The Guatemalan Sugarcane Research and Training Center
CENGICANA, was created by the Guatemalan Sugar Association,
ASAZGUA in 1992, to support the technological advance of the sugar
agroindustry, with the aim of improving the production and productivity
of sugarcane crop and its derivatives. It is funded by the sugar mills of
the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agro-industry, who make their contributions
to the budget of the Center, in proportion to the sugar production
According to the Strategic Plan (2005-2015), our Vision is "To be leaders
in creating technology to increase the competitiveness of the Sugarcane
Agro-industry in the region"; and our Mission is: "We are the
organization of the Sugar Agroindustry responsible for generating,
adapting, and transferring quality technology for profitable and
The Board of Directors of the Center is constituted by representatives of
the sugar mills and canegrowers. The Strategic and Operational Plans are
made with the input from the Board of Directors, the Technical Advisory
Committee, and the Technical Industrial Committee. The research areas
are determined with the participation of managers and technical
personnel of the sugar mills, who develop applied and specific research.
The coordination of activities is the responsibility of the General
Director. The Quality Management System of CENGICANA is certified
according to ISO 9001:2008 standards.
Research activities are carried out through the following research
programs: Varieties Program, Integrated Pest Management Program,
Agronomic Program and Industrial Research Program, and also the
Technology Transfer and Training Program, the Analytical Services
Laboratory and the Administration Unit.
Sugarcane Crop in Guatemala
Guatemalan Sugarcane Research and Training Center
Guatemalan Sugarcane Research and Training Center
Km. 92.5 Carretera a Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa, Escuintla, Guatemala
Phone: (502) 7828 1000
Fax: (502) 7828 1000
Acronyms and Abreviations vi
I. Technological Development of the Sucarcane Agro-
Industry and Perspectives
II. Characterization of Sugarcane Growing Areas
Braulio Villatoro, Ovidio Pérez
III. Sugarcane Breeding and Selection
Héctor Orozco, José Luis Quemé, Werner Ovalle and
Fredy Rosales Longo
IV. Biotechnology Applied to Sugarcane Crop
Luis Molina and Mario Melgar
V. Crop Establishment Work 103
Soil Preparation for Sugarcane Planting
Joel García, Braulio Villatoro, Fernando Díaz and Gil
Nurseries and Commercial Planting
Werner Ovalle, José Luis Quemé, Héctor Orozco and
VI. Weed Control and Management
VII. Crop Nutrition And Fertilization
VIII. Irrigation of Sugarcane Crop
IX. Integrated Pest Management
José Manuel Márquez
X. Diseases in Sugarcane Crop
XI. Sugarcane Ripening and Sugarcane Flowering and their
Sugarcane Flowering and its Managment
Gerardo Espinoza and José Luis Quemé
XII. Sugarcane Harvesting
XIII. The Sugar Production Process 301
José Luis Alfaro, Enrique Velásquez, Luis Monterroso
and Rodolfo Espinosa
XIV. Sugar Agroindustry Diversification 351
Co-Generation in the Sugar Industry
Production of Ethanol
Rodolfo Espinosa and Claudia Ovando
Coproducer Perspectives on Sugarcane
XV. Meteorology in Sugarcane
Otto Castro and Alfredo Suárez
XVI. Climate Change and the Sugarcane Crop
Alex Guerra and Alejandra Hernández
ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS
AGG Guatemalan Managers Association
ASAZGUA Guatemalan Sugar Association
ATAGUA Guatemalan Society of Sugarcane Technologists
CAÑAMIP Integrated Pests Management Committee
CENGICANA Guatemalan Sugarcane Research and Training Center
CIASA Sugar Mills Consultants
CIRAD Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche
Agronomique pour le Développement
CENICAÑA Centro de Investigación de la Caña de Azúcar de Colombia
COPERSUCAR Cooperative of Sugarcane, Sugar and Ethanol Producers of
the State of Sao Paulo
CONCYT National Council for Science and Technology
EEGSA Electric Company of Guatemala
ENCA National Central School of Agriculture
ICC Private Institute for Climate Change Research
ICSB International Consortium of Sugarcane Biotechnology
ICTA Institute of Science and Agricultural Technology
ICUMSA International Commission for Uniform Methods of Sugar
INDE National Institute of Electrification
INSIVUMEH National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology
INTECAP Technical Institute for Training and Productivity
IPNI International Plant Nutrition Institute
ISSCT International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists
MAGA Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food
TECNICAÑA Colombia Association of Sugarcane Technologists
URL Rafael Landivar University
USAC San Carlos University
USDA United States Departament of Agriculture
UVG Del Valle University
Technical expressions and units
dap days after planting
Mz 0.7 hectare
qq 46 kilogrames
TSH tonnes of sugar per hectare
TCH tonnes of cane per hectare
Tchd tonnes of cane/man/day
t metric tonnes
t cane/ha tonnes of cane per hectare
t sugar/ha tonnes of sugar per hectare
CC CENICAÑA Colombia
CG CENGICANA Guatemala
CP Canal Point
CTC Centro de Tecnología Canavieira
MPT MitrPhol, Thailand
NA North of Argentina
PGM Pantaleon Guatemala Mexico
PR Puerto Rico
RB Republic of Brazil
SP São Paulo
Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at
BARBARA W. TUCHMAN
Sugarcane began to be cultivated in Guatemala in 1536, the first Guatemalan
trapiches were founded in the central valley of Guatemala and in the Salama
Valley, during the 16th century.
In the 17th century the number of trapiches increased, the most important were
in hands of religious orders. It was until the middle of the 19th century that
Guatemala began to export sugar in small amounts.
In 1957 the Guatemalan Sugar Association, ASAZGUA was founded and
in1960, when the total production of sugar was 68,000 metric tones, the country
received its first quota from the United States. The year 1960, is taken as a
starting point for the modern history of sugarcane; in the world, the industrial
era was highly developed and changes in the world dynamics were foreseen, it
was then that sugar mills defined their modernization and growth strategy.
Sugar factories evolved from local to exporting industries, becoming one of the
most important agro-industrial activities of the country.
When Guatemalan sugar exports expanded, the ASAZGUA started to develop a
series of projects and strategies that were the driving force of the national Sugar
Agro-industry. In order to increase sugarcane production, the sugar mills
introduced improvements in the crop, harvest, factory, distribution and product
commercialization, as well as better life conditions for the workers of the
In 1971, the Guatemalan Society of Sugarcane Technologists, ATAGUA was
founded with the purpose of promoting the exchange of experiences and
technology; as well as the spreading of technical knowledge to promote the
development of the Sugarcane Agro-industry. This favored the transference of
technology in congresses and symposiums with other sugarcane technical
associations of Central and Latin America.
In the decade of 1970 various sugar mills began to hire Guatemalan
professionals and sugarcane technicians and foreign consultants, in order to
improve the efficiency in the industrial operation and to design expansion and
modernization projects for some sugar mills.
The ASAZGUA created the Department of Agricultural Experimentation in
1974; and in 1978 Pantaleon Sugar Mill began to develop research projects.
Afterwards, Santa Ana, Concepcion and La Union Sugar Mills, did it as well.
The ASAZGUA created FUNDAZUCAR in 1990, the Guatemalan Sugarcane
Research and Training Center CENGICANA in 1992, EXPOGRANEL in 1994;
and the Department of Environmental Management.
Since 1990 the Sugarcane Agro-industry started to gain a worldwide position,
being among the tenth most important countries in export volume, according to
the International Sugar Organization (ISO); and the third place worldwide in
productivity, according to International LMC.
In 2001 in Brisbane, Australia, Guatemala was designated venue for the most
important sugarcane technological event worldwide. The XXV Congress of the
International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists (ISSCT), which took place
successfully in January 2005 in Guatemala.
The Guatemalan Sugarcane Agro-industry has been permanently growing since
1960 to place Guatemala in the fifth position as sugarcane exporter in the world,
the second position in Latin America and the third place in productivity
worldwide (metric tons of sugar/ha). Sugar is the second agricultural product in
Guatemala that creates foreign income, becoming a very important contribution
to the national economy.
The increase in productivity has been more remarkable in the last 20 years. In
the decade of 1980-1990 an average of 6.77 tons of sugar were produced per
hectare (TSH), while in the decade 2000-2010 the average was 10.11 TSH.
The main factors that have had relevance in the development of the Guatemalan
Sugarcane Agro-industry are: ECOLOGIC: the agro-ecologic conditions have
been favorable. ORGANIZATIONAL MANAGEMENT: private industry,
trade organization, export terminal, diversification (cogeneration and ethanol).
TECHNOLOGIC: field operations, factory operations, research, training,
technology transfer, benchmarking. SOCIAL: corporate social responsibility.
The technological component has had an important part in the development of
CENGICANA has formed a research and technological development system for
sugarcane. Thus, it has established policies, regulatory framework, plans,
organization, quality management, and a technology management system.
It has been also developed applied research for the cultivation of sugarcane in
diverse areas of the agronomic system to increase the productivity. The
research areas are: Plant Breeding, Plant Pathology, Biotechnology, Integrated
Pest Management, Fertilization and Vegetal Nutrition, Irrigation,
Agrometeorology, Geographic Information System and Sucrose Recovery. The
research has been done jointly with the associated sugar mills.
The results of all research have been presented in more than 900 publications;
most of them are available at CENGICANA website www.cengicana.org.
Methodologies and technologies have been generated or adapted in all areas.
In this book we present in 13 chapters, the experience in research and
technology transfer, in the sugarcane crop areas, where CENGICANA has
worked with the sugar mills.
In Chapter XIII we present: The Process of Sugar Fabrication, in Chapter XIV
Sugarcane Agro-industry Diversification; and in Chapter XVI presents Climate
Change and the Cultivation of Sugarcane, written by professionals of the
Private Research Institute of Climate Change ICC, which is the newest
organization created by the ASAZGUA in 2010.
We are gratefull with the associated sugar mills, editors, authors, coauthors,
translators especially to Wendy Cano, Erika Monterroso and contributors of this
publication. Our desire is that this book will be useful for professionals,
technicians, sugarcane growers, students and personnel of the Sugarcane Agro-
Board of Directors CENGICANA 2011-2012
President: Ing. Mauricio Cabarrus Pantaleon-Concepcion Sugar Mills
Vicepresident: Ing. Max Zepeda Madre Tierra Sugar Mill
Secretary: Ing. Jorge Leal Magdalena Sugar Mill
Treasurer: Ing. Herman Jensen Santa Ana Sugar Mill
First vocal member: Ing. Jaime Botran Tulula Sugar Mill
Second vocal member: Dr. Freddie Perez San Diego-Trinidad Sugar Mills
Third vocal member: Ing. Jorge Sandoval La Union Sugar Mill
Fourth vocal member: Ing. Arturo Gandara Sugarcane Growers
Joint vocal member: Ing. Hector Ranero ASAZGUA
Financial Advisor: Lic. William Calvillo ASAZGUA
General Director: Dr. Mario Melgar CENGICANA
DEVELOPMENT OF THE
TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE
SUGARCANE AGRO-INDUSTRY AND
Technological development is the process of systematic organization of
scientific and technological knowledge for the production of goods and
Technology is essential knowledge, but it is a knowledge specifically organized
for production. Technological development causes transformations in
According to Enriquez, 2001 “”. The success of a country, sector, organization,
business or an individual, depends upon their ability to understand and apply
Alvin Tofler in his book The Third Wave, 1982 summarizes the technological
history of humanity through, the impact of three waves that have triggered three
revolutions. The first: the agricultural revolution; the second: the industrial
revolution; and the third: the information technology revolution. Each of those
waves creating a new civilization with their own jobs, lifestyles, economic
structures and political thinking.
Richard Oliver, in The Coming Biotech Age, 1999 suggests that the world is
entering a new era or wave, “The Bionanotechnology Revolution”, which will
guide the global economy in the first decades of the 21th century. In Figure 1
we can observe the evolution of these eras through time and their impact in
globalization and added value terms (gross national product (GNP) per capita
and life expectancy). The duration of each wave has been shorter, due to the
previous accumulation of knowledge.
Ph. D. General Director of CENGICANA. www.cengicana.org
Figure 1. Technology creates economic waves
Source: Melgar, M. 2003. No debemos perder la siguiente ola: La revolución biotecnológica
ATAGUA (Gua) 3(4): 14:18.
TECHNOLOGICAL HISTORY OF SUGARCANE
Figure 2. Waves in the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agroindustry
6000 BC 1760 1950 2000
Time and technology
1536 1960 1990 2010
First sugar mills
(Global Top Ten)
In a similar way as the technological waves of Tofler, we can propose that the
technological development of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agro-Industry has
occurred in three waves that are concisely described as follows.
Wagner, 2007 in his book History of Sugarcane in Guatemala, mentions that
sugarcane began to be cultivated in Guatemala in 1536, in Amatitlan.
The first trapiches in Guatemala were founded in the central valley of the
country and in the Salama Valley during the 16th century.
In the 17th century the number of trapiches grew, the most important ones were
in charge of religious orders.
Wagner mentions that at that time “the consumption and production of brown
sugar and cane rum became so popular among the population that sugar mills
were found in all the warm climate regions of the country.”
It was until the middle of the 19th century that Guatemala began to export sugar
in small quantities.
