Linda Benedict, Gravois, Kenneth, Kimbeng, Collins A., Reagan, Thomas E., Pontif, Michael J., Hoy, Jeffrey W., Bischoff, Keith P.
Kenneth Gravois, Keith Bischoff, Michael Pontif, Jeff Hoy, T. Eugene Reagan and Collins Kimbeng
The next time you travel to New Orleans, look for the Jesuit church for Immaculate Conception Parish, which is on Baronne St. just off Canal St. and across from the Roosevelt Hotel, famous as the place where Gov. Huey Long stayed when in the city. This church sits on property once known as the Jesuit Plantation. The property is now the Central Business District of New Orleans. The Jesuit clergy managed the land on which they grew sugarcane, tobacco and some citrus. Jesuit priests are credited with the first successful establishment and culture of sugarcane in Louisiana in 1751. Little did they know that this humble beginning would lay the groundwork for a crop that contributes nearly $2 billion to the Louisiana economy each year.
The first sugarcane varieties grown in Louisiana were introductions brought from other parts of the world. In fact, Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing the first sugarcane to the New World on his second voyage. These plant introductions sustained the Louisiana sugar industry for its first 175 years.
Increasing yield losses due to disease problems necessitated the establishment of sugarcane breeding programs in Louisiana. The first part of conducting a sugarcane breeding program is to induce the plant to flower and to hybridize (cross pollinate) with another parent. The true seed (from the tassel) is germinated, and seedlings are transplanted into the field. This begins the process of rigorous field selection for high sucrose content, cane yield, disease resistance, insect resistance, erectness and many other traits that all come together to make a successful sugarcane variety. Variety development in Louisiana through crossing programs followed by field selection has been ongoing for more than 90 years.
L 03-371 – another in a long line of sugarcane varieties developed through crossing and field selection in Louisiana – was released on May 5, 2010, by the LSU AgCenter in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service Sugarcane Research Laboratory in Houma and the American Sugar Cane League. Variety release is the culmination of a multiagency effort governed by the Three-Way Agreement, a document first signed in 1926 establishing a cooperative program among LSU, USDA and the League.
For L 03-371, photoperiod facilities were used to induce flowering in the parental clones in the summer of 1998. The cross was made at the AgCenter Sugar Research Station on Oct. 9, 1998. The parents used for the cross were CP 83-644 and LCP 82-89. Early-stage selection culminated in the assignment of a permanent varietal designation L 03-371, in which the “L” indicates that both the cross and early-stage selection were done at the LSU AgCenter’s Sugar Research Station, the “03” indicates the year (2003) the permanent number was assigned, and the number “371” is a consecutive number between 1 and 499 used by the AgCenter’s sugarcane breeding program for unique variety identification.
The final stage of the sugarcane breeding program is referred to as outfield variety trials, which are conducted cooperatively by the three parties. Data from these trials include measures of sugar yield, cane yield and sucrose content. At the same time experimental clones are entered into the outfield variety trials, they are provided to the American Sugar Cane League for “seed” increase. This isn’t actual seed but whole stalks because sugarcane isn’t grown from true seed. Stalks from a plant are cut and planted, and buds along the stalks germinate and grow to produce new plants. This increase through cutting and planting of stalks, or “seedcane,” is a process known as vegetative propagation. The American Sugar Cane League provides seed to any sugarcane grower requesting an allotment. Seedcane of L 03-371 will be made available to growers in late summer 2010.
Information from the outfield variety trials is reported for plant-cane through second-stubble crops. Go to Table 1. In the plant-cane and second-stubble crops, L 03-371 had significantly higher sugar yield than HoCP 96-540, the most widely grown sugarcane variety in Louisiana in 2009. L 03-371 had cane yield values similar to HoCP 96-540 and higher sucrose content. The new variety is characterized as having a moderate population of large-diameter stalks. Harvesting characteristics are important for sugarcane varieties. L 03-371 can tend to lodge – or fall over as it reaches maturity – and is better suited to combine harvesting systems.
Disease resistance is another important aspect of variety selection. L 03-371 is resistant to smut, moderately resistant to brown rust and resistant to leaf scald under natural field infection. The new variety is resistant to sugarcane mosaic virus and sorghum mosaic virus. The effects of yellow leaf disease and orange rust on the yield of L 03-371 are unknown. Similar to all other varieties grown in Louisiana, this new variety may sustain significant yield loss in stubble crops from ratoon stunting disease. To realize the maximum yield potential of L 03-371, growers must plant healthy seedcane, free of ratoon stunting disease and other systemic diseases.
Resistance to the sugarcane borer is a key component of integrated pest management and is necessary for reducing the number of insecticide applications. L 03-371 is susceptible to the sugarcane borer. Field scouting – examining plants during the growing season – is a must to ensure timely insecticide applications based on economic thresholds. L 03-371 should not be planted where insecticides cannot be applied.
Louisiana’s sugar industry continues to look toward the public sector for the development of new sugarcane varieties. L 03-371 has a high yield potential along with good resistance to Louisiana’s major sugarcane diseases. The arrival of a new variety is a highly anticipated event. L 03-371 should pay big dividends in the future for Louisiana’s sugarcane growers and raw sugar processors.
One would have to think that the Jesuit priests of 1751 would marvel at where sugarcane breeding efforts have taken this crop.
Read about the excellent stubbling ability of L 01-299.
Kenneth Gravois, Graugnard Brothers Professor in Sugar Cane Research; Keith Bischoff, Associate Professor (retired); Michael Pontif, Assistant Professor – Research, Sugar Research Station, St. Gabriel, La.; Jeff Hoy, Professor, Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.; T. Eugene Reagan, Austin C. Thompson Professor, Department of Entomology, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.; and Collins Kimbeng, Associate Professor, Sugar Research Station, St. Gabriel, La..
(This article was published in the summer 2010 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)