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Publication #Circular 1440

New Plants for Florida: Sugarcane1

Hardev S. Sandhu, Maninder P. Singh, and Robert A. Gilbert2

Sugarcane was first grown in Florida by the Spanish founders of St. Augustine in 1572. The pioneering sugarcane companies in South Florida in the early 1900s were bankrupted largely by devastating sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV) outbreaks and low yields caused by micronutrient deficiencies on organic soils. In 1920, USDA established the sugarcane field station at Canal Point (CP), Florida to develop new cultivars primarily for the Louisiana sugarcane industry. Canal Point was chosen due to its proximity to Lake Okeechobee and its reduced risk of damaging freezes. In 1921, the Florida legislature established the University of Florida Everglades Research and Education Center (EREC) in Belle Glade in response to grower concerns regarding crop production in the organic “sawgrass muck” soils in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).

Since 1930, a tripartite collaborative breeding agreement has existed among UF, USDA, and either the U.S. Sugar Corporation (1930-1966) or the Florida Sugar Cane League (1966-present). In the early years, clones bred at EREC (“F” prefix) and US Sugar at Clewiston (“CL” prefix) dominated the Florida industry. Since the onset of the second phase of the cooperative breeding agreement in the 1960s, the “CP” Canal Point clones produced by USDA-ARS, UF, and the FSCL have dominated.

The first cultivar to be widely grown in the EAA was P.O.J. 2725 (Table 1 of Sugarcane Varieties), of Javanese origin, which occupied 60% of all acreage in 1937. Its major attribute was resistance to SCMV, which had decimated the Louisiana and Florida sugarcane industries. Early breeding strategies in Florida consisted of crossing “noble” canes (S. officinarum) having desirable yield characteristics with other species (S. barberi and S. spontaneum) having high disease resistance. Efforts to breed sugarcane varieties for high-N organic soils by B. Bourne and T. Bregger at EREC paid off in the late 1930s with the introduction of F31-962 (45% of all acreage by 1941) and F31-436 (52% in 1948). F31-962 was favored for its early maturity, which allowed the milling season to begin in late October. F31-436 also had excellent milling characteristics and provided a 50% sugar yield increase compared to the earlier exotic cultivars. CL41-223 dominated the industry in the 1960s (85% in 1962) due to its superior tonnage on “warmland” soils near Lake Okeechobee and good ratooning ability. However, its importance declined as the industry expanded to more “coldland” soils in the 1960s. Clones widely grown in coldland areas in the 1940s included F36-819 and CP34-79.

CP63-588 (bred by E. Rice) replaced CL41-223 as the predominant clone in the 1970s because of its wider adaptation in the EAA. Its decline in the early 1980s was caused by susceptibility to rust. CP70-1133 (bred by N. James) rose to ascendancy in the 1980s thanks to its high tonnage and good ratooning ability, and it remained in the census of the top 10 cultivars in 2001. CL61-620 was adopted in the late 1980s because of its high sucrose content and high tonnage in warmland areas. CP72-2086 and CP80-1827 (cultivars released collaboratively by J. Miller, C. Deren, P. Tai, and M. Kang, among others) were the highest ranked CP clones in the early to mid-1990s. CP72-2086 was notable for its resistance to rust and remained the second-ranked cultivar in the census in 2001. CP80-1827 was better suited to mechanical harvesting and had higher tonnage than CP70-1133, but its susceptibility to rust has reduced its acreage faster than that of CP72-2086. The most widely grown clone at present is CP88-1762. It has high tonnage and mechanical harvesting characteristics combined with high sucrose content. Its major drawback is its susceptibility to orange rust disease. Other promising cultivar releases include CP00-1101, CP01-1372, and CP96-1252 in which growers are increasing their acreage.

The production of sugarcane in south Florida burgeoned from 50,000 acres in 1960 to more than 220,000 acres in 1964 due to the repeal of domestic production and acreage restrictions following political changes in Cuba. In 2000, Florida produced 450,000 acres of sugarcane with an estimated value of $750 million. CP and CPCL clones occupied 90% of Florida's sugarcane area.

Sugarcane growers in the EAA remain an integral part of the participatory breeding process, voting on which clones are advanced at variety release committee meetings. The development of new germplasm is a high priority for the growers as disease pressures inevitably cause yield declines in existing clones. Average sugar yields in Florida have increased by 1.6 tons/acre in the last 34 years of the program. The historical impact and continued grower interest in sugarcane breeding guarantee that the Canal Point breeding program will remain a vital component of the Florida sugar industry for the foreseeable future.

Table 1 lists notable sugarcane varieties grown in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The first two numbers in the cultivar name indicate the year it was named, which typically occurs 5 to 10 years before cultivar release to the industry.

For more information about sugarcane varieties, see: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/TOPIC_Sugarcane_Varieties

Tables

Table 1. 

Notable sugarcane varieties grown in the Everglades Agricultural Area

Variety*

Date of Release

P.O.J. 2725

1920s

F31-962

1936

F31-436

1937

F36-819

1942

CP34-79

1945

CL41-223

1947

CP50-28

1957

CP63-588

1968

CL61-620

1976

CP70-1133

1977

CP72-2086

1981

CP80-1827

1988

CP80-1743

1989

CP88-1762

1995

CP89-2143

1996

*The first two numbers in the variety indicate the year it was named, which typically occurs 5 to 10 years before release to the industry.

Footnotes

1.

This document is part of Circular 1440, a publication of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, the Agronomy Department and IFAS Communication Services, UF/IFAS Extension. Publication date August 2003. Reviewed February 2009. Revised February 2014. Originally published as a booklet by IFAS Communication Services June 2003. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Hardev S. Sandhu, assistant professor, Agronomy Department, Everglades Research and Education Center, Belle Glade, FL 33430; Maninder P. Singh, assistant scientist, Agronomy Department, Everglades Research and Education Center, Belle Glade, FL 33430; Robert A. Gilbert, professor and chair, Agronomy Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611. Circular 1440 is edited by Richard L. Jones, Mary L. Duryea, and Berry J. Treat, Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Richard L. Jones, Dean for Research, publishes this information to further programs and related activities, available to all persons regardless of race, color, age, sex, disability or national origin. Information about alternate formats is available from IFAS Communication Services, University of Florida, PO Box 110810, Gainesville, FL 32611-0810.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.