The Guatemalan Sugar Association, ASAZGUA was founded in 1957 with the
purpose of solving problems in sugarcane production and to develop programs
to promote, improve and introduce the use of modern technology in the
sugarcane industry of the country.
According to McSweeney, in 1990 Guatemala received its first quota from the
United States, at that time the total production of sugar in Guatemala was
68,000 metric tons.
In the prologue of the book History of Sugarcane in Guatemala 2007, Fraterno
Vila, mentions that, for the modern history of sugarcane, the year 1960 is taken
as a starting point. In the world, the industrial era was highly developed and
changes in the world dynamics were foreseen, it was then that sugar mills
defined their modernization and grow strategy. The industry transformed from
a local to an exportating industry, becoming one of the most important agro-
industrial activities of the country.
As Guatemalan sugar exports expanded, the ASAZGUA began to develop a
series of projects and strategies that were the driving force of the national Sugar
Agro-industry. To increase production, the sugar mills introduced
improvements in the crop, harvest, factory, distribution and product
commercialization, as well as life conditions for the workers of the sugarcane
industry, was improved.
In 1971, the Guatemalan Society of Sugarcane Technologists, ATAGUA
was founded with the purpose of promoting the exchange of experiences and
technology and to spread technical knowledge to promote the development
of the Sugarcane Agro-industry. This favored technology transfer with other
sugarcane technical associations of Central and Latin America, through
congresses and symposiums.
In the decade of 1970, various sugar mills began to hire Guatemalan
professionals and sugarcane technicians and foreign consultants mainly from
Cuba to improve the efficiency in the industrial operation and to design
expansion and modernization projects for some sugar mills.
The education of sugarcane technicians in universities began in 1975,
making it possible for new professionals to take important positions in the
sugar mills. That is how the transformation of the Guatemalan Sugarcane
Agro-industry began, which kept progressively evolving in the crop, the
harvest and the transportation.
ASAZGUA created the Department of Agricultural Experimentation in
1974; and in 1978 Pantaleon Sugar Mill began to develop research projects.
Afterwards, Santa Ana, Concepcion and La Union Sugar Mills, did it as
The ASAZGUA created: The Sugar Foundation, FUNDAZUCAR 1990,
whose mission is “To become the model for promoting social development,
replicable for other sectors of the country”; The Guatemalan Sugarcane
Research and Training Center, CENGICANA in 1992, whose mission is:
"We are the organization of the Sugar Industry responsible for generating,
adapting and transferring quality technology for profitable and sustainable
development"; EXPOGRANEL in 1994, whose mission is “To be the
shipment terminal that facilitates the competitiveness of The Guatemalan
sugarcane industry worldwide through the effective and reliable
management of exportating sugar”; and in 1994, it created the
Environmental Management Department.
Since 1990 the Sugarcane Agro-industry reached a position worldwide, and
Guatemala is situated among the tenth most important countries in export
volume, according to the International Sugar Organization (ISO); and it is
also well positioned in productivity, according to International LMC, as
shown in Figure 3, where Guatemala occupies the third place worldwide.
As a result it was elected venue for the XXV International Society of Sugar
Cane Technologists, ISSCT which was successfully held in 2005, in
The Private Research Institute of Climate Change (ICC) was founded by
ASAZGUA in 2010, whose mission is: “To create and promote actions that
facilitate climate change mitigation and adaptation in the region based on
technical and scientific guidelines, as well as economic feasibility”.
Figure 3. Competitiveness indicators
Source: LMC Sugar Technical Performance - Executive Summary. September 2008.
In this chapter the following topics are briefly presented emphasizing the period
1. Development factors of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agro-Industry.
2. Sugarcane innovation system.
3. Research and development strategies at sectorial level.
4. Changes in the factors of production within the agronomic system.
6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Prod. Sucrose per ton of milling capacity
Sugar Yield (TSH)
The Guatemalan Sugarcane Agro-industry has been growing permanently since
1960, as far as to position Guatemala as follows:
Fifth place as sugarcane export country worldwide, second in Latin America
and third in productivity (sugar metric tons/ha) worldwide (Figure 3).
Sugar is the second agricultural product in Guatemala, generating foreign
currency incomes, becoming a very important contribution to the national
economy (Chart 4).
In Figure 4 we observe that the increase in production is due to the increase in
the cultivated area, and in productivity.
The increase in productivity has been more noticeable in the last 20 years as
shown in Figure 5.
Figure 4. Trends in area, production and yield of sugar in Guatemala,
Source: Melgar, M. 2010. “Estrategias de la investigación tecnológica en la
agroindustria azucarera de Guatemala”. Presentación en Power Point en el
simposio “Modelos de investigación y desarrollo tecnológico agrícola”
Experiencias del sector privado. USAID-AGEXPORT. 15 de julio 2010.
Toneladas de Azúcar Área (ha)Tonnesof Sugar Area (ha)
Figure 5. Sugar yield/TSH 1960-2010
Source: CENGICAÑA. 2007. Eventos históricos y logros 1992-2007 y actualización 2010
(See Annex 1). Guatemala.
In the decade of 1980-1990 an average of 6.77 sugar tons were produced per
hectare (TSH), while in the decade of 2000-2010 the average was 10.11 TSH.
Diverse authors describe the main factors that have influenced the development
of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agro-industry. These factors are:
Chart 1. Main factors of development of the Sugar Agro-industry in Guatemala
FACTOR DESCRIPTION AUTOR(S)
International Sugar Journal
International Sugar Journal,
Int. Sugar Jul 1998
Herrera et al., 2001
Meneses et al., 2003
Menéndez y Estévez, 2005
Tay y Huete, 2006
Herrera et al., 2001
Source: CENGICAÑA. 2007. Eventos históricos y logros 1992-2007. Guatemala.
1959/60* 53 9.70 5.20
1960/65 57 9.34 5.34
1965/70 62 9.24 5.76
1970/75 74 8.83 6.58
1975/80 77 8.49 6.54
1980/85 76 9.10 6.58
1985/90 71 9.66 6.90
1990/95 82 10.10 8.32
1995/00 85 10.42 8.87
2000/05 90 11.33 10.17
2005/10 94 10.75 10.05
* Just 1959/60
60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 00 05 10
Market: Sugar, cogeneration, ethanol.
Canegrowers, Research departments
CENGICANA Sugarcane Research Centers
form other countries
(Mainly United States,
Colombia and Brazil)
association from other
Universities: USAC, URL, UVG, UG, ZAMORANO, EARTH
ENCA, Technological centers
The mentioned authors agree that the technological component has played a
very important role in the development of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agro-
SUGARCANE INNOVATION SYSTEM IN
According to Tosi, 2010, the innovative achievement of a country, region or
sector cannot be evaluated focusing only on the individual success of the
organizations. On the contrary, innovation is a process that results from the
interaction of diverse organizations.
In Figure 6 we present the main enterprises or organizations that participate
in the innovation system of sugarcane in Guatemala.
Flow of knowledge
Flow of production
Figure 6. Innovation system of sugarcane in Guatemala
Other activities that have been developed by the innovation system, are:
trainings, publications and congresses, as shown in Figures 7, 8 and 9.
PEOPLE TRAINED BY AREA
Figure 7. Training events coordinated by CENGICANA
Source: Melgar, M. 2011. "Desarrollo Tecnológico de la Agroindustria Azucarera y su Impacto
en la Costa Sur de Guatemala". Presentación en Power Point en el foro "La Ciencia y
Tecnología para el Desarrollo Rural Integral” XI Congreso de Ingenieros Agrónomos,
Forestales y Ambientales de Guatemala. 15 de junio 2011.
Figure 8. Publications by CENGICAÑA, most are available in
PEOPLE TRAINED BY RANK
Number of publications
USAC, URL, UVG,
CONCYT, ENCA, ICTA
Ecuador, España, United
Figure 9. Sugarcane congresses organized in Guatemala by ATAGUA, supported
by ASAZGUA and CENGICAÑA
Figure 10 summarizes the technology network actors of the technology
management system that make possible the formation of “the Technology
Stock” of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Agroindustry.
TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Figure 10. Technology management system actors
Source: Melgar, M. 2011. “Estrategias de la investigación tecnológica en la agroindustria azucarera
de Guatemala”. Presentación en Power Point en el seminario-taller "Situación actual y perspectivas
de la investigación agropecuaria, forestal e hidrobiológica en Guatemala”. 02 de junio 2011.
1973 1975 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1995 1997 1998 2000 2001 2002 2005 2008 2011
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT POLICIES AT
As it can be observed in Figure 6, the innovation sources are diverse and each
one has its policies. In Chart 2, we present the research and development
policies at sectorial level that have directed the work of CENGICANA, and
which have been documented in publications or presentations.
Chart 2. Research and development policies
POLICY DESCRIPTION STRATEGY
Activities for the scientific and
technological development will be
held with the participation of the
enterprises that are part of the
sugarcane sector,in a coordinated
Creation of Centro
Guatemalteco de Investigacion
y Capacitacion de la Caña de
Scientific and technological
research will be oriented to solve
priority problems of the
cultivation of sugarcane.
Development of strategic and
operative plans with the
participation of management
and technical levels from sugar
The training, updating and
education of professionals and
technicians, will be a priority
activity for the technological
development of the sector.
Links with national and
international institutions for
the training of human
Diffusion of research results will
be promoted through joint
activities with sugar mills. A
system of technology management
and an innovation system will be
Creation of specific
Organization of technical
events and congresses
Elaboration of publications
Establishment of a
Creation of website
5. NATIONAL AND
CENGICANA´s links to other
sugarcane international research
centers and national organizations,
will be established and
Establish agreements and other
mechanisms that allow the
development of joint programs
or projects that promote
POLICY DESCRIPTION STRATEGY
6. INVESTMENT IN
Mechanisms that stimulate
investment in science and research
by the enterpreneurs of the sector,
will be identified.
Presentations or elaboration of
publications that show
profitability of investment in
CENGICANA will implement a
quality management system
Certification by CENGICANA
Quality management system
according to ISO 9001:2000 in
2006 and recertification ISO
9001:2008 in 2009.
Source: CENGICANA, 2007. Historic events and successes 1992-2007. Guatemala.
PRIORIZATION STRATEGIES IN RESEARCH
PROGRAMS AND PROYECTS
CENGICANA was created by ASAZGUA in 1992 to support technological
advance of the sugarcane agro-industry with the objective to improve
production and productivity of the sugarcane crop and its derivatives. It is
financed by the sugar mills that form the Guatemalan sugarcane agro-industry
and who make contributions to the budget of the Center in proportion to their
According to the Strategic Plans 2005-2015, the vision of CENGICANA is “To
be leaders in technology generation to increase the competitiveness of the
sugarcane agro-industry in the region; and the mission is “"We are the
organization of the Sugar Industry responsible for generating, adapting and
transferring quality technology for profitable and sustainable development".
The strategic objectives of the Center are:
1. To increase the profitability and sustainability of the sugarcane agro-industry
through the continuous improvement of the processes of Varieties,
Integrated Pests Management, Biotecnology, Fertilization, Irrigation,
Agrometeorology, Agroecologic Zonification and Weeds, and Chemical
2. To evaluate and implement new research programs in factory, cogeneration
3. To improve technology transfer to the associated sugar mills, through
training, publish and promotion of the benchmarking processes in field,
factory and transportation.
4. To ensure the satisfaction of the associates with technologies to improve the
profitability and sustainability and to maintain the Quality Management
System certified according to ISO 9001:2008.
5. To develop a continuous program of education, training and updating of the
technical personnel of CENGICANA and the Sugarcane Agro-industry.
The programs and projects that CENGICANA develops based in the
prioritization defined jointly with the Board of directors, Agricultural Managers,
and Industrial Managers are listed in the following Chart:
Chart 3. Research Programs and projects of CENGICAÑA
PROGRAMS AREAS PROJECTS
1. Plant Breeding
1. Germplasm source. 2. Cross-breeding program. 3.
Selection scheme. 4. Genetic seed. 5. Promotion of
1. Molecular marker-assisted selection (MAS),
2. Molecular diagnosis of diseases. 3. Tissue culture
3. Plant Pathology 1. Pathogen detection in nurseries
1. Bioecology of pests and natural enemies.
2. Bioeconomic research.
3. Development of control strategies
1. Fertilization and
1. Nutrient requeriments studies. 2. Fertilization
management. 3. Use and management of byproducts.
4. Green manures
1. Technical and economic efficiency of irrigation.
2. Technical and economic efficiency of irrigation
methods. 3. Studies of groundwater levels
1. Analysis of meteorological information for
4. Information System
1. Agronomic Information System.
2. Agroecological zoning. 3. Thematic maps
5. Weeds and ripeners
1. Flowering inhibitors. 2. Ripeners.
3. Weed management
1. Sucrose recovery. 2. Standardization and
normalization 3. Energy efficiency
Source: Melgar, M. 2011. “Estrategias de la investigación tecnológica en la Agroindustria Azucarera de
Guatemala”. Presentación en Power Point en el seminario-taller “Situación actual y perspectivas de la
investigación agropecuaria, forestal e hidrobiológica en Guatemala”. 02 de junio 2011.
