Louisiana’s sugarcane industry has a new variety to plant

There is some good news for Louisiana sugarcane farmers, a new variety will be available on a limited basis for planting this summer.

What a difference a year makes. Last year, Louisiana’s sugarcane crop was short and light in tonnage, but this year’s crop is much taller with expectations of having higher tonnage. Experts point to good spring weather as being the catalyst.

“Dry spring never killed a cane crop,” Kenneth Gravois, LSU AgCenter’s sugarcane specialist, said. “So people were able to cultivate, put out herbicides, fertilize like they wanted to. Got a lot of good field work done.”

Also, hot summer temperatures and timely rains have created ideal growing conditions.

Last year, planting was delayed because the crop was short and less mature, that will not be the case this year. Growers will also have a new variety called Ho 13-739 to plant in their fields.

“It’s an early maturing variety,” Gravois said. “Our harvest dates are starting earlier and earlier with these big crops. It appears to have some level of cold tolerance.”

New varieties are the lifeblood of a healthy sugarcane industry, but developing them does not come easily or quickly.

“The release of a new variety is a celebrated event,” Gravois said. “Well, it does take 12 years from crossing to release. So, that’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears along the way.”

Louisiana is seeing a significant increase in cane acres, which Gravois attributes this to stable prices and high-yielding varieties that give growers confidence to increase acreage.