Sugarcane Newsletter for May 2007

6/27/2007 7:56:29 PM

May 12, 2007

Dear Agents:


Dr. Mike Salassi, LSU AgCenter, reported last week that $39 of the $40 million in sugarcane disaster money has been distributed to processors and growers. At this time, there have been no appeals; therefore, the remaining sum of $1 million should be distributed soon.


On April 26, 2007, the Variety Release Committee, which consists of representatives of the LSU AgCenter, the USDA-ARS, SRRC, Sugarcane Research Laboratory and the American Sugar Cane League of the USA, Inc., made it official that HoCP 00-950 will be released to the Louisiana sugarcane industry in the fall of 2007. HoCP 00-950 is known for its early high sucrose content; it has an exceptionally high yield of recoverable sugar per ton of cane both early in the season as well as at the end of the season. The variety also has good tonnage, stubbles well and has superior yield of recoverable sugar per acre through the second-stubble crop. It has adequate resistance to all the major diseases, although there is some concern that it had a high level of infection to leaf scald in inoculated tests. There was little or no leaf scald found in the field. It is also very susceptible to damage caused by the sugarcane borer and should not be planted where insecticides cannot be applied. Seed cane will be available through the secondary stations overseen by the agronomists of the American Sugar Cane League.

At the same meeting, the Variety Release Committee also released three varieties -- L 79-1002, HoCP 91-552 and Ho 00-961 -- for the emerging biofuel industry with higher fiber than found in commercial varieties released for sugar. According to Robert Cobill, Agronomist, USDA-ARS, SRRC, Sugarcane Research Laboratory, the variety L 79-1002 is from a cross made in 1972 and assigned in 1979 at the LSU AgCenter Sugar Research Station (formerly St. Gabriel Research Station), located at St. Gabriel, Louisiana. Fiber levels of this variety are approximately twice that of current commercial sugar cane varieties (26%). Yield data from recent testing (2002 – 2005) at the USDA-ARS Ardoyne Farm and Welsh showed that L 79-1002 produced approximately 24% higher total solids (Brix plus fiber content) than LCP 85-384 averaged across plant-cane, first-ratoon, second-ratoon and third-ratoon crops. Its average fiber content was 25.7% and cane yield was 36.6 tons/acre, which was 75% and 5% higher than LCP 85-384, respectively. It is resistant to Sorghum mosaic virus and Sugarcane mosaic virus strains, moderately susceptible to smut (Ustilago scitaminea Sydow), resistant to brown rust (Puccinia melanocephala H. and P. Sydow), and leaf scald [Xanthomonas albilineans (Ashby) Dowson] under natural field infection. It is moderately resistant to the sugarcane borer (Diatraea saccharalis).

HoCP 91-552 is a product of the cross LCP 81-10 x CP 72-356 made at Canal Point (CP), Florida in 1986 and selected at Houma (Ho), Louisiana in 1988. This variety averaged 16% fiber in plant-cane and first-stubble in-field and outfield studies. HoCP 91-552 was examined in large plot energy cane tests conducted from 2004 to 2006 in which plant-cane, first-ratoon, and second-ratoon crops were harvested with a combine harvester. The tests were planted at the USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Laboratory’s Ardoyne Research Farm near Schriever, LA and at the Diamond W Ranch near Welch, LA. In these tests, HoCP 91-552 produced 25% more soluble solids (Brix) and 34% greater total solids (Brix and fiber) than LCP 85-384 in combined plant-cane, first-ratoon, and second-ratoon crops. This variety is resistant to sugarcane mosaic virus (strains A, B, and D), sorghum mosaic virus (strains H, I, and M), smut (Ustilago scitaminea Sydow), rust (Puccinia melanocephala H. and P. Syd.), and leaf scald [Xanthomonas albilineans (Ashby) Dowson] diseases. HoCP 91-552 is moderately resistant to the sugarcane borer (Diatraea saccharalis).

Ho 00-961 is a product of the cross US 94-01 x HoCP 91-552 bred in 1995 and selected in 1997 as part of the ARS’s Sugarcane Research Unit’s basic breeding program at Houma (Ho), Louisiana. Ho 00-961 was examined in replicated large plot energy cane tests (2002-2005, 2004-2006) planted twice at two locations. The tests were at the USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Laboratory’s Ardoyne Research Farm near Schriever, LA and at the Diamond W Ranch near Welch, LA . The results from 14 fully replicated test (2 loc x 7 total harvests/loc) harvested using chopper harvesters with their extractor fans turned off, showed that Ho 00-961 produced about 8% more soluble solids (Brix) and 14% more total solids (Brix and fiber) than LCP 85-384 in plant and ratoon crops combined. It is resistant to sugarcane mosaic virus (strains A, B, and D), sorghum mosaic virus (strains H, I, and M), smut (Ustilago scitaminea Sydow), rust (Puccinia melanocephala H. and P. Syd.) and leaf scald [Xanthomonas albilineans (Ashby) Dowson] diseases under natural field infection conditions. Studies to determine the level of resistance of Ho 00-961 to the sugarcane borer (Diatraea saccharalis F.) are underway.

Although classified as “Energy Canes”, HoCP 91-552 and Ho 00-961 are similar to most commercial varieties in juice quality. However, because of their higher fiber content, they may not be acceptable by a commercial factory for the production of sugar.

Seed cane of all three high-fibered varieties will not be available for distribution by the American Sugar Cane League, the United States Department of Agriculture, or the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station. However, the varieties will be available through private seed cane companies and the National Plant Germplasm System at the National Germplasm Repository located on the Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Coral Gables, Florida.


