La. sugar harvest winds down

Richard Bogren, Gravois, Kenneth

News Release Distributed 12/20/10

As the season winds down, Louisiana sugarcane growers are hurrying to harvest their crop before the sugar deteriorates in the stalk.

“It’s a race to the end,” said LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois.

A hard freeze on Dec. 15 left farmers with about two weeks to finish harvesting before the sugar begins to deteriorate, he said. Cool weather slows deterioration – the sucrose in the stalk starts to deteriorate after the plant dies from a killing frost – and helps the crop maintain quality, sort of like “putting it in a refrigerator.”

Because the harvest has gone well this season, the effects of the killing frost “will be minimal,” Gravois said. “We’re anticipating the harvest to finish by Jan. 1 or 2.”

“Overall,” Gravois said, “this year’s crop has been very good. Conditions are good. Compared with last year, harvest has been much drier and easier.”

Growers are harvesting “lighter tonnage, but the sucrose is above average,” he said.

The northern part of the Louisiana sugar belt – areas around Bunke and Pointe Coupee Parish – are seeing a crop as good as or better than last year’s, Gravois said. In southern areas, problems of wet weather during the 2009 harvest and a cooler-than-normal spring carried over to this year’s crop.

Because sugar is harvested from plants that grow for four or five seasons, the success of any one harvest can be influenced by prior years.

“The best thing you can do for next year’s crop is good harvest conditions,” Gravois said. “We’ll see a good start to the 2011 crop because of this fall’s weather.”

A wet harvest in 2009 and cold spring in 2010 “took their toll” on the 2010 crop, he said.

“All things considered, we’ve had a good crop,” Gravois said. “Farmers are looking at prices in the upper 20-cents-per-pound range. With yields and prices where they are, I think farmers will have a good season this year.”

Rick Bogren

1/4/2011 1:11:29 AM
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