CIRAD is now investigating how special types of sugarcane could be used to generate electricity on a large scale. This type of cane, called ‘fuel cane’ and ‘keeps mills turning’, could also become a major source of electricity in future in countries such as Réunion, Guadeloupe and Martinique. It corresponds to high-biomass varieties that produce much more biomass than traditional varieties grown for their sugar. This could foretell a new ‘fibre cane’ supply chain, alongside the traditional cane-sugar-rum chain. (CIRAD, 27/01/2015)
The West Indies Central Sugar Cane Breeding Station (WICSCBS) based in Barbados, is one of the two oldest sugar cane breeding institutions in the world (Java being the other one), with a continuous breeding programme since 1888. WICSCBS has well developed physical facilities to carry out sugar cane breeding to support the industries in the member countries. The staff comprises three Senior Scientists - the Director, Plant Breeder and Geneticist; and a junior scientist responsible for Germplasm and Breeding. WICSCBS goal is to breed superior varieties of sugarcane to cater to the needs of the various member countries. The Station has produced several superior varieties of sugarcane that drive the sugar industries of the member countries. The station has one of the largest sugar cane germplasm collections in the world (over 3000 unique clones) that are maintained on 16 hectares of land. Editor’s note – It is interesting to note that despite the success in breeding, the West Indies sugar industry is on the decline. http://www.acp-srp.eu/en/overall-management-programme-fa/west-indies-central-sugar-cane-breeding-station.html(WICSCBS, 2013)
Scientists from CSIRO, Australia, trialled a new technique for applying herbicides to raised beds of furrow irrigated sugarcane by using a specially adapted shielded sprayer. The technique minimises the likelihood of herbicides such as diuron, atrazine, ametryn and hexazinone coming into contact with irrigation water. The conventional application of herbicides in furrow-irrigated sugarcane production is to broadcast spray across the whole field using boom sprayers. By using shielded sprayers, runoff of highly soluble herbicides showed a 90% reduction. http://www.csiro.au/Portals/Media/Herbicide-runoff-reduced-to-Great-Barrier-Reef.aspx (CSIRO, 16/10/2013)
The National Genetically Modified Product Biosafety Commission (Indonesia) approved the first genetically-altered sugarcane crop, paving the way for the development of transgenic sugarcane for commercial production. The variety is to be drought-resistant; another variety is being engineered to resist herbicides. Thirteen other transgenic food crops have already passed food safety testing in the country.(The Jakarta Post, 20/05/2013)
The Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria received two concurrent proposals on production of hybrid sugarcane varieties, one from the University of Ilorin and one from the Usmanu Danfodiyo University. To optimize its investment, the Council merged the two projects. The researchers have been scouting the country collecting samples of local varieties with high sugar and alcohol potential to characterize their genetic profiles and to create a genotype for the commercial production of ethanol. The researchers hope to be able to contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty and also provide advice to governments.(AllAfrica, 28/11/2012)
The Sugar Research Institute of Fiji will soon introduce Geographical Information System (GIS) technology to all sugar cane farms on the island for easy access of information. Sugar research technical officer Jasneel Singh said the GIS pilot projects at Drasa and Lovu sector had been completed with reports being sent to Belgium. He said the new project which was funded by the Fiji and Belgium governments together with other sugar stakeholders would allow decision makers to obtain all the necessary information on all cane farms.(Fiji Times Online, 13/9/2012)
Dr Nicole Robinson, Research Fellow at the School of Agriculture and Food Science, University of Queensland (Australia), shows in her study on nitrogen assimilation by the sugarcane plant, that, given the choice of different forms of nitrogen, sugarcane strongly prefers ammonium over nitrate and that nitrate fertiliser is an inefficient source of nitrogen for commercial sugarcane crops. The study results indicate that grower management practices should aim to reduce nitrate content in soils in favour of ammonium and organic forms of nitrogen. Dr Robinson said further work was required to breed new sugarcane varieties that have an enhanced ability to use nitrate. She said erianthus, a closely related giant grass, currently used in the breeding programme, showed promising results and would provide an avenue for further investigation. (UQ News via ScienceAlert, 9/5/2011)
Proof that innovation pays off. In 2007, the India branch of the Worldwide fund for nature (WWF-India) launched the project entitled 'Reducing the Impact of Water-intensive and Polluting Crops: Securing sustainable sources of freshwater to support the livelihoods of poor communities in the Godavari Basin' in India (http://www.wwfindia.org/news_facts/?1940). Inter Press Services now reports that farmers who have adopted the water efficient measures witnessed water savings to up to 30% of normal water usage. The project is centred on promoting better management practices (BMP), agricultural practices that optimise the three pillars of sustainability – social responsibility, environmental integrity and economic viability. These practices include improvement of planting techniques such as time and method of planting, selection of a suitable variety and appropriate soil, optimum spacing and seed treatment; fertiliser application, type of irrigation and soil drainage and weed control techniques. Sustainable practices are much needed for sugarcane which, according to WWF-India figures, occupies just four per cent of the land in Maharashtra state but consumes nearly two-thirds of the state irrigation supply. (IPS, 10/5/2011).