Despite storms, sugarcane harvest better than expected

Linda Benedict  |  11/26/2008 4:08:26 AM

Sugarcane growers are having one of their best years ever when it comes to level of recoverable sugar from their 2008 crop. (Photo by Johnny Morgan)

Sugarcane growers are having one of their best years ever when it comes to the level of recoverable sugar per ton of cane, although yields are slightly off the early predictions of 34-35 tons of cane per acre, said Ben Legendre, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist.

"After the storms, the first estimates were that we would probably lose anywhere from three to 10 tons of cane per acre because the cane was lodged so badly," Legendre said. "We are finding that yields are not as bad as first feared."

He said many farmers are averaging about 33 tons per acre with the best cane yet to be harvested.
 
Bobby Morris of Morris Farms in West Baton Rouge Parish farms about 2,200 acres with his family. He said he’s cutting about 700 tons per day and hopes to be finished by Christmas.

"About the only thing that we’re seeing from the storms is some broken stalks, which mean lower tonnage," Morris said. He said sugar content is greatly affected when the cane is broken because it won’t respond to the ripener that’s applied before harvest.

Morris explained that besides slightly lower yields than they expect from the crop, high input costs also are putting the squeeze on his operation.

"Skyrocketing prices are really hurting us," he said. "A couple of years ago, we were buying liquid fertilizer for about $90 per ton. Last year we paid $250, and this year we paid $350. Now they’re saying we may be paying as much as $700 per ton next year."

Johnny Morgan

(This article appeared in the fall 2008 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
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