The crop has made excellent progress during the past two weeks with, for the most part, adequate moisture, fertilizer and warmer temperatures. Some older stubble fields, especially of the variety LCP 85-384, are short and gappy. However, there are areas where the long and cool winter also took its told on plant cane stands, especially in LCP 85-384 and L 97-128. Although in many cases the cane germinated well last fall and established a stand, the early December freezes and continued cool and wet weather through March weakened the plant causing it to die during the spring. However, for the most part, we do have an excellent plant-cane crop in the making in most areas. Now we need warmth (mainly at night), sunshine and adequate moisture throughout the grand growth phase during the summer months.

Growth measurements from Jeanerette (Iberia Research Station, LSU AgCenter) and Chacahoula (USDA-ARS, SRRC, SRL) indicate that the crop through May 1 is average to below average in height depending upon variety. Growth rates at both locations are very similar thus far this year; both locations have had approximately the same rainfall since the beginning of the year. Data collected for plant height over many years have indicated that the height of the crop at this time has no association with yield at harvest. What we need now is for the crop to tiller out; population is what counts now and height will come. When I conducted my dissertation research on components of yield, plant population, followed by plant height at harvest were the two factors most associated with yield.


Many grasses and some broadleaf weeds are showing up in many fields. Dr. Jim Griffin, LSU AgCenter, and Drs. Ed Richard and Caleb Dalley, USDA-ARS, SRRC, SRL, have outlined a program for post-emergent control for most of these weeds in their Sugarcane Weed Control Guide for 2007.Dr. Griffin has received many calls in recent days about the control of morningglory (Tie-Vines) and prepared the following Weed Patch article entitled, Morningglory (Tie-Vine) Control at Layby in Sugarcane (Please click link to view).


Dr. Jeff Hoy, LSU AgCenter, indicated that rust infections are occurring in plant cane fields of susceptible varieties in the southernmost portions of the industry. Severe infections first occurred in Ho 95-988 and now are now developing in LCP 85-384. Light to moderate infections have been seen in plant cane of HoCP 96-540. Only slight infections have been seen in the other varieties even in fields directly adjacent to severely infected fields of susceptible varieties. Winter freezes and cool spring weather have delayed the development of the crop and rust. With additional tillering and height development in the crop, rust will likely spread northward during the rest of May and into June. However, with a late start, the severity of the overall epidemic and impact on yield should be less than last year. Dr. Hoy noted that some plant cane fields of LCP 85-384 in Lafourche Parish have literally turned red with rust just within the past week.

A Section 18 emergency use label was submitted for three fungicide combinations for rust control. This request is still under consideration by EPA. We have provided additional information, but no decision has been made. This means that no fungicide is labeled for rust control at this time.


It appears that the armyworm scare has diminished and attention can now turn to the sugarcane borer. Fortunately, it is still very early in the season and with the suppression of growth caused by the cool spring, activity of the sugarcane borer has been at a minimum. Dr. Gene Reagan, LSU AgCenter, reported that the Mexican rice borer is knocking at our door and has been found in Texas counties near the Louisiana line. Research is ongoing at Ganado, TX by Dr. Reagan and his colleagues from Texas A & M on the impact of the Mexican rice borer on our new sugarcane varieties.

Dr. Dale Pollet, LSU AgCenter, said that we will have basically the same insecticides as last year to control the sugarcane borer. It appears that we will not have the second insect growth regular, Diamond (novaluron), labeled for use in 2007. This means that your producers must continue to manage the use of Confirm wisely and remember to alternate insecticides and not rely exclusively upon Confirm.

Please see below an additional news item from Dr. Sonny Viator, Iberia Research Station, regarding the possible residual impact of salt water intrusion from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on sugarcane in Southwest Louisiana.

Plant Cane Shows Soil Salinity Symptoms:

The high soil salinity levels in sugarcane fields observed after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 were largely dissipated by the harvest of 2006. Sufficient rain fell throughout most of the Sugar Belt and over 90 percent of the sites monitored possessed salinity levels below the published damage threshold of 1,100 ppm. Unfortunately, not all the salt leached and this spring several growers reported poor plant cane stands on fields that were flooded by the tidal surges. These fields have “gappy” stands, typical of that which was observed in 2006 for cane growing in soil with elevated soil salinity levels. Soil testing confirmed salinity levels approaching or exceeding the damage threshold in certain areas of these fields. Products designed to remediate soil salinity will be evaluated in these salt “hot spots” this growing season.

Within field differences in salinity appear to be associated with soil texture, with the lighter-textured portions containing higher amounts of salt. It is not certain why the lighter-textured areas retain more salt and it is too early to conclude that salt retention is influenced by soil texture alone. It is possible that the differences are due to field position or drainage rather than texture. Additional research needs to be conducted to determine the causes for salinity distribution patterns within sugarcane fields.

Sites monitored in 2005-06 will be sampled this summer to determine the status of soil salinity. Monitoring will continue until salinity drops to well below damage levels throughout the industry.Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance or if you have any questions or comments.

Have a Happy Mothers’ Day!!!

Benjamin L. Legendre, Ph.D.
Director, Audubon Sugar Institute
Sugarcane Specialist & Denver T.
Loupe/American Society of Sugarcane
Technologists Sugar Heritage Professor
LSU Ag Center Research & Extension
Sugar Research Station,
(formerly St. Gabriel Research Station)
5755 LSU Ag Road
St. Gabriel, LA 70776
Phone: (225) 642-0224
Mobile: (225) 281-9475
FAX: (225) 642-5339

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