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How to Start a Profitable Sugarcane Farming Business

Sugarcane or sugar cane is a lucrative commercial cash crop. Here in this post, we list down the essential steps to start a profitable sugarcane farming business.

Basically, sugarcane is a tropical and subtropical perennial grass. It forms lateral shoots at the base to produce multiple stems. The scientific name of sugarcane is Saccharum officinarum. Additionally, it belongs to the grass family Poaceae.

The sugarcane plant is a coarse grass that is quite tall about 10-20 feet. A single plant bears many stems in a tuft. In addition, it comes with a thick solid and aerial stem.

Sugarcane cultivation is one of the major farming practices in the world. Some of the major sugarcane-growing countries are Brazil, India, China, Thailand, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines, and the USA. In India, major sugarcane-producing states are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar, Assam, Haryana, and Gujarat.

Is Sugarcane Cultivation Profitable?

Sugarcane is the main source of sugar in Asia and Europe. Additionally, it is the major raw material for the production of white sugar, jaggery (Gur), and Khandsari. It is also used for chewing and extraction of juice for beverage purposes. Also, you can get various byproducts like bagasse, immature tops, molasses, press mud cake, etc. These all have different applications in several fields. Additionally, you can use immature green tops as fodder.

The sugarcane cultivation and sugar industry play a vital role in socioeconomic development globally. Basically, sugarcane is a cash crop that gives ready cash to the farmers.

Read: Most Profitable Cash Crops to Grow

Things To Consider in Sugarcane Cultivation

Generally, the plant needs long hours of sunshine and cool nights with clear skies. Additionally, the flat, plain, and level plateau is an advantage for sugarcane cultivation. Because it facilitates irrigation and transportation of cane to the sugar mills.

Sugarcane cultivation requires heavy manures and fertilizers because it exhausts the fertility of soils quickly and extensively. Additionally, it is a long-duration crop and requires 10 to 15 and even 18 months to mature. Sugarcane is a labor-intensive crop and needs cheap labor. Additionally, large-scale plantation demands agricultural equipment and machinery. Therefore, you have to prepare for that.

Best Varieties For Sugarcane Farming

Generally, the best variety depends on the location. More or less every country has developed and improved varieties for that particular location. Here we have compiled a list of the commercial variety of sugarcane that you can consider.

Location & Agro Climatic Condition For Sugarcane Farming

Sugarcane is a tropical crop. Therefore, it requires a warm and humid climate for growth while a cool, sunny, and dry climate for ripening. The temperature requirement is 20°C to 26°C. However, germination does not take place when the temperature goes below 7°C.

Both extremes of temperature are harmful. In addition, severe cold arrests the growth, while an attack of stem borer increases in hot weather. It requires more than 1,375 mm of annual rainfall when grown as a rainfed crop. Generally, rainfall deficiency produces a fibrous cane, whereas too heavy rainfall reduces sugar content.

Suitable Soil For Sugarcane Farming

Actually, you can grow sugarcane on a wide range of soils. In fact, sugarcane can tolerate any kind of soil that can retain moisture. But deep rich loamy soils are ideal for its growth.

However, it grows best on well-drained, fertile medium to heavy soils. Additionally, soils rich in organic matter and leveled are most suitable. It is a heavy feeder crop so, should not be grown on light soils.

Related: Is Soil Testing Important In Agriculture? 

Steps to Follow for Commercial Sugarcane Farming

1. Land Preparation

Sugarcane stands in the field for more than one year. Therefore, you must prepare the land with two deep plowings. Leave expose the land to the sun for one to two months. Additionally, crush the clods with a clod crusher or Norwegian harrow. Add 35-50 tons FYM/ha. to the soil. Apply second crosswise plowing with the wooden plow. Additionally, level the land with the help of the end of the set and prepare the seedbed.

2. Planting

You can you 4 different types of methods for sugarcane planting. These are Ridge and furrow method, Flatbed method, Rayungan method, and Trench or Jawa method.

Ridge and Furrow Method: This is the most common method of sugarcane planting. In this method, the ridges and furrows are opened with the help of a ridge by keeping a 120 cm distance between furrows in heavy soil and a 105 cm distance in light to medium soil.

Wet Method: This method is followed in light to medium soil. You have to apply irrigation to the field before planting. Here you can plant the sets by pressing 2.5 to 5 cm deep in furrows with feet or hands. Place the end of the set to end by facing buds on the sides.

Dry Method: This method is followed in heavy soil to avoid pressing assets deep into the soil. You can place the sets in the furrow end to end by facing eye buds on the sides and cover by giving a layer of soil. After completion of planting, give irrigation to the field.

Flat Bed Method: Plough, harrow, and level the land and prepare the flatbeds. Lay down the cane at the end of the flatbed to end in rows.

Rayungan Method: In such cases, you can’t plant directly in the main field. After six weeks, you can transplant the sprouted sets in the main field when the danger of flooding is over.

Trench or Jawa Method: Here, you have to create trenches about 90 to 120 cm. apart and 22 to 30 cm. deep. Loosen the soil at the bottom and mix it with manures. Then, you can plant the sets in the middle of the trenches and cover them with soil.

3. Nutrient Management

Sugarcane is a long durational and heavy feeder crop. Therefore, it requires very high manure application. It is advisable to test the soil before planting. Manure the crop by the 25th and 75th days after harvest of the previous crop. Additionally, apply the entire quantity of phosphorus, half of the nitrogen, and potash as the first dose and the remaining as the second dose.

4. Irrigation

An optimum supply of water according to the stage of growth, season, and soil type are essential in sugarcane. However, heavy irrigation results in the deterioration of soil structure, salt accumulation, waterlogging conditions,s and wastage of water. On the other hand, a shortage of water results in stunted growth, pith formation in cane, and low yield. However, the total water requirement varies according to the type of crop. During the rainy season, there is no requirement for irrigation.

5. Weed Control

First of all, give two to five hand weedings at 20 days intervals depending upon the intensity of weeds in the case of the short furrow and serpentine furrow method. You can apply one pre-emergence spraying of weedicides like Atrazine or 2, 4-D @ 5 kg./ha. in 1025 liters of water to kill broad-leaved weeds.

6. Plant Protection

You must protect the plant from pests and diseases. Some of the most potential pests are top shoot borer, stem borer, Perilla, mealy bugs, grasshopper, termites, wooly aphids, field rats, and whitefly. It is advisable to adopt the right method for plant protection.

Additionally, you have to protect the plant from different diseases. Some of the most potential diseases are whip smut, red – rot, rust, twisted top, grassy shoot, and mosaic.

7. Harvesting & Yield

You must harvest the sugarcane crop at the right stage of maturity. Both early and delayed harvesting results in a loss of quality and quantity of the final product. Cut the sugarcane to ground level with a cane-cutting knife. Also, you can use machines for large-scale harvesting. You can expect an average yield of 100 tons/ha from commercial sugarcane cultivation.