 4 kg or Carbofuran at the rate of 13 kg per acre in the soil at or before sowing.
- Termites: Treat the sugarcane buds before planting. Dip the setts in imidacloprid solution at the rate of 4 m per 10 liter water for 2 minutes or at the time of planting spray Chlorpyriphos at the rate of 2 liters per acre on setts. If infestation occur in standing crop, drench with Imidacloprid@60ml/150litre of water or Chlorpyriphos@1ltr/200Ltr of water.
- Pyrilla: The adult pyrilla suck leaf sap under the surface of leaves. And it results in yellowing white spot and withering. Spray with Dimethoate or Acephate at the rate of 1-1.5ml per liter of water in severe infestation.
- Root Borer: Root borer enter into the root zone of shoot below ground. Yellowing of leaves from leaf apex to downwards along the margin is seen due to infestation. Treat the buds with Chlorpyriphos before planting. And if infestation is observed in field, do drenching with Chlorpyriphos 20EC@1Ltr/acre with 100-150Ltr of water near the root zone or do granular application of Quinalphos at the rate of 300ml per acre. Remove infected cane and destroyed it away from field.
- Stalk Borer: The larvae feeds on inner surface of leaf sheath, mid rib and stalk. Actually, it can attack any region of stalk. To prevent these pests, avoid excess use of nitrogen, keep the field clean and provide proper drainage. Chemical control is rarely effective. Release parasitoid, Cotesia flavipes@800 mated females/acre at weekly interval from July to November.
- Top Borer: Top borer attacks crops from tillering to maturity phase. The larvae makes tunnels into midribs causes white streak which later turns brown. To control do drenching of Rynaxypyr 20SC at the rate of 60ml per acre in 100-150 liter of water in between period of month end of April to first week of May. Maintain proper drainage in soil, as water logging increases top borer incidence.
Harvesting of sugarcane at right time is very important for getting maximum yield and also for high sugar recovery. Harvesting at over aged or under aged sugarcane leads to loss in cane yield.
Harvesting time can be decided depending upon withering of leaves and juice. Some people also use hand sugar refractometer to know the right harvesting time.
Sickles are generally used for harvesting. Stalks are cut at ground level, so that the bottom sugar rich internodes are harvested which add to yield and sugar.
Quick disposal of the harvested sugarcane to factory is necessary after harvesting.
Sugarcane provides a juice, which is used for making white sugar, and jaggery and many by products like bagasse and molasses.
Exact amount of wild per hectare vary depending on numerous factors. On average, you can expect 100-150 tons per hectare.
Marketing sugarcane is very easy and simple. After harvesting, you can transport the sugarcane with tractors or lorry to local Government markets or sugar mills. You can also sell in the local market if you produce the chewing sugarcane types.
These are the steps and ways for staring and operating a successful sugarcane farming business. Sugarcane farming is a very good business and it’s highly profitable. Hope this guide has helped you! Good luck & may God bless you!