By Steve Borel
The development of improved sugarcane varieties has been a major factor in sustaining a competitive sugarcane industry in Louisiana. Sugarcane farmers don’t like planting more than half of their land to any one variety and would prefer to have four or five varieties across their farm. Sugarcane breeding efforts in Louisiana are the result of cooperative efforts among three organizations: the LSU AgCenter, the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), Sugarcane Research Unit, and the American Sugar Cane League. Both the LSU AgCenter and the USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Unit conduct commercial sugarcane breeding programs in Louisiana. The American Sugar Cane League, Louisiana’s sugarcane growers and processor’s organization, contributes through financial support and personnel who assist in the outfield testing stage and have primary responsibility for seed increase on grower farms.
The ultimate goal of sugarcane breeding is to develop genetically improved varieties that have a positive impact on the sugar industry. Significant progress has been made in Louisiana in improving sugarcane varieties, particularly with regard to high sucrose content, earliness to maturity and ratoon crop ability.
Each year about 400,000 viable sugarcane seed are produced during the crossing season at the LSU AgCenter’s sugarcane variety development program. Planting of seed in the greenhouse begins a 12-year process of selection, advancement, and testing that will hopefully provide a new sugarcane variety for Louisiana’s sugar producers.
Sugarcane growers will receive information on the new release for 2018 at the upcoming sugarcane field day scheduled for July 18, 2018 at the LSU AG Centers Sugar Research Station in St. Gabriel. The new variety L 11-183 as with any new variety has both positive and negative attributes. Local farmers will need to evaluate L 11-183 and decide if it fits into their operations. There are several other varieties that look promising coming down the breeding pipeline. Only time will tell if they will make it to the farmers’ fields.