Sugar cane

By: Brayden Blanchard, Research Associate, LSU AgCenter Sugar Research Station

Forward thinking is crucial for the success of any industry. For sugar, researchers apply natural sciences to innovate an industry that provides the world with sustainable sugar.

For thousands of years, plant breeding has been important for the continuous growth and improvement of agriculture. This is where entities like the LSU AgCenter Sugar Research Station come in. Here, a team of highly skilled scientists work together in various ways to improve sugar cane production in Louisiana, where farmers grow over 15 million tons of sugar cane on over 450,000 acres each year.

The United States is a proven leader in agricultural innovations to improve production and efficiency. Variety development has become one of the most effective avenues for continuing this trend. New and improved varieties are important because they allow growers to sustainably produce crops that can keep up with demand. Research also provides a holistic approach to integrated pest management. Plant breeding uses traditional and molecular genetics techniques to develop high-yielding varieties that are also resistant to diseases and insects and can compete with weeds. These varieties can greatly reduce or even eliminate the amount of insecticides and fungicides required for optimal growth.

The Sugar Research Station is home to the LSU AgCenter Sugarcane Variety Development Program. Dr. Collins Kimbeng, head sugar cane breeder, puts it simply: “Genetically improved cultivars are the bedrock of the industry.” It takes years of knowledge and experience to make selection decisions to develop improved varieties for commercial production. Every variety released for commercial production is tested thoroughly and has potential to improve the industry by directly tackling growers’ problems.

Dr. Jeff Hoy, resident coordinator and sugar cane pathologist, facilitates the research of all Sugar Research Station scientists. Each team member provides the industry with crucial knowledge on what varieties to plant, how to deal with insect and disease pressure, what to do about ever-present weed persistence and how to use sustainable best-management practices on individual farms. Dr. Hoy’s role on the team is making advancements in disease-resistant varieties for the breeding program. Every team member also performs a series of experiments aimed at continuing the AgCenter’s mission. Some seek to deal with problems faced in production, while others pursue avenues to make production more efficient and cost-effective.

As the research division of the Louisiana sugar cane industry, the AgCenter team is devoted to innovation in natural, agronomic sciences to provide the highest-quality product to consumers; each experiment performed at the station aims to achieve better results than the last. In 2020, the Sugar Research Station held a Sugarcane Virtual Field Day to give the public an opportunity to look at its operations.



Sugar cane farm

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