Grow soybeans in fallow sugarcane fields

To increase profits, LSU AgCenter weed scientist Jim Griffin encourages sugarcane farmers to grow soybeans in their fallow fields.  

Because farmers have to use a glyphosate product in fallowed fields anyway to hold down the weeds for the next sugarcane crop, “they might as well get the potential value of another crop,” Griffin said.

Early-maturing soybean varieties can be harvested early enough to avoid interference with sugarcane planting, which occurs in August and September.

A sugarcane crop is harvested for four and even five years. After the final harvest, the sugarcane stubble is destroyed, and the field is fallowed until the crop is replanted.

Soybeans are the perfect crop for fallow fields for several reasons. Predominant weeds in sugarcane are fairly easy to manage with current herbicides, and resistant weeds are not an issue. Planting on the raised beds used in sugarcane production helps with drainage. Soybeans also benefit the succeeding sugarcane crop by providing residual nitrogen.

Another reason is soybeans are selling at record high prices, Griffin said.

“Even if the soybeans were planted as a cover crop and not harvested, this strategy would improve the soil without sacrificing weed control,” Griffin said.

The drawback is that sugarcane farmers need different equipment for soybeans. But Griffin said this is an investment that will pay off. Some sugarcane farmers in the Bunkie and Cheneyville area, for example, are already doing this, and they’re increasing their productivity, Griffin said.

Linda Foster Benedict

(This article was published in the summer 2012 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)

9/12/2012 5:41:45 PM
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