Michael Salassi, Gravois, Kenneth, Deliberto, Michael
Prescribed burning is a crop management practice widely used in the production and harvest of many agricultural and timber products across the United States. In Louisiana, prescribed burning is used in sugarcane production to reduce the amount of excess plant material associated with the harvest, transportation and processing of sugarcane into raw sugar and molasses. The economic value of prescribed burning to the Louisiana sugarcane industry is just over $157 million per year.
Sugarcane is one of the major agricultural row crops produced in Louisiana. With more than 500,000 acres of sugarcane in production and 11 factories processing approximately 16 million tons of sugarcane into 1.9 million tons of raw sugar and more than 91 million gallons of molasses annually, sugarcane is one of the major economic drivers of the state’s agricultural sector. Louisiana is also one of the major sugarcane producing states in the United States. The annual value of the state’s sugarcane crop has averaged $1.256 billion per year over the 2020-2022 crop years.
The burning of sugarcane as a crop harvest management practice has many benefits, both direct and indirect. In Louisiana some of the direct benefits of sugarcane burning include:
Some of the indirect benefits of sugarcane burning include:
Four direct components of the annual economic benefit of sugarcane burning are estimated here. The annual economic benefit values presented below were estimated using 2020-2022 crop year average sugarcane production data as a base. These average base data values included: (a.) 505,419 acres of sugarcane in production, (b.) 472,567 acres of sugarcane harvested for sugar, (c.) 16.305 million tons of sugarcane harvested, (d.) an average sugar recovery of 236 pounds of raw sugar per ton of cane, and (e.) an average raw sugar market price of $0.301 per pound. In addition, an estimated 20% of additional plant material volume would be assumed to be present in the field without burning, most of which would remain on the field after harvest, although a sizeable portion would also be transported to the mill along with harvested sugarcane.
Combining these four values together provides a direct estimate of the annual value of the economic benefit of burning to the Louisiana sugarcane industry: $157,297,053 per year.
Prescribed burning is used in sugarcane production to reduce the amount of excess plant material associated with the harvest, transportation and processing of sugarcane. Photo by Kenneth Gravois
Some sugarcane is burned prior to harvest. This is an example of a standing burn in sugarcane prior to harvest.