CHANGES IN THE TECHNOLOGICAL FACTORS
Figure 11 presents the agronomic system of commercial production. The main
changes in technological factors are described with emphasis in the period
Figure 11. Agronomic sistem of comercial production of sugarcane
Source: Melgar, M. 2011. "Desarrollo Tecnológico de la Agroindustria Azucarera y su
Impacto en la Costa Sur de Guatemala". Presentación en Power Point en foro "La
Ciencia y Tecnología para el Desarrollo Rural Integral“ XI Congreso de Ingenieros
Agrónomos, Forestales y Ambientales de Guatemala. 15 de junio 2011. Adaptado de
Factors that research has been conducted in coordination with CENGICANA.
During the period of 1990/2010 (Figure 12) a predominance of CP varieties
coming from the Canal Point Experimental Station, Florida was observed. The
variety CP72-2086 stands out, which during the harvest 2002/2003 occupied
the 75 percent of the cultivated area.
- ENLARGE -MANUAL
TOPOGRAPHY CLIMATE WATERSOIL LATITUDE HUMAN FACTOR
DRAINAGE ROADSAREA IRRIGATION SEED
RIPENERSHILLING WEEDS RATS
The variety CP72-2086 has been denominated a “super-variety”, because it
has occupied more than 40 percent of the cultivated area for more than ten
years and with more than 8 tons of sugar per hectare. Similar cases were
registered in Brazil in the decade of 1980 with the variety NA5679; in
Louisiana in the decade of 1990, with the variety LCP85-845; in Australia in
the decade of 1990, with Q124, and currently, in Colombia with the variety
From the detection of Orange Rust in Guatemala in 2007, the area of variety
CP72-2086 has diminished, and the area of variety CP88-1165, has increased.
Other varieties cultivated starting 2007 are: CP, Mex, PGM, BR, SP, NA and
In the period 1990/2010 the hybridization process began for the development of
Guatemalan varieties CG, which for the harvest 2010/2011, occupied 9,000
Seventeen hundred varieties have been introduced, which mainly come from:
Canal Point United States of America, Mexico, Brazil, Barbados, Australia,
Mauricio, Cuba, Thailand, and Colombia. An importing quarantine was
established in 1993, and two new diseases have been reported, the Leaf Scald
Disease and the Orange Rust Disease.
For the improvement of the nurseries, the hydrothermic treatment for Ratoon
Stunting Disease is a usual technology. An analysis service by serologic
methods was established in 1999; a molecular detection of diseases for
imported varieties was implemented in 2010. While the seed multiplication,
through micro-propagation, is made by two sugar mills.
Agreements have been established for the exchange of varieties with BSES of
Australia, Barbados, Canal Point Florida and ARS-USDA-HOUMA-
LOUSIANA United States of America, CENICANA from Colombia, CINCAE
from Ecuador, CIDCA from Mexico, Mitr Phol from Thailand, DIECA from
Costa Rica, MSIRI from Mauritius, and CTC from Brazil.
Figura 12. Percentage of commercial cultivated area by variety of sugarcane in
Guatemala, from 1980 to 2011
Source: CENGICAÑA. 2010. Memoria. Presentación de resultados de investigación. Zafra 2009-
Integrated Pest Management
In figure 13, infestation levels of the main pests with economic impact, are
Except for some high percentages of rodent infestation and a year of
Froghopper, the presence of plagues has been maintained under economic
damage level, which shows sustainable management of the crop.
The work performed by technicians responsible for pest management in each
sugar mill, is supported by the Integrated Pest Management Program of
CENGICANA, that jointly with the Integrated Pest Management Committee
(CANAMIP), has developed integrated management plans for the Sugarcane
Borer, Froghopper and rodents.
The sugar mills have also received the support of some advisors from
Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico. At the same time, biological
studies have been developed for soil plagues, termites and homopters.
Mex68-P23 PGM 89-968
80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
00‐01 01‐02 02‐03 03‐04 04‐05 05‐06 06‐07 07‐08 08‐09 09‐10
0.85 1.14 1.5
2.59 2.63 2.68
% Infestation Field Rats
Alto Medio BajoHigh Medium Low
Figura 13. Evolution of different sugarcane pests 2000-2010
Source: CENGICAÑA 2011. Situación actual y proyección de la producción de azúcar
Zafra 2010/2011. Presentación en Power Point a Junta Directiva de ASAZGUA. 22 de
Since 1993 the studies “Semi-detailed Study of Soils of the Guatemalan
Sugarcane Zone” and “Soil Management Groups” have been made- A
systematic scientific-technologic research job was also developed, which made
possible to determine strategies for the optimization of nitrogen fertilizer and
economic recommendations for the use and management of phosphorus
The fertilizers are applied, by soil management groups, according to the
requirements, soil analysis, and potential performance. Recommendations for
nitrogen and phosphorus have been specified, as observed in Figure 14.
During this period techniques were developed for the efficient utilization of
filter mud and vinasse, management of green fertilizers and differential
response for promissory varieties.
00‐01 ´01‐02 `02‐03 '03‐04 ´04‐05 ´05‐06 ´06‐07 ´07‐08 08‐09 ´09‐10
% of i.i
% Infestation Borer
00‐01 01‐02 02‐03 03‐04 04‐05 05‐06 06‐07 07‐08 08‐09 09‐10
% of i.i
% Infestation Froghopper
Recommendation of nitrogen doses (kg N / ha) for sugarcane cultivation in soils
derived from volcanic ash in Guatemala
Minimum dose Maximum dose
80 1.14 100 150
(3.0 – 5.0)
70 1.0 90 130
60 0.9 80 120
Rel N:TC= Relationship kg of N per ton of cane expected
Phosphorus recommendations bases on P soil, cultivation season and soil type
Category of P
Plant cane Ratoon
Andisols Other soils Andisols Other soils
(< 10 ppm)
80 60 40 25
60 40 0 0
0 0 0 0
Figura 14. Nitrogen and Phosphorus recommendations.
Source: Adapted from Pérez, O.; Ufer, C.; Azañón, V. and Solares, E. 2010. Strategies for
the optimal use of nitrogen fertilizers in the sugarcane crops in Guatemala. In: Proc. Int. Soc.
Sugar Cane Technol. Veracruz, Mexico.
Source: Adapted from Pérez, O.; Hernández, F. 2002. Comportamiento y manejo del fósforo
en la fertilización de caña de azúcar en suelos de origen volcánico. En: Memoria de XIV
Congreso de Técnicos Azucareros de Centro América ATACA. Guatemala. pp. 161-168.
The area under irrigation in the Guatemalan sugarcane zone has increased,
as observed in Figure 15, otherwise, the compliance with the technical and
economic recommendations for the application of irrigation has increased
the efficiency in water utilization, as observed in Figure 16. Progress has
been made also with the application of other technologies that increase
production, such as: use of hydric balance, precut irrigation programming,
water quality and capillary water contribution analysis, and management of
The broadening of the areas with mechanized irrigation systems has been
reported, such as fixed swivel and mobile swivel and frontal displacement, and
a greater number of aspersion systems.
62558.75 65549.00 72534.00
119170 128709 132497
ALTO MEDIO BAJO TOTALHIGH MEDIUM LOW TOTAL
Figure 15. Growth in irrigated area 2001-2010, low altitude stratum (1-100 masl),
medium (100-300 masl) and high (over 300 masl)
Source: CENGICAÑA 2011. Situación actual y proyección de la producción de azúcar Zafra
2010/2011. Presentación en Power Point a Junta Directiva de ASAZGUA. 22 de marzo 2011.
Figure 16. Evolution of irrigation efficiency
Source: CENGICAÑA 2011. “Situación actual y proyección de la producción de azúcar”
Zafra 2010/2011. Presentación en Power Point a Junta Directiva de ASAZGUA. 22 de marzo
Irrigated hectares/megaliter of water
The application of technology for the utilization of chemical ripening products
to increase yields has been extended from 2,900 hectares in harvest season
1989/1990, to more than 140,000 in harvest season 2009/2010 as observed in
Over time, factors affecting the response to ripeners such as: water quality, soil
moisture, and potential yield varieties have been evaluated.
Figure 17. Area applied with ripeners
Source: CENGICAÑA 2011. Situación actual y proyección de la producción de azúcar Zafra
2010/2011. Presentación en Power Point a Junta Directiva de ASAZGUA. 22 de marzo 2011.
The Manual for the Identification and Management of Main Sugarcane Weeds
and the Herbicide Technical Catalogue used in the Guatemalan Sugarcane
Agro-industry, were made, in order to generate information about weed control.
The automatic meteorological network in the Guatemalan sugarcane zone, has
been established, in order to obtain basic data available, with 16 stations that
provide information about the main meteorological variables, which can be
accessed through CENGICANA webpage www.cengicana.org.
100 300 700 2,904
Area (ha) applied ripeners harvest season 1986-2009*
Through agro-meteorological studies. The relation of diverse climatic variables
with sugarcane production has been found. As an example, the case of August
solar radiation that is highly related with the production of sugarcane, as
observed in Figure 18.
Figure 18. Relationship ENSO, August sunshine and tons of sugarcane of the
Guatemalan Sugarcane Agroindustry
Source: CENGICAÑA 2011. Situación actual y proyección de la producción de azúcar Zafra
2010/2011. Presentación en Power Point a Junta Directiva de ASAZGUA. 22 de marzo 2011.
In 2009, Villatoro et al., published the study First Approach to the Agro-
ecologic Zonification for the Sugarcane Cultivation in the Sugarcane Zone of
the Guatemalan Southern Coast.
The GPS technology and the Geographic information system have been mainly
used for the application of agrochemicals in the cultivation of sugarcane,
topographic applications, irrigations and transportation.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT
According to www.azucar.com.gt the biggest impacts are:
Generation of 65,000 direct jobs and 350,000 indirect and direct jobs in
230,000 hectares that are equal to 2.1 percent of the national territory.
N= NEUTRAL YEAR
Ño= NIÑO YEAR
Ña= NIÑA YEAR
For the 2009/2010 harvest season, sugar represented 10.25% of the GNP of
the country total exports; 20.80% of the agricultural exports; and it generated
US$493 million in foreign currency, which is the basis for the national
economical exchange that includes food, contributing to food safety. Foreign
currency earnings from sugar and molasses export ranked second, after
coffee, and even in some years have achieved the first place (Chart 4).
The activities that promote human development area carried out through
The social impact of the Sugarcane Agro-industry is shown by the regional
development level, mainly in the department of Escuintla, which is the third
department with better levels of development in Guatemala (better life
conditions, lower levels of poverty and malnutrition indexes).
Eight sugar mills develop cogeneration for the production of the 23 percent
of electrical energy in harvest season in the Interconnected National System,
that represent 310 MW of power.
During harvest season 2009/2010, five enterprises associated to sugar mills
produced 265 million liters of ethanol, which was exported to Europe and
the United States.
Chart 4. Foreing currency earnings for exports during 2003 to 2010, 000 in
Año 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
2,284,338 3,074,419 3,644,832 3,813,657 4,219,396 5,034,553 4,795,305 5,490,744
Main products 944,528 1,244,861 1,456,635 1,449,539 1,560,044 1,540,893 1,855,565 2,087,566
Sugar and Molasses 316;429 457,024 497,499 550,608 546,509 406,708 492,987 763,831
Bananas 228,051 277,481 289,119 266,020 302,383 322,919 494,291 351,565
Coffee 328,122 424,740 575,322 529,553 587,987 660,130 589,245 705,477
Cardamom 67,548 98,473 108,152 122,851 143,890 180,435 300,212 307,500
Central America 312,833 382,765 371,876 590,535 692,547 1,147,115 1,212,780 1,991,856
Other Products 1,036,975 1446,793 1,816,320 1,773,583 1,966,805 2,346,544 1,726,960 1,411,321
Source: Banco de Guatemala
Sugarcane is currently cultivated in more than 100 countries covering more than
20 million hectares in the world, where 1,300 million tons of sugarcane are
produced. (D´Hont et al., 2008).
In the past, it has been mainly used to produce sugar, providing almost two
thirds of the world production.
Even though the world economy will depend in the next decades on fossil
energy, the biomass will partially substitute fossil energy for being a source of
renewable energy. Due to its exceptional capacity to produce biomass,
sugarcane will be an important source of it (Botha, 2009).
Sugarcane will be the favorite raw material for the production of ethanol or the
generation of electric energy and co-products, such as: bioplastics and
sucrochemistry derivatives. (ISO, 2009).
Moore 2005, describes the different levels of production associated to
constraints factors and agronomic practices or technologies to protect or
increase the yield of crops.
In Figure 19, levels of production adapted to sugarcane in Guatemala, are
shown. The present day yield is defined as the one reached under conditions
with constraint factors such as: weeds, pests, diseases or nutrient deficit.
With the appropriate fertilization and weed, pests and disease control
sustainable yield can be reached. The obtainable yield is determined by
environmental constraints, associated to factors such as water, radiation,
temperature, or soil salinity.
The potential yield is reached when the crop is in optimal conditions to provide
inputs, such as: water and nutrients in absence of pests, and with the appropriate
variables. The potential yield in a region can be estimated by the record yield
The theoretical yield is calculated through simulation models based on
phenology and physiology of sugarcane and, it is possible to be reachred with
the support of biotechnology and precision agriculture.
The record yields of sugarcane, approximately reach a 65 percent of the
theoretical yield (Moore, 1997) so there is a high potential to increase them.
Figure 19. Production levels, constraints production factors and agronomic
practices or technologies with the potential to protect or increase the
tonnage (Adapted from Moore, P. 2005).
Source: Melgar, M. 2010. Tendencias de la Investigación en Caña de Azúcar a Nivel Mundial.
Sugar Journal (USA). November 2010. pp. 6-18
Melgar, 2010, presents a revision of some sugarcane research trends, in Chart 5
the technologies that will be used in the future of sugarcane, are listed.
Charto 5. Technological trends in sugarcane
Genetic Breeding Conventional breeding
selection (MAS), Transgenic
limiting biotic (pests,
diseases and weeds)
Molecular diagnosis of
Present Obtainable Potential Theorist
Management of weeds,
Strategies for changes
in the evolution of
pests, diseases and
Molecular diagnosis of diseases
Precision Agriculture (GPS,
GIS, remote sensing)
(Internet, cellular phones)
Source: Melgar, M. 2010. Tendencias de la investigación en caña de azúcar a nivel mundial. Sugar Journal
(USA). November 2010. pp. 6-18.
Based on Melgar´s revision (2010), some trends for sugarcane and its
derivatives that indicate research trends, are presented as follows:
1. As the energetic demand grows worldwide, sugarcane will play an important
role as bio-fuel and as a source of energy. The leadership in research
development for the optimization of production processes of ethanol and
energy is being taken by Brazil, through universities and institutions
localized mainly in the state of Sao Paulo and the Centro de Tecnologia
Canaviera (CTC) (Center of Sugarcane technology). The use of all biomass
produced by sugarcane is presented as one of the main research and
development challenges, for which diverse countries are developing
sugarcane energetic clones, derived from intraspecific and inter-generic
2. Most of the research centers in the reviewed countries are making great
investments in sugarcane biotechnology, so that in the midterm, sugarcane
transgenic varieties will be used at a commercial level, especially, in those
countries that already have transgenic varieties at experimental level (Brazil,
Colombia, United States, South Africa, China, India and Australia). The
main characters that have been transformed in sugarcane are: herbicide, pests
and disease resistance, greater sucrose accumulation and production of
polymers and pharmaceutical products.
3. Derivative technologies from molecular biology and genetics engineering,
will be used not only for the development of sugarcane varieties, but also as
tools for integrated pests management, disease diagnosis, weed control and
for methods associated to fertilization, such as: biologic fixation of nitrogen
and soil microbiology.
4. The occurrence of droughts is a restriction factor mentioned by various
countries, hence, the research in irrigation systems with efficient use of
water will be indispensable, such as irrigation by dripping, technologies for
the optimization of water utilization, water harvest and conservation, and
management of water sources.
5. Precision agriculture for the optimal use of supplies in the search of eco-
efficiency will require research in more precise diagnosis techniques, use of
tools as: geographic information systems (GPS), remote sensors and the
application of information technologies: cellular telephones and internet.
Cenicana, Colombia has developed the model of specific agricultural model
for sites. India, has promoted the use of information technologies for the
transfer of technology due to this country has a large number of a small
6. Competition for the use of land for other crops, forestry and urban
development, make economic research necessary.
7. Due to climate change and environmental concern there will be a more
focused legislation on the protection of the environment (water, soil,
protected areas, biodiversity, agrochemical use, industrial security, traffic
and burnings) so that, the focus of development must be based on
To Licda. Priscila Lopez de Alvarado for her valuable contribution to the
integration of this chapter and the diagramming of this book.
1. Botha, F.C. (2009). Energy Yield and Cost in a Sugarcane Biomass
System. En: Proc. Aust. Soc. Sugar Cane Technol., Vol. 31:1–10.
2. CENGICAÑA. 2007. Eventos históricos y logros 1992-2007. Guatemala.
3. CENGICAÑA. 2010. Logros 2006-2010. Presentación en Power Point a Junta
Directiva de CENGICAÑA. 03 de mayo 2010.
4. CENGICAÑA. 2011. Situación actual y proyección de la producción de
azúcar Zafra 2010/2011. Presentación en Power Point a Junta Directiva de
ASAZGUA. 22 de marzo 2011.
5. D’Hont, A., et al (2008). Sugarcane: A Major Source of Sweetness,
Alcohol, and Bio-energy. Springer. 2008. Genomics of tropical crop plants.
Springer. p. 483-513.
6. Enriquez, Juan. 2001. As the Future Catchs You. Crow Business New
7. Hasrajani, N. 2004. La industria azucarera en Guatemala: Una Visión
Global. ISJ Vol CVI N1267 jul p.385-389
8. Herrera, J.; Orive, J.; Boesche, A. 2001. Guatemala Sugar industry , INT.
SUGAR JNL., VOL. 103, NO. 1235 p.484-485
9. International Sugar Journal. 1998. Guatemala continúa la trayectoria de
éxitos. ISJ Vol100 No 1190 February. p46
10. ISO. International Sugar Organization. 2009. Sugar Year Book 2009.
Documento en línea:
11. ISO. Organización Mundial del Azúcar. 2009. Potencial de mercado para
bioproductos derivados de la remolacha y de la caña de azúcar.
12. McSweeney, J.F.; 2005. Guatemala From Zero to major exporter 1960-
2004. Proc ISSCT Vol25. pp.465-470
13. Melgar, M. 2003. No debemos perder la siguiente ola: La revolución
biotecnológica. ATAGUA (Gua) 3(4): 14:18
14. Melgar, M. 2010. Estrategias de la investigación tecnológica en la
agroindustria azucarera de Guatemala. Presentación en Power Point, en
simposio “Modelos de Investigación y Desarrollo Tecnológico Agrícola”
Experiencias Del Sector Privado. USAID-AGEXPORT. 15 de julio 2010.
15. Melgar, M. 2010. Tendencias de la investigación en caña de azúcar a nivel
mundial. Sugar Journal (USA). November 2010. pp. 6-18.
16. Melgar, M. 2011. Estrategias de la investigación tecnológica en la
agroindustria azucarera de Guatemala. Presentación en Power Point en el
seminario-taller “Situación actual y perspectivas de la investigación
agropecuaria, forestal e hidrobiológica en Guatemala”. 02 de junio 2011.
17. Melgar, M. 2011. Desarrollo Tecnológico de la Agroindustria Azucarera y
su Impacto en la Costa Sur de Guatemala. Presentación en Power Point en
foro "La ciencia y tecnología para el Desarrollo Rural Integral” XI
Congreso de Ingenieros Agrónomos, Forestales y Ambientales de
Guatemala. 15 de junio 2011.
18. Menéndez, M.; Estévez, M.; 2005 Reporte de inteligencia competitiva,
DCE, Ministerio de Economía de El Salvador. Artículo electrónico.
19. Meneses, A.; Melgar, M.; Cano, W. 2003. Desarrollo de la agroindustria
azucarera en Guatemala. SJ October Vol.62, No5. pp.18-19
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hierarchical scales: towards developing an understanding of the gene-to-
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overcoming physio-biochemical limits to sucrose accumulation. in Intensive
sugarcane production: Meeting the challenges beyond 2000, eds Keating
B.A, Wilson J.R.(CAB International, Wallingford, UK), pp. 141﹣156.
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fertilización de caña de azúcar en suelos de origen volcánico. In: Memoria
de XIV Congreso de Técnicos Azucareros de Centro América ATACA.
Guatemala. pp. 161-168
25. Pérez, O.; Ufer, C.; Azañón, V. and Solares, E. 2010. Strategies for the optimal
use of nitrogen fertilizers in the sugarcane crops in Guatemala. In: Proc. Int. Soc.
Sugar Cane Technol. Veracruz, Mexico.
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II. CHARACTERIZATION OF
SUGARCANE GROWING AREAS
CHARACTERIZATION OF SUGARCANE
Braulio Villatoro and Ovidio Pérez
Sugar industry of Guatemala is composed of 13 sugar mills which are
distributed geographically as follows:
Ten of the sugar mills are located on the Pacific coastal plain, Southern
Coast of Guatemala, occupying almost the totality of sugarcane growing area
(99 %). These sugar mills are: Tululá, Palo Gordo, Madre Tierra, La
Unión, Pantaleon, Concepcion, Magdalena, Santa Ana, Trinidad, and
El Pilar. The other sugar mills are located in relatively small areas, at
different parts of the country. At the Villa Canales Municipality,
Guatemala District, is located Santa Teresa Mill, and in the Santa
Rosa District is La Sonrisa. The Chabil Utzaj Mill is being
established at the Northern of the country, in Alta Verapaz District.
GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION OF SUGARCANE GROWING
The sugarcane growing areas in the Southern Coast of Guatemala, are located
between 91°50’00” - 90°10’00” West Longitude and 14°33’00” - 13°50’00”
North Latitude. Geopolitically, these areas are located in the Retalhuleu,
Suchitepéquez, Escuintla and Santa Rosa Districts. At the moment, the
sugarcane growing areas are expanding towards the Jutiapa District. A general
geographical distribution is presented in Figure 1.
Braulio Villatoro is Agr. Eng., Specialist in Information Systems for Precision Agriculture; Ovidio Pérez
is Agr. Eng., M.Sc. Agronomy Program Leader, CENGICAÑA. www.cengicana.org
Figure 1. Geographical distribution of sugarcane growing areas in the Southern
Coast of Guatemala
The sugarcane growing areas are located in the river basin of the following
rivers: Ocosito, Samalá, Sis-Icán, Nahualate, Madre Vieja, Coyolate, Acomé,
Achiguate, María Linda, Paso Hondo, Los Esclavos, and La Paz; which have
their origin in the highlands and flow into the Pacific Ocean.
The sugarcane growing areas of Guatemala are divided in four strata, based on
altitudinal position and expressed as meters above sea level (MASL).
Altitudinal position of these areas are associated to climatic and soil conditions,
due to physiographic characteristics corresponding to a natural landscape from
the base of the mountains to the coastal plain, with slopes of 7 to 25 percent.
The areas are undulated hills that easily descend to the plain level of the Pacific
Coast (CENGICAÑA, 1996).
The high stratum is located above 300 MASL; Medium stratum is from 100 to
300 MASL; Low stratum, from 40 to 100 MASL, and Littoral stratum
corresponding from 0 to 40 MASL.
Localization of these strata is presented in Figure 2. Climatic conditions are
summarized in Table 1.
Figure 2. Altitudinal Strata of sugarcane growing areas
Table 1. Climatic characteristics of sugarcane growing areas
Temp. (°C) Solar
Min. Average Max.
High > 300 4100 20.2 26.2 32.2 17.7 5.2
3700 20.5 26.7 32.2 17.3 6.8
Low 40 – 100 1900 21.2 27.3 33.8 18.4 6.2
Littoral < 40 1500 21.0 27.5 33.4 18.0 8.7
Solar radiation and temperature are more varied getting close to the coast, but
these conditions become more stable as ascending near to the mountains. On the
other hand, rainfall diminishes as descending from the base of mountains to the
Rainfall is distributed in two seasons: rainy season (known locally as winter)
that occurs between May and October with major rainfalls during June and
September. Between July and August occurs a dry period of 15 days (canicula).
The non rainy season (locally named summer) occurs between October and
May, corresponding to the harvesting period.
Parent material on which soils of sugarcane growing areas are developed are
mainly formed by volcanic ash, lapilli, pumice and pyroclastics, which exist due
to high volcanic activity occurred in different geological time, mainly the
Quaternary Period (CENGICAÑA, 1996).
Soil mineralogy and granulometrical characteristics vary from one place to the
other, depending on geographical position, especially in relation to the distance
from the volcanic crater. Allophane is the predominant material in soils at high
and medium strata, meanwhile, in low stratum Haloisite and 2:1 clay are
predominant, probably Esmectite in the lowlands along the Western and Eastern
parts of the region.
Soil classification at the sugarcane region
In 1993 and 1994, a semi detailed soil survey was carried out (1:50,000) in the
sugarcane growing zone. For this, the Soil taxonomy System was used,
considering Family level (Soil survey Staff, 1992).
At the region, the following were identified: 6 soil Orders, 9 Suborders, 13
Great Groups, 25 Subgroups and 37 Families. By its extension: Mollisols,
Andisols, Entisols, Inceptisols, Alfisols and Vertisols, in order of importance,
Order localization in the region is observed in Figure 3. The position of each
Order is corresponding to the natural landscape, depending on slope and
topography characteristics due to fluvio-volcanic material deposition and its
distribution downward leaching from the mountains. Thus, it is observed that
Andisols (recent formed soils) are located at high and medium strata in the
region with greater rainfall than in the lowlands and littoral areas where
Mollisols are predominant.
Figure 3. Map showing Soil classification at sugarcane growing areas at Southern
Guatemala. Source: SIAP-CENGICAÑA
The main characteristics of six Orders of soil are described in the following
Mollisols are presented in 40 percent of total area. They are located
mainly in littoral zone, close to the coast, in flat and slightly flat
topography. These soils present medium development, showing ABC y
AC horizons. The superficial horizon has a variable depth, dark color and
medium organic matter content. Base saturation is more than 50 percent
through soil profile. Soil particles aggregation varies from moderate to
strong structure. Mostly, we come across soil that is loamy and sandy-
loamy with predominant sandy subsoil.
Andisols are predominant in high and medium strata, occupying 26 percent
of total area. They present little development, derived from volcanic ash,
dark in color, high organic matter content and low bulk density.
Consistency ranges from friable to loose. These soils have excellent
physical properties with loamy and sandy loamy textures, but present some
chemical limitations, such as high retention of phosphate and sulfur.
Entisols are the less evolved soils in the region, with just AC horizons. They
constitute 16 percent of the total area. They are found in valleys and alluvial
fans in narrow strips, located in medium and lowlands that extend to the coast
plains. They have little or no development and little or no evidence of genetic
horizons development. Mostly, these soils present a good permeability due to
gross sandy texture. Subsoil tends to be sandy so, during the summer, water
deficit is frequently a limiting factor.
Inceptisols are located on medium and lower strata, composing 11 percent of
the total area. They are mainly developed on clay material mixed with
volcanic ash and rock fragments. These soils have a medium development
presenting saturation of exchange capacity (< 50 %). They have well
developed structure and medium or fine texture on clay subsoil.
Alfisols are suited on medium and low strata of the antique fans, presenting
undulated and slightly undulated topography. An important characteristic is an
argillic B horizon due to clay leaching down to the subsoil. Usually these soils
present clay texture with massive and compact structure.
Vertisols occupy a minimum extension of total area (0.5 %). Soils are well
developed with ABC horizons. They present high clay content, such as
Montmorillonite, and therefore tend to crack during dry season, and swell in
Soil Management Groups
The grouping of soil management was based on information from Semi-
detailed Study of Soils of the Sugarcane Growing Zone of Guatemala
(CENGICAÑA, 1996), adapted from the original grouping. The soils were
classified in accordance to the Manual de Conservación del Suelo y del Agua
del Colegio de Post-graduados, de la Secretaría de Agricultura y Recursos
Hídricos de México (Adapted for the sugarcane crop in Guatemala) and the
corresponding taxonomic family (CENGICAÑA, 2002).
Factors employed to define Soil Classes were divided into two groups:
limiting factors and auxiliary factors. Limiting factors – by range of
variation and importance- define specific classes, whereas auxiliary factors
do not necessarily define a class, but describe special handling conditions.
The most important limiting factors found were: climatic conditions,
susceptibility to erosion, topography and soil; auxiliary factors were soil
texture, permeability and soil reaction (pH), (CENGICAÑA, 2002).
The analysis of both limiting and auxiliary factors results on 13 soil
groups, corresponding to 4 soil classes (agrological classes). Each class
was identified with its corresponding limiting factor(s) using conventional
nomenclature, while auxiliary factor(s) are described in parentheses.
The main characteristics of each of the Soil Management Groups are
presented in Table 2, and their geographical localization is shown in
Table 2. Main characteristics of the soil management groups of the sugarcane
area of Guatemala (CENGICAÑA, 2002)
Soil Class /limiting
S01 I Deep Mollisols with high fertility.
S02 II/E Deep and well drained Andisols, showing slight erosion
S03 II/S1 (PR)
Gross texture, moderately deep and permeable
S04 II/S1 (PL)
Moderately deep Inceptisols, with clay texture and
S05 II/T1 E (PL)
Clay Inceptisols, slightly slanted
Susceptible to erosion, low permeability
S06 II/T1 S1 E
Moderately deep Andisols, slightly slanted to
Undulated, susceptible to erosion.
S07 II/T1 S1 E (TF) (PL)
Clay soils that crack in the dry season, slightly slanted
susceptible to erosion and very slowly permeable
(Vertic integrated soils).
Soil Class /limiting
Superficial, limited by presence of hardpan (talpetate)
S09 III/S4 (PR)
Mollisols affected by moderate presence of salts,
Gross texture, highly permeable.
S10 III/S1 (TQ) (PR)
Entisols with low water holding capacity, limited by layers
of sand along profile
S11 III/T2 E S5 (TF) (PL)
Slightly slanted to undulated soils, susceptible to erosion,
heavy texture with slow permeability and sodium presence
Inceptisols and Entisols forming part of hills with high
slope, undulated to hilly topography, low fertility.
S13 IV/T2 (RI) (PL)
Low fertility soils, heavy texture, low permeability, very
dry during the summer, flat to undulated topography
(Southern Coastal Plains).
Predominant soils in the sugarcane growing zone are dry Mollisols (S03 Group)
that cover 37.1 percent of total area, followed by Entisols (19.9 percent),
characterized by low water holding capacity due to layers of sandy soil along
profile (S10 Group). Other important soils are deep and well drained Andisols (S02
Group), deep and highly fertile Mollisols (S01) and superficial Andisols (S08),
occupying 13.4, 8.4 y 7.6 percent of the total area, respectively (Villatoro et al.,
AGROECOLOGICAL ZONIFICATION (AEZ)
Agroecological zonification was obtained by interaction of two geographic
layers corresponding to the Soil Management Group map and Iso-balance
Group map, obtained through hydrologic balance from May to October by
Each zone was identified with an alphanumeric code consisting of five
characters; the first three characters indicate soil group (For example: S01 = soil
group 1) and the last two characters indicate the iso-balance group (For
example: H2= Iso-balance Group 2). Also, zones were identified with a
correlative number starting from 1. In this first approximation, 44 agro
ecological zones were obtained. The base map used for the first approximation
of agro-ecological zonification for sugarcane growing areas of South Coast of
Guatemala was that of Soil Management Groups. The Agro ecological
Zonification is shown in Figure 5 (Villatoro et al., 2010).
Figure 4. Soil Management Groups Map in sugarcane growing areas at Southern
Coast of Guatemala
Figure 5. Agro ecological zonification of sugarcane growing areas in Southern
Coast of Guatemala
Agro-ecological zonification is currently used to analyze data from yields at
each cropping area. It is useful to compare productivity among different areas,
select areas to establish field experiments, evaluate varieties at a regional and
semi commercial scale, and relate other management variables.
1. CENGICAÑA. 1996. Estudio semidetallado de suelos de la zona cañera del
sur de Guatemala. Ingeniería del Campo Ltda. Compañía Consultora.
Guatemala. 216 p.
2. CENGICAÑA. 1996b. Anexo I del libro: Estudio semidetallado de suelos
de la zona cañera del sur de Guatemala. Ingeniería del Campo Ltda.
Compañía Consultora. Guatemala. 137 p.
3. CENGICAÑA. 2002. Grupos de Manejo de Suelos de la Zona Cañera de
Guatemala. In: Informe Anual 2001-2002. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. pp.
4. CENGICAÑA. 2009. Estratificación de la zona cañera de Guatemala. En:
Informe Anual 2007-2008. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. pp. 71-73.
5. Holdridge, L. R. 1967. Life Zone Ecology. Tropical Science Center. San
José, Costa Rica. (Traducción del inglés por Humberto Jiménez Saa:
Ecología Basada en Zonas de Vida, 1a. ed. San José, Costa Rica: IICA,
6. MAGA (Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería y Alimentación). 2006. Mapa
de Cobertura de Uso del Suelo y Uso de la Tierra, escala 1:50,000. UPGGR
(Unidad de Planificación Geográfica y Gestión de Riesgo). Guatemala.
7. Meneses, A.; Melgar, M.; Posadas, W. 2011. Boletín Estadístico año 12-2
del área de Campo. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. 48 p. En prensa.
8. Orozco, H.; Soto, G. J.; Pérez, O.; Ventura, R.; Recinos, M. 1995.
Estratificación preliminar de la zona de producción de caña de azúcar
(Saccharum spp) en Guatemala con fines de investigación en variedades.
Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. Documento Técnico No. 6. 24 p.
9. Soil Survey Staff. 1992. Keys to soil taxonomy 5th
Ed. Virginia. United
States. Pocahontas Press.
10. Villatoro, B.; Pérez, O.; Suárez, A.; Castro, O.; Rodríguez, M.; Ufer, C.
2010. Zonificación Agroecológica para el Cultivo de Caña de Azúcar en la
Zona Cañera de la Costa Sur de Guatemala –Primera Aproximación–. In:
Memoria. Presentación de resultados de investigación. Zafra 2009-2010.
Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. pp. 325-331.
SUGARCANE BREEDING AND SELECTION
Héctor Orozco, José Luis Quemé,
Werner Ovalle and Fredy Rosales Longo
The objectives of breeding and selection in plants are the modification of traits
and at the same time, to take advantage of the natural genetic variation. The
final aim is to obtain new varieties that suit human needs in specific
circumstances. The focus of CENGICAÑA's sugarcane breeding and selection
program is to obtain new high yielding varieties through breeding and selection
in order to progressively, increase sugar yield in the sugarcane growing areas of
Guatemala. The new varieties besides high sugar yield, must adapt to the
different environments and soil conditions in the production area, with genetic
resistance to the main diseases, as well as adequate agronomic characteristics
for their proper management.
The sugarcane breeding and selection program of CENGICAÑA was
established with a general strategy that includes three main components: a)
genetic variability, generation through germplasm acquisition and management,
and by crossing selected parents, b) assessment and selection from crosses
progenies and introduced varieties from abroad, and c) releasing of new
varieties (Orozco, 2005). This chapter describes the above components. The
general strategy involves four main breeding objectives: a) sugar yield increase
per unit/area b) disease resistance, c) adaptability, and d) ratooning ability.
These breeding objectives are lined up with the varietal prototype that growers
are requiring for the Guatemalan sugarcane industry.
At CENGICAÑA, genetic variability is generated through conventional
breeding, establishing, mostly, bi-parental crosses using selected parents. New
parents are incorporated each subsequent crossing campaign. The new parents
are selected from elite varieties introduced from other sugarcane breeding
programs in the world. The introduced varieties are obtained through specific
agreements based on exchanging CG elite varieties and foreign varieties. The
selection program is based on an outline that guides the development of specific
varieties for specific altitudinal zones or varieties with specific early or late
maturity pattern. The selection program is based on five stages of selection,
Héctor Orozco is Agr. Eng., M.Sc., Leader of CENGICAÑA’s Sugarcane Breeding and Selection Program;
José Luis Quemé is Agr. Eng., Ph.D., Plant breeder; Werner Ovalle is Agr. Eng., M.Sc., Plant pathology and
Fredy Rosales Longo is Agr. Eng, M.Sc., Plant breeder, CENGICAÑA. www.cengicana.org
which begin with an original population of near 180,000 stools in the stage I,
and finishes up with three to five promising varieties in stage V. The stage V
or semi-commercial field trial of CENGICAÑA´s program is the validation
stage, and based on the evaluation results in this stage, varieties for commercial
use are released.
The variety releasing procedure consists in a Technical Report about the
performance of the variety in the stage V in terms of sugar yield, disease
resistance, agronomic characteristics and adaptability after three crops:
plantcane, first and second ratoon. Due to the CENGICAÑA’s varieties
program has released several varieties and because some of them are
in commercial scale, a new activity, which is called New Varieties
Development, has been initiated. In this project breeders and growers
from the mills, design the mill variety composition, based mainly on the
concept of specific adaptability of commercial varieties and the
availability of the new ones. A second part of the project involves the
discussion of information about the varieties performance in accordance
to the planned variety composition. The information is shared and
discussed for each mill; additionally this information is also shared
among all mills in a Variety Forum every two years.
In sugarcane breeding, the germplasm collection constitutes the biological basis
for the creation of new cultivars. The collections serve as sources of genetic
variability, which exploitation and utilization allow obtaining new and more
productive cultivars, with high sugar content, suitable agronomic characteristics,
and resistance to main pests and diseases. Typically, collections include basic
germplasm (Saccharum's species and related genera) and Saccharum spp.
hybrids. The basic germplasm collection is in the sugarcane world collection,
which is replicated in two locations of the world: one is in India and the other one
is in the United States of America. The world collection is formed mostly of basic
germplasm, such is the case of the world collection in Miami, Florida, with 1,394
accessions coming from the following species of sugarcane and related grasses:
Saccharum officinarum (397), S. barberi (58), S. sinense (42), S. robustum (85),
S. spontaneum (348), Saccharum spp. (229), commercial hybrids (193), Erianthus
(23), Narenga (1) and Miscanthus (18) (Ming et al., 2006).
Sugarcane breeding programs throughout the world have their own collections
that have been used for the development of these cultivars. In general, the use of
basic germplasm in these collections has been low. The total number of
accessions or cultivars is reported as follows: Australia (4,220), Brazil (3,736);
The United States of America (5,020); Barbados (2,567); Cuba (3,386); India
(3,979); and Fiji (6,000) accessions (INICA, 2003). In addition to genetic
material, the conformation of a germplasm collection involves quarantine
measures on the introduced plants control, in order to avoid the introduction or
dissemination of quarantine interest plagues.
General concepts of sugarcane cytogenetics
Sugarcane belongs to the Saccharum genus, which at the same time is member
of the Andropogonae tribe, and this one is part of the Poaceae family. In this
genus there are six species: S. spontaneum, S. robustum, S. officinarum, S.
barbieri, S. sinense y S. edule. It is believed, though, that the last three species
have an interspecific or intergeneric background (D’Hont et al., 1998). On the
other hand, the molecular evidence is not enough to maintain the “species”
status for S. barberi y S. sinense (Ming et al., 2006).
The modern sugarcane (Saccharum spp. Hybrids) is a genetically complex crop.
That is the reason why, its breeding in the traditional way (inbreeding and
hybridization) is problematic. Modern sugarcane cultivars (Saccharum spp.
Hybrids) have taken the place of traditional cultivars of S. officinarum and some
clones of S. spontaneum (Grivet et al., 2004).
The sugarcane species are characterized by their small and numerous
chromosomes (35 to more than 200) (Ming et al., 2006). Several studies about
molecular cytogenetics (D’Hont et al., 1998; Grivet et al., 2004; Edmé et al.,
2005; Babu, 2006; Piperidis et al., 2010) and about gene mapping (Da Silva et
al., 1993; al Janabi et al., 1993; Grivet et al., 1994) have established the
approximate size of the genome of S. spontaneum, which is between 3.05 and
5.31 pg (picograms, 1pg=987 Mbp). The genome size of S. officinarum is
between 6.32 and 6.66 pg. Some commercial sugarcane cultivars (Saccharum
spp hybrids) from Canal Point show genomes sizes which oscillate between
6.30 and 7.5 pg (Edmé et al., 2005). Modern sugarcane cultivars show from
70% to 80% of chromosomes derived from S. officinarum, whereas 10% to 20%
comes from S. spontaneum; and a very few chromosomes are product of the
specific genetic recombination of those two species (Ming et al, 2006; Le Cunff
et al., 2008).
What is the basic chromosomes number in Sugarcane?
In plants, there are species that have more than one set of chromosomes on its
haploid form (n). In polyploids “X” is used for designating the number of
monoploid set of chromosomes. “X” is used to indicate the monoploid set of the
haploid or gametic chromosome number (n). Therefore, the haploid number (n)
and the chromosome monoploid (x) number of one basic diploid species are the
same (Allard, 1980).
For sugarcane, Sreenivasan et al., (1987) have revised the different proposals
for the basic chromosome number for a set of them (1x), these proposals are
summarized as follows: X=5, 6, 8, 10, 12. In S. officinarum, it has been
determined that the total of chromosomes is 2n = 10x = 80. Clones with a
greater number of chromosomes, are regarded atypical or hybrids (Sreenivasan
et al., 1987). For S. officinarum with the main cytotypes 2n = 60-80, the most
likely basic chromosomes number is x = 10 (D’Hont et al., 1998; Butterfield et
al., 2001; Ming et al., 2006).
S. spontaneum shows a wide range on its chromosomes number, 2n = 36 to 2n =
128, with five main cytotypes: 2n = 64, 80, 96, 112 and 128. Through the use of
immunofluorescence, D’Hont et al., (1998), in 18s-25s rDNA and 5S rDNA
genes, have determined their physical location in the chromosomes of the
different cytotypes of S. spontaneum. With this information it was found that
the total number of chromosomes is proportional to the number of sites of the
rDNA physically mapped. From this study, consequently, it was derived that the
basic number for a set of chromosomes for S. spontaneum is x = 8.
The S. officinarum x S. spontaneum hybrids
Modern sugarcane cultivars (Saccharum spp. hybrids) are derived from
interspecific crossings between S. officinarum (2n=8x=80) a domesticated high
sugar producing species, which is also called “noble cane” with S. spontaneum a
wild relative (2n=5x=40 to n=16x=128) (Sreenivasan et al., 1987; Butterfield et
al., 2001; Ming et al., 2006; Le Cunff et al., 2008).
The interspecific hybrids, especially those that involve S. officinarum as female
parent and S. spontaneum as the male parent, have a triploid (AAB) number of
chromosomes, which are related to their parents, for example, a cross between S.
officinarum (2n=10x=80) and S. spontaneum (2n=8x=112), results in hybrids
containing 2n=136 chromosomes (40+40 from S. officinarum plus 56 from S.
spontaneum; that is 2n+n) (Sreenivasan et al., 1987). These hybrids are
characterized by its low sugar content, slim stalks, high fiber content, high
ratooning ability and by their high resistance levels against biotic and abiotic
To minimize the negative effects coming from S. spontaneum and to maximize
the ability to retain the sucrose from S. officinarum, a series of backcrosses were
made between the interspecific hybrids and the female parent, S. officinarum
(Fig. 1). This process drives to the “nobilisation” of the original Saccharum spp.
hybrids (Sreenivasan et al., 1987). This was a turning point in the sugarcane
breeding. The result of the backcrosses was an offspring provided with 2n+2
The next generations coming from subsequent backcrosses only showed
gametes reduction. The continuous backcrosses drove to the chromosome losses
in the resultant offspring, in other words, the aneuploidy (Sreenivasan et al.,
1987; Butterfield et al., 2001; D’Hont et al., 1998). That’s why, modern
sugarcane cultivars are highly polyploids (~12x) and aneuploids with ~120
chromosomes (Le Cunff et al., 2008; Grivet et al., 2004).
Figure 1. Pedigree of POJ 2878 and POJ 2725 (Purseglove 1972; Sreenivasan et
The interspecific hybridization in the Saccharum genus was initiated
by Dutch plant breeders in the Java Island, around 1885. As an
outcome of this job, there was obtained the POJ-2725 and POJ-2878
cultivars. These two cultivars have significantly contributed as parents
for many modern cultivars throughout the world in the latest 100
years, especially POJ-2878 cultivar. Similarly, the cultivar Co205 was
obtained in the Coimbatore breeding program in India (Sreenivasan et
al., 1987; Purseglove, 1972).
100 X EK2
EK 28 2n=119
POJ 2725 y POJ 2878
Variety Introductions and quarantine
CENGICAÑA's sugarcane breeding and selection program, as well as other
sugarcane breeding programs throughout the world (MSIRI 2006 and BSES
2007) is emphasizing in the introduction of new varieties from breeding
programs from other countries. These varieties are elite and they are
obtained through special variety exchange agreements. The elite
varieties in this context are those that performs better than the Standard
varieties in each program
The objectives of these introductions in CENGICAÑA´s sugarcane breeding
and selection program were established since the beginning of the program
(Orozco et al., 2004 y 2008) as follows: a) widening the genetic base by
using the foreign varieties as parents in the crossing scheme and b) testing
the introduced varieties in the selection program for potential commercial
use. Since 1992 CENGICAÑA has introduced 1300 elite varieties from 12
breeding programs. The contribution of these introductions is significant, if
it is considered that in the future, there will be more restrictions for
germplasm exchange among the different sugarcane breeding programs.
The introduced varieties are treated in a local quarantine system. The aim of
CENGICAÑA´s quarantine is to reduce the risk of introducing sugarcane
crop pathogens, which are not found in the country or new strains of
pathogens already present in the country. The quarantine system consists of
two stages: closed quarantine and open quarantine.
The closed quarantine is located in Guatemala City, in a greenhouse made
of aluminium and glass, which has anti-aphid-mesh-protected windows and
internal split rooms for the isolation of the introduced plants according to
their origin. The introduced seed stalks are cut in one eye setts and four of
these are planted in 25Lt pots, containing a substrate composed of soil, sand
and, organic matter. Irrigation and fertilization are applied to obtain normal
plant development. The plants are evaluated every two months in order to
detect infections for smut (Ustilago scitaminea H Syd & P. Syd), Leaf scald
(Xanthomonas albilineans), Sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV), Sugarcane
yellow leaf virus (SCYLV), and others (Ovalle, 1997). When symptoms of
any disease are found in a pot, the pot is isolated and the plants are dried and
burned. After a period of about eight to twelve months, the disease-free
varieties are cut and moved into the open quarantine.
The objective of the open quarantine is to allow the disease-free introduced
varieties grow in field conditions in an area located 300 Km away from the
commercial sugarcane fields. The field planting gives the chance to observe
infections that were not detected in the closed quarantine. The open
quarantine takes 12 months, with two crop cycles of six months each and
with evaluations at the end of each cycle. Symptomatic varieties infected
with the above mentioned diseases are eliminated from the field by pulling
them out of the soil and letting them dry for burning. Disease-free varieties
that successfully undergo quarantine period are prepared to be sent to
Guatemala's sugarcane growing area in the southern pacific so they can be
incorporated in the stage II of selection in the CENGICAÑA's breeding and
CENGICAÑA's Variety Program counts with a germplasm collection called
the National Collection, which consists of 2,040 accessions or cultivars,
most of them Saccharum spp. hybrids. The accessions or cultivars were
generated by different breeding programs throughout the world, such as:
United States (initials CP and L), Barbados (B), Puerto Rico (PR), Mexico
(MEX), Brazil (RB and SP), Colombia (CC), Ecuador (ECU), Cuba (C, Ha
My and others), India (Co), Australia (Q), Thailand (MPT), Mauritius (M),
Guatemala (CG) and others. The collection was established according to: a)
preserve, expand, and use the variability for breeding purposes, b) identify
suitable cultivars for commercial exploitation, and c) hold a genetic seed-
cane source to initiate the increase of any cultivar of specific interest.
The National Collection is established at the CENGICAÑA’s Sugarcane
Field Station Camantulul (300masl). The area is in a safe place, with
suitable soil characteristics, which allows proper management in
irrigation, fertilization, pest control, weed and others. The collection is
renewed every 3 or 4 years, and the previous plantation is left at least
for one year, while the new plantation is established successfully.
The National Collection's genetic variability is increased by through the
incorporation of elite national germplasm: (CG, CENGICAÑA-Guatemala) and
elite foreign germplasm (different acronyms), introducing in average 60
accessions per year. The national accessions are those that have been evaluated
in the stage IV on multiple environment field trials. The international
accessions, after quarantine process, are evaluated in an early selection stage
(stage II) in two locations, both representatives of the sugarcane area of
Guatemala then they are finally introduced to the collection. These evaluations,
in some extent, allow identifying the level of adaptation of each of the
accessions. Those varieties that have outstanding performance in stage IV are
usually used as parents.
Originally, CENGICAÑA's Sugarcane Breeding and Selection Program
characterized the agricultural and industrial features of the National Collection
such as juice quality and morphological features. This defined groups of
valuable cultivars with potential to be used in hybrid generation based on their
origin (Soto and Orozco, 1998; CENGICAÑA, 1999). Subsequently, some
varieties have been characterized as they were being evaluated in advanced
stages of selection, considering the variables: cane yield in ton/ha (TCH),
apparent sucrose content, expressed in percentage (Pol%-cane), adaptability,
agronomic characteristics, and reaction to mayor diseases. A group of
varieties of the National Collection was characterized through molecular
markers using microsatellite DNA sequences or simple sequence repeats
(SSRs). According to the genetic similarity, homogeneous groups of
cultivars were formed. This classification helps to optimize the planning of
the combinations in the crossing process (Quemé et al., 2005).
CROSSING AND TRUE SEED PRODUCTION
Due to the dependence on introduced cultivars for commercial cultivation,
as well as susceptibility to local diseases, import of new cultivars is
upheld. However, the varieties import has some drawbacks: a) the cultivars
are developed in different conditions to those in which they will be
commercially grown, limiting their adaptability and raising disease
susceptibility as well; b) the sugarcane breeding programs around the
world are limiting the free access to new cultivars, due to the policies on
“Varieties Obtaining rights”. This situation supported, in part, the creation
of the CENGICAÑA’s Sugarcane Breeding and Selection Program, in
order to obtain local cultivars with high sugar yield per hectare, adequate
agronomical features, good adaptability, resistance to the main diseases in
the surroundings where they are cultivated, and others. The Sugarcane
Breeding and Selection Program begins with an appropriate hybridization
system (CENICAÑA, 2004; Miller, 1994; South African Sugar
Any plant breeding program has two main components: a) creation of genetic
variability (usually through crosses), and b) discrimination within this
variability (selection). The elements that make sustainable genetic improvement
of sugarcane are: a) the release of new improved cultivars and b) the continuous
improvement of the populations that are used as parents. The improvement of
populations can be achieved through the use of elite clones as a result of the
selection program, introduction of new foreign clones and elimination of the
unproductive parents (Cox et al., 2000).
Hybridization in sugarcane is based on the crossing of populations among them,
through the technique “plant to plant” (P to P), from which F1 true seed (sexual
seed) is obtained. When the sexual seed is sowed, it produces plants that are
subjected to the selection process (Márquez, 1988). Since the importance of
hybridization in creating variability in the breeding program, crosses strategy of
CENGICAÑA’s Breeding and Selection Program is described below.
Source of Parents
As a result of the characterization of the national collection, the working
collection has been formed, which is composed by 418 cultivars which have the
potential for making crosses. This collection constitutes the main source of
parents, complemented by the national collection.
The working collection is located at the Sugarcane Field Station Camantulul
(middle stratum, 300masl) and at the “Los Tarros” sugarcane experimental
station at “La Union” sugar mill (high stratum, 760 masl).
The reasons for establishing a replication of the work collection at the high
stratum are: 1) in this area, higher frequencies of varieties with flower are
obtained in a natural way (Table 1), which facilitates the increase in the number
of combination through the crossing process, 2) higher frequencies of the
flowering synchronization, which allows crossings within parents that flowers
at the same time but in different locations.
Table 1. Flowering incidence (%) in cultivars of work collection in two
2007-08 91 68 23
2008-09 83 36 47
2009-10 67 26 41
Parents Selection for crosses
The selection of top-quality parents is essential for the crosses success. The
value of the parents can be defined by their combination ability to produce good
progenies and their performance per se in terms of sugar concentration,
adaptability, agronomic features, disease and pest resistance, and other
CENGICAÑA's Variety Program has a well-established crossing schedule that
includes different groups of cultivars, according to the following criteria:
a)varieties with adequate agronomic characteristics and a good sugar content,
b)varieties identified as contrasting through molecular markers, c)CG advanced
cultivars and high-quality introduced cultivars, d) cultivars that were cultivated
and/or varieties are successfully cultivated in Guatemala, e)successful cultivars
as parents in other breeding programs, f) cultivars classified by its natural
maturation, and others.
The criterion to take into account a parent in a cross is based on: a) the sugar
content, b) tons of cane per hectare (TCH), c) disease resistance, and d)
others. In the last two years, a lot of importance has been given to the
resistance to Orange rust (Puccinia kuehnii) and Brown rust (Puccinia
melanocephala). For example, using the criteria from Table 2, the CG97-97
cultivar was coded as NSRN, MSRM, P2, T1, meaning that the cultivar does
not have symptoms of Orange rust, it is moderately susceptible to Brown rust
(15.1-20.0% incidence), the Pol%-cane is similar or greater to the control
cultivar (CP72-2086) and tonnage is equal or greater than 20 percent
compared to the control cultivar. This means that a potential parent with a
record equal or better than the commercial control for traits of interest, is
selected. Parents that have shown the ability to produce good offspring in
previous crosses are also selected. Ranges of the "value in relation to control”
(Table 2) were defined according to Viveros et al., 2009.
Table 2 Criteria for selecting parents for crosses
Degrees of resistance or susceptibility
Orange rust Brown rust
>=120 P1 T1
100-119 P2 T2
90-99 P3 T3
* RR is assigned to cultivars with resistance to both rusts
A study conducted in 2008 (unpublished) showed that using females with no
incidence of orange rust increases the probabilities of having an orange rust
resistant progeny (Table 3). This suggests that it is necessary both parents show
resistance (or absence of symptoms) or at least the female must not to show the
symptoms to orange rust.
Table 3. Progeny response from parents with different percentages of incidence
of Orange rust
Incidence Orange rust
(%) **Female Male
CP73-1547 x CP89-1288 0 0 0
CP73-1547 x B74418 0 0 0
CP73-1547 x L82-41 0 0 0
CP92-1401 x V71-51 0 8 0
CP72-2086 x L79-321 10 0 25
SP79-2233 x CP72-2086 15 10 42
CP72-2086 (control) 35
*Incidence rate (from 0% to 50%) in the leaf No. 7.
**Percent of bunches with presence of Orange rust.
Crossing techniques and procedures
Location and season for crosses: Crossings take place in two crossing houses,
one located at the Sugarcane Field Station Camantulul and the second one
located at the Los Tarros sugarcane field station at La Union sugar mill.
Average relative humidity and temperature is 83% and 27° C, at Camantulul
and 81% and 25º C at “Los Tarros”, respectively. These conditions are
considered appropriate to maintain the pollen viability. The crossing season is
defined by the natural flowering, which usually occurs in November and
Monitoring of flowering and sex definition for parents
The judgment of the natural flowering is performed every two days, with the
purpose of assessing how many flowers are available for crossings. The sex of
the parents is determined by magnifier-glass, classifying as male (♂) the
parent that presents purplish to brownish plump anthers exuding pollen from
both lobes; and as a female (♀) the one presenting shriveled, small, pale
yellow colored and with scarce pollen. The sexuality of the parents is
corroborated by examining the iodine stained pollen under the microscope (0
to 20% of tinged pollen is considered female and over 30% it is regarded as
In special cases, where both parents are classified as males, and there is interest
to make a cross between them, masculine sterility is induced using alcohol at a
70% of concentration, as described by Soeprijanto and Sukarso (1989).
Stems Management: at the beginning of the anthesis, stems of selected parents,
are cut at their base, they are also labeled and put in filled-water buckets; stems
are carefully transported to the crossing house. Inside the crossing house, a new
cut is made at the base of the stems and each stem is then placed in a one-liter
capacity plastic or glass bottle. In order to extend stem life, and, consequently,
flowers life; it is necessary that the bottles contain water as well two more
solutions: a) sulfurous acid (H2SO3), and b) fixed acids (H2SO4, HNO3 and
H3PO4). The H2SO3 Sulfurous acid is obtained by mixing of sulfur dioxide gas
(SO3) and water. These solutions preserve stems and provides nutrients. During
the crossing phase, both solutions are applied according to a weekly schedule as
follows: Monday (sulfurous A. and fixed A.), Wednesday (sulfurous A.), and
Friday (sulfurous A. and fixed A.). Another technique used to prolong the life
of the flowers are marcotting, they are made in the bottom of the stems of 4-6
weeks before anthesis, then the stems with the marcotting are taken to the
crossing house and placed in buckets with water or in combination with
Management and crossing type: To perform crosses, the stems are placed in
isolated conditions inside of the crossing house (cubicles or lanterns), the male
parent flowers are placed above of the female flowers; in the morning, male
stems are slightly shake in order to improve the release of pollen. Regarding
the type of crossing, most of the crosses made in CENGICAÑA, have been bi-
parental also called two-parent (a female cultivar for a male cultivar), and a
fewer number of crosses have been poly-crosses (a female cultivar by two or
more males cultivars). In a minimal proportion, open-pollinated crosses have
been obtained, which are females located in the collections which are pollinated
by one or more males outdoors. For any type of crosses, the pollination period
occurs approximately in the first 14 days, then comes the period of seed
maturation (10-15 days). At the crossing house, sometimes males are removed
after 14 days, since for those days they have already completed the pollinator
Ripeness, harvesting and drying of the true seed: after completing
pollination, female pollinated stems, enter into the sexual seed maturation
phase. Approximately 20 days after the start of crossing, the female flowers are
covered with white tulle bags (1 mm mesh), keeping stems inside the solution
of the crosses. Female flowers can be harvested 25 to 30 days after the
beginning of cross, cutting the peduncle of each panicle. Depending on the
breeder’s criterion sometimes males are harvested, mainly when females and
males are in an intermediate point of their sexual classification (e.g. between
20% and 30% of tinged pollen). For the drying process, panicles inside the tulle
bags are placed at 35° C in a forced air chamber for 24 hours. The seed drying
process is the result of a two consecutive year study that determined that such
treatment does not affect the seed germination (unpublished).
Cleaning and storage of the true seed: true fuzzy seed (fuzz) can be
manually cleaned by rubbing it against a carpet or mechanically using a defuzz
machine. Clean seed is identified and stored in plastic bags with a desiccant in a
-12°C chamber. Finally, seed is germinated in a greenhouse and the resulting
seedlings are transplanted to the field, two or three months after germination to
start the selection program. Currently, more than 550 crosses are being
established each year with an average production of 160,000 seedlings.
The selection procedures vary among the different sugarcane breeding
programs throughout the world. These selection procedures depend mainly
on plant age, and the number of harvests or ratoons (Ming et al. 2006). In
Guatemala, the sugarcane varieties commercially used, reach the harvest age
around 12 months old with an average number of five harvests. The
selection criteria applied in the Sugarcane Breeding and Selection Program
of CENGICAÑA, regarding the above mentioned aspects, are addressed to
the definition of the genetic prototype which is established jointly with the
sugarcane growers. This prototype must be according to the harvest duration
in Guatemala, which begins in November and ends in April. Due to this
situation, sugarcane growers ask for varieties whose natural ripening is
according to this harvest period. Consequently, CENGICAÑA, develop two
different groups of cultivars: “flowering” varieties and “non-flowering”
varieties. The flowering varieties should have early ripening, whereas the
“non-flowering” materials should ripe at the end of the harvesting period.
Early stages of selection
Selection Stage I. According to its genetic composition this is the largest stage. In
this stage the genetic material is surveyed until a whole plant with several stems
or stalks develops from each true seed. True seeds are the result of the crossing
process. Therefore, these individuals are considered as genetically recombinants.
The recombinant individuals are the basis for the entire variability which is
found in the selection stage I and they are selected throughout all the
selection process. These individuals are acclimatized into a greenhouse
and then planted in the definite field.
The stage I, is carried out under the responsibility of the professional and
technical personnel at CENGICAÑA's Sugarcane Field Station Camantulul,
with the aim of preserving this genetic variability in optimal field conditions.
The main principle of stage I, is: “each single plant has the potential to become
a superior variety with a high performance”.
Stage I, is carried out during two growing cycles at the same trial: plantcane and
first ratoon. Final selection is performed during the harvest of the first ratoon,
where tillered plants are selected. During the first growing cycle, at the location
where selection is carried out, the plants grown from true seeds do not express
their entire performance potential. Due to the large number of individuals as a
result of the different crossings, the observation levels in this Stage is limited to
general aspects such as vigor in terms of number of stalks per plant, height and
stalk diameter as well as overall good health.
In Stage I names of all the selected individuals are assigned. These names
include: the letters “CG” from CENGICAÑA Guatemala followed by the
number of the crossing experiment and by a correlative number for each
selection, according to the specific field book records. This name will identify
the genetic material in the next selection stages until its eventual releasing.
With the assigned name the corresponding genealogy is also established. In
different breeding agreements, with other breeding programs, the names can
vary; nevertheless in general, the structure is preserved.
In Stage I, the number of surveyed genetic materials is usually more than
160,000. Two groups are recognized during the selection: “flowering” and
“non-flowering” genotypes, according to the flowering habit. The flowering
habit is an indicative of the genotype’s chronological adaptation: those
genotypes that have the flowering habit are adapted to the first harvest months,
that is, from November to January. On the other hand, those materials with low
flowering rate are fitted for latest harvest months, that is, March and April. In
between, there are also some materials that fit for the harvest in January and
February, as they have an intermediate flowering rate. No experimental design
is applied in the Stage I trials.
The CENGICAÑA's Sugarcane Breeding and Selection Program, with the
objective of optimizing the selection process, has established, as a part of Stage
I, two trials of “families evaluation”, where the offspring of each cross
constitutes one family. The evaluation is done in a randomized complete block
design with two replications. A sample of each cross (family) is planted in two
rows of 10 meters long each. The family evaluation trials are settled out in two
locations, one in the Medium Stratum (at 300 meters above the sea level) at the
Sugarcane Field Station Camantulul. Other trial is located in the Low/coastal
stratum (less than 10 meters above the sea level) at Sub Experimental Station
located in “El Retazo” farm property of the “Magdalena” mill. These trials
allow the identification of superior crosses (families), which will be the basis
for the later clonally individual selection in the Stage I.
Selection stage II. The selected tillered plants in Stage I provide the
propagation plant material for the next trial in the clonally selection process: the
selection Stage II. In this stage, each selected clone is planted in a row of five
meters long. The selection stage II, with much less genetic materials than
the Stage I, can also be regarded though, as a big trial, which can
comprises between 1,000 and 5,000 genotypes.
Around 25 percent of these materials correspond to genotypes
predominantly “non flowering”, and the rest of them are predominantly
“flowering” genotypes. In this stage, a more detailed characterization process
of the genetic materials is initiated, in order to perform a more accurate
selection. However, given the size of the trials and the amount of genetic
materials, the observations for selection are reduced to: plant general
appearance, disease presence, and refractometry (Brix) (Quemé et al., 2010).
In this stage the disease description is made in a more detailed manner
with special attention to the next diseases: Leaf Scald (Xanthomonas
albilineans); smut (Ustilago scitaminea H Syd & P. Syd); brown rust
(Puccinia melanocephala); Orange rust (Puccinia kuehnii); Sugarcane
yellow leaf virus (SCYLV); and the Sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV)
Stage II is carried out at two representative altitudinal strata: Mid stratum at 300
meters above the sea level and low and coastal stratum, between 5 and 30
meters above the sea level. Guatemala’s low/coastal strata represents the major
sugarcane growing area, with lower flowering rate and higher yield potential
due to its good soil fertility (Pérez, 2002; Suárez et al., 2007). The medium
stratum presents clayey shallow soils (Pérez, 2002; Suárez et al., 2007), with
higher annual precipitation and lower solar irradiation, which correlates with
higher flowering rates (Quemé et al., 2009; Orozco et al., 2010; Castro et al.,
2010), which also is related to lower yields.
Each trial in the stage II is organized in two kinds of experiments:
flowering and non-flowering genotypes. The designation of flowering or
non-flowering is established at Stage I of selection. The flowering to non-
flowering genotype ratio is usually 3:1 due to the naturally higher occurrence
of the flowering genotype at the medium stratum where the Stage I is carried
out. The inverse relation is found in the coastal stratum, where the non-
flowering genotypes use to be more frequent. The trials in the Stage II
cultivars are evaluated and selected only in its first growing cycle; no ratoons
are surveyed. The trials are established in the two already depicted strata;
therefore, there are four different trials.
The selection in two different strata offers better estimation to the
adaptation of the different genotypes; consequently, it is expected to use
more efficiently the potential for the different genotypes that are released
in each stratum. En this selection stage no experimental design is used.
The selection is made according to criteria settled jointly by the breeders
and sugarcane growers.
Selection stage III: The genetic materials selected in the stage II, are used as
plant propagation source to establish the selection stage III. The stage III is
organized in two trials, one for each already depicted altitudinal stratum, with
“flowering” and “non-flowering” experiments, for a total of four different
trials. Each experiment is composed by two replications at each altitudinal
stratum. The experimental unit is constituted by five rows of five meters
long each; where only one genotype is located.
The composition of the trials in the stage III is differentially done for each
altitudinal stratum. In Between of 100 and 150 genotypes are selected for each
stratum in each flowering and non-flowering trials. It has been observed
that less than 10% of the selected genotypes in stage II are the same
genotypes selected in both strata; the rest of materials (the most) are
differential selections for each stratum; thus showing the high genotype
× environment interaction levels.
Superior genotypes are selected according to their best performance regarding
cane yield in tons of cane per hectare (TCH); sugar concentration expressed as
Pol%-cane, and sugar yield in tons of sugar per hectare (TSH). TCH is
estimated based on the measurement of sugarcane yield components: a)
population of milling stalks, b) stalk height, stalk diameter, and c) weight in
Kilograms from a sample of five stalks. TSH is estimated from the
interaction of TCH and the sugar concentration (Pol% cane), this last
variable is determined in the agronomic laboratory at CENGICAÑA.
The disease evaluation is performed and those genetic materials that do not
meet the selection standards are discarded. The sugarcane diseases surveyed are
mainly the same that are evaluated in the stage II. Additionally, other diseases
of relative importance are assessed; among them are: Pokkah boeng (Fusarium
moniliforme Sheldon), purple spot (Dimeriella sacchari), and others (Ovalle,
The trials belonging to Stage III are evaluated during two growing seasons:
plantcane and first ratoon. The information of plantcane is used to perform the
first selection. The information in the first ratoon of the previous CG series is
used to make the second selection. With these two groups of selections, the
“Stage III increase” is established; therefore, genotypes from two different
series are part of the “Stage III increase”. The selected experimental units in the
Stage III are used as propagation plant material to make the “Stage III increase”.
Usually 30 to 50 genotypes comprise the “Stage III increase”. This increase
plots provides enough propagation plant material to settle the Stage IV, also
called “Field Regional Trials”. The final selection to assemble the Stage IV is
achieved when the information from both growing seasons of the Stage III and
the information from “Stage III increase” are combined.
Late stages of selection and validation
Late selection stage and validation stage (Stages IV and V, respectively) are
initiated immediately after the early Stages (I, II and III) are completed. Thus,
the objective of late selection stages and validation is to assess the superior
fraction of stage III under the different environmental and soil conditions of the
sugarcane growing area of Guatemala. The ultimate goal is to identify those
cultivars that perform better than the local standard varieties; this is achieved by
two stages known as Field Regional Trials or stage IV and Semi-commercial
Trials or stage V.
Field Regional Trials (FRT): This FRT or stage IV are the first extended field
evaluation, in which grouped varieties in uniform experimental trials are
exposed to a wide diversity of environments in terms of rainfall patterns,
temperature, radiation, soils, and crop management. These trials are jointly
conducted by CENGICAÑA's breeders and mills staff responsible for sugarcane
variety research and development.
RFT are made up of varieties that performed better than the standard varieties
CP72-2086 and CP88-1165 in terms of sugar yield, disease resistance and
agronomic characteristics in the Stage III in plantcane and in first ratoon for
each particular experimental Station (Figure 2). According to this approach the
RFT for high and mid strata are made up from varieties selected in stage III
located in the mid stratum experimental station, while the varieties for RFT in
low and coastal strata are the ones selected in the low experimental station
(Figure 2). On the average, each FRT is made up of 20-30 varieties distributed
in a randomized complete block experimental design with four replications,
where each experimental unit is composed by five 1.5 m apart and 10 m long
The seedcane used to establish different FRT is produced in the Stage III
increase, which is located at two locations: the mid experiment station at El
Bálsamo farm belonging to Pantaleón mill and the Coastal experiment station at
El Retazo farm belonging to Magdalena mill. Stage III increase as well as Stage
IV, are controlled by breeders and mill researchers in charge of the stations.
The seedcane from “Stage III increase” is distributed to the mills, being the
mechanism for new varieties delivery to the growers officially recognized by
the CENGICAÑA's sugarcane breeding and selection program.
RFT are established according to the maturity pattern of the varieties and also
based in the conditions of the four different altitudinal strata already defined.
There is a specific group of early or flowering varieties for testing in the high
and mid strata and a second group of varieties for the low and coastal strata. The
same approach is applied for late maturity or non-flowering varieties thus
resulting in four different RFT. Each of the four RFT´s is tested at different
locations in every altitudinal stratum, with the objective of identifying those
cultivars that perform well at a specific location (specific adaptability) or in the
contrary, with good adaptation to several locations (general adaptability).
Figure 2. Selection Program for four altitudinal strata in the sugarcane growing
area of Guatemala. CENGICAÑA 2011
RFT's are carried out during three crop cycles: plantcane, first ratoon and
second ratoon. In this stage, some criteria for selection are: emergency in
plantcane, canopy density at 90-120 days after planting and disease resistance.
At the plant maturity phase, evaluations include the phenotypic value, which is
an index that involves: stalk population, stalk height, stalk diameter and quality
of stalks. Flowering and pith incidence are evaluated a week before harvest. At
El Balsamo Farm
El Retazo Farm
High stratum Farms
Mid stratum Farms
Low stratum Farms
Coastal stratum Farms
Stage I Stage II and Stage III
Field Regional Trials – FRT
Semicommercial Trials - SCT
the harvest moment other variable are measured: cane yield, sugar yield, and the
sucrose content is estimated. Right after harvest, re-growth is evaluated.
Yielding data obtained from the field trials are analysed according to each
location and through locations to determine the general or specific cultivar
adaptability. This value is specific for each altitudinal stratum or for a group of
altitudinal strata. Evaluation data is presented and discussed with the Variety
Release Committee (VRC) to determine which varieties will be selected for the
next Stage of Selection: Stage V. The VRC has a representative of each mill
who is in charge for the variety development.
FRT or Stage IV has recently been modified to improve its performance
Orozco, et al., 2007). The improvements are: a) increase the number of
varieties tested per field trial, b) evaluation of flowering and non-flowering
clones, separately, and c) utilization of sites regression (SREG) as a statistical
tool to determine clone adaptability (Quemé et al., 2006).
Semi-commercial trials (SCT) or stage V of selection: The SCT is the
validation phase of all the previous selection stages and is carried out under the
commercial management of the growers. The SCT allow making selections for
commercial use. The first SCT was established in the harvest season 2003-2004
and its main features as a field trial are: the randomized complete block design
and the large experimental unit size with four replications.
The varieties in the SCT are those selected from FRT. The selection in
FRT is based on statistical analyses for each particular maturity and
altitudinal groups (Figure 2). The SCT are managed at field by the VRC
staff with the CENGICAÑA´s breeders support. The SCT on the
average, are made up of three to five promising varieties plus the
standard varieties CP72-2086 and CP88-1165.
The seedcane required for the SCT's is produced by the corresponding “Stage
FRT increase” (in a similar approach to the “Stage III increase”) which is
managed by the members of the Variety Release Committee and located at their
own farms and guided and supported by the CENGICAÑA’s breeding program.
The seedcane for SCT is produced at the same time the FRT is in first
and second ratoon. The amount of seedcane that needs to be available should
be enough to plant the projected SCT. A key factor for the production of high
quality cane seed for SCT is to set the date in which the SCT will be planted.
The information collected from a SCT is similar to the one obtained from the
RFT with two differences: a) the sugar yield data is obtained from the cane
yield of a whole plot or experimental unit (i.e. approximately one hectare); b)
data from SCT is analysed jointly by breeders and the Variety Release
Committee for the decision making process. Thus, based on SCT data, it is
possible to determine which varieties can be released for commercial
use. Another important aspect of SCT is the measurement of fibre in tonnes per
hectare per each clone, which is based on cane yield and fibre percentage.
CENGICAÑA'S Sugarcane Breeding and Selection program released the first
sugarcane varieties in 2006 (Orozco et al., 2006): PR75-2002 and CG96-59.
The selection criteria at that time were: a) higher sugar yield than the standard
variety CP72-2086 observed in the SCT (plantcane, first and second ratoon), b)
resistance to major diseases and c) adequate agronomic characteristics for
commercial management. Currently, the variety PR75-2002 is being used at the
four altitudinal strata in a total of 3,147 hectares, as a late maturation variety.
Using the same criteria, the second group of released SCT varieties were CG96-
01, CG96-78, CG96-135, CG97-97, and CG97-100 (Orozco et al., 2008); all of
them of late maturation, except the CG96-01 variety. CG96-135 is currently
being grown in 2,627 hectares in the four altitudinal strata.
The varieties released in 2011 were evaluated in the third SCT in both
maturation patterns (early and late) in plantcane, first and second ratoon. From
the early ones group CG98-46, PR87-2015, and LM2002 were released;
whereas from the late varieties group CG98-10, RB73-2577, SP71-6180, and
SP79-1287 were released. From these released varieties, CG98-10 is the one
that is mostly commercially cultivated, with 2,302 hectares in the four
altitudinal strata of production.
PGM89-968, CP88-1508, NA56-42, and Mex69-290 varieties were not released
in a formal process by the CENGICAÑA’s breeding and selection program;
however they are commercially used with 4,054, 1,826, and 1,072 hectares,
respectively (Orozco y Buc, 2010).
Multiple-environment yield trials (MET) are a series of experiments in
which a set of genotypes (G) are evaluated in multiple environments (E),
considering these environments as a combination of sites and years. These
trials are important because the presence of genotype x environment
interaction (GE) complicates the selection and/or recommendation of
cultivars, otherwise if the GE interaction did not exist, a single environment
would be enough for the cultivars evaluation. Thus, the understanding of
the GE interaction observed in MET is very useful in breeding programs,
since it allows the identification of high-yielding cultivars with broad or
specific adaptation (Annicchiarico, 1997; Gauch, 1992; Smith et al., 2001;
Queme et al., 2010; Yan and Hunt, 2002).
The GE interaction special interest for breeding programs is the one that creates
a change in ranking of the cultivars from one environment to another
(crossover-interaction), so that, the best cultivar in one particular
environment might not be the best in another environment (Kang, 2002;
Crossa and Cornelius, 2002). Several statistical methodologies have been
developed for the analysis of GE interaction, being one of them GGE Bi-plot.
Breeders and agronomists have recently used this methodology for the analysis
of data from multi-environment yield trials (Quemé et al., 2010).
GGE bi-plot analysis: The GGE represents the main effect of genotype plus
the genotype by environment interaction (G+GE). The G and GE interaction
are two sources of variation of the sites regression model (SREG). GGE bi-plot
coming from the SREG model is based on principal components analysis
(PCA), and a graph formed with the scores of the genotypes and the
environments of the first principal component (PC1 scores) against their
respective scores for the second principal component (PC2 scores). GGE Bi-
plot displays the two sources of variation G and GE, and provides an adequate
graphical tool for cultivar evaluation (yield and stability), mega-environment
analysis (“which-won-where”), test-environment evaluation (discriminating
among genotypes and the representativeness of the mega-environments), and
others (Burgueño et al., 2009; Crossa et al., 2002; Ding et al., 2009; Quemé et
al., 2010; Yan et al., 2007). The GGE bi-plot from the SREG model can be
constructed according to the manual and SAS program available at the web
page of CIMMYT in Biometrics and Statistic Unit (BSU) or at
http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/biometrics/ (Burgueño et al., 2009).
CENGICAÑA's Sugarcane Breeding and Selection Program has used this
analysis to evaluate the performance of cane in sugarcane cultivars, through
sites and crops cycles, in order to identify cultivars of high performance with
wide and specific adaptation. For example, the study reported by Quemé et al.
(2010) included 14 sugarcane cultivars evaluated in nine different environments
at Guatemala's sugarcane production area. The nine environments refer to sites
× crop cycle (year) combinations, since the cultivars were evaluated in three
sites: San Bonifacio (280 masl), Margaritas (116 masl), and Tululá (220 masl);
and three crop cycles: plantcane (harvest season, 2004–05), first (2005–06), and
second ratoon crops (2006–07). Of the 14 cultivars tested, 12 are from
CENGICAÑA-Guatemala (CG and CGSP) and two testers, one cultivar from
Canal Point (CP), and one from Puerto Rico (PR). The field experimental
design used for each trial was a Randomised Complete Block with four
replications and with experimental units of 75 m2
. Data on tonnes of cane per
hectare (TCH) were recorded.
According to the GGE bi-plot (Figure 3), the first two principal components
(PC1 and PC2) were highly significant (P <0.01) and explained 73 percent of
GGE (PC1=61% and PC2= 12%). The cultivar 13 (PR75-2002) presented a
high average cane yield (larger PC1 score) and broadly adapted or stable (PC2
score near to zero). Two groups of environments were defined; the first made
up of seven environments (Margaritas and Tululá with his three crop cycles, and
San Bonifacio in plantcane); and the second one by two environments (San
Bonifacio with first and second ratoon). The winning cultivars with the highest
cane yield were CG00-120 and CG00-092 for each of the groups, respectively.
Figure 3. GGEbi-plot of 14 sugarcane cultivars in nine environments
PROMOTION AND FOLLOW UP OF THE RELEASED
Sugarcane Variety Directory
One of the key factors for the varieties adoption is the availability of
information for the decision making process, this information is presented in the
Guatemalan Sugarcane Variety Directory. Table 4 shows the variety directory
for the Guatemalan sugarcane industry. The sugarcane directory contains the
current commercial varieties