Sugarcane Cultivation (Planting, Growing and Harvesting)

Sugarcane Cultivation

We are going to be discussing sugarcane cultivation in this article. We can start off by looking at a brief overview of the industry and other vital pieces of information. Basically sugarcane is an interesting plant that we get our sugar from. Did you know that the sugar is synthesized in the leaves? It is then transferred to the stalks where it is stored in the form of a juice. If done well, sugarcane cultivation is extremely lucrative. The mere fact that you can realize 100 tonnes of yield per hectare is remarkable.

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Key Requirements

The initial stage of land preparation requires quite a number of mechanical implements. Planting will not require much in terms of mechanization since some of the processes can be manually done. Substantial financial and human capital is definitely required. There will be a need to hire machinery or purchase it. The range of machinery required is wide especially considering that irrigation is imperative. Routine tasks during growth and especially during harvesting require lots of human capital too. Not forgetting various chemicals e.g. pesticides, weedicides, fertilizers and the like. These are some of the key requirements that sugarcane cultivation needs.


Optimum Weather And Soil Conditions


Water is critically important for sugarcane cultivation. No wonder irrigation is a must-have. Irrigation methods can be drip, drag line or pivot; rain water should just come in to complement. Not only is sugarcane a tropical crop but it spends a long time in the field. Sugarcane cultivation spans at least a year to get to harvesting. This means that all the seasons ensue whilst the sugarcane is still in the field. It being a tropical crop makes it thrive under tropical weather conditions but it is vital that it be largely sunny too. Typically, temperatures of 20 to 30 degrees Celsius are favourable. Here is how it should be, during the growth stage it must be warm and there must be adequate water. Ripening and subsequent harvesting stage need weather that is marked by dryness, coolness and sunshine.


Sugarcane cultivation requires deep loam soil; the soil must be well drained. The soil pH should around 6.5 (bear in mind that sugarcane does not thrive in acidic soils). If we are to place ranges, sugarcane does well in soils with pH between 5 and 8.5. Manure is a huge requirement especially considering that sugarcane consumes lots of nutrients. Couple that with how long it takes for sugarcane to mature then it is apparent manure is needed. Application of fertilizers is also an important part of enriching the soil.


Land Preparation

Sugarcane cultivation requires rigorous land preparation. This emanates from the fact that sugarcane has a root system that goes down deep. This means the land must be well prepared if you are to see great results. It is recommended that the land be ploughed twice or even more before planting. Land preparation seeks to address a number of pertinent areas that are central to smooth growth. For instance, soil must not be too compacted – this is vital for promoting aeration. Drainage is crucial to sugarcane cultivation. Land preparation entails levelling the land to make sure there is proper drainage. Rocky soil is not ideal for sugarcane cultivation so removing rocks is necessary. There is also a need to create easy access to the plantation so this is yet another land preparation aspect.



Sugarcane cultivation mostly starts from pre-existing sugarcane plants. Usually the sugarcane is meticulously chopped into cuttings. These cuttings (also known as setts) are then placed in furrows that would have been formed during land preparation. Depths should be around 4 centimetres; inter-row spacing can be as much as 1.2 metres. Just to give you some perspective, you would require 25000 cuttings for one hectare. From that same hectare roughly 100 tonnes can be harvested. It is best to sow or plant when temperatures are ranging from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius.


Growth Phases

Many studies have shown that in sugarcane cultivation a cutting with 3 sets of buds is more likely to have the best germination rate. When looking to come up with cuttings choose from plants that are roughly half a year old. When approximately a quarter of the plants have germinated, commence irrigation. When there is paltry rainfall irrigate every 10 days. When rainfall is satisfactory you can even irrigate after roughly 30 days. It is important that you be wary of water stress especially during winter periods.

Weed control is of critical importance during the first 2 to 4 months. Sugarcane cultivation involves 5 stages. These are germination, tillering, grand growth, maturation and ripening. Tillering lasts for varying durations depending on the sugarcane variety being grown. It can last anything from 4 to 8 months. Grand growth kicks off around 4 months after planting. Typically this can last as long as 9 months. The maturation and ripening stage can take roughly 3 months.


Harvesting Sugarcane

When sugarcane is around 2 metres in height then harvesting is imminent. The maturation period depends on whether or not it is for short seasons or long seasons. Short seasons are roughly 1 year 2 months long whereas long seasons are 1 year 6 months long.  Harvesting entails two common approaches i.e. burning the sugarcane before harvesting or harvesting without burning first. The rationale behind burning is to get rid of things like leaves which would be a nuisance during harvesting. Once harvested, the sugarcane should not exceed a full day before it is crushed. All the preceding hard work put into sugarcane cultivation can be brought to nothing if harvesting is improperly done. Read more about sugarcane harvesting.


Burning is also to streamline the milling stage by getting rid of those nuisances. Due to advances in technology some no longer bother themselves with burning before harvesting. Key to note is that when using irrigation (which is the case mostly), you must not irrigate for at most half a month before harvesting. Harvesting is best done when temperatures are anything between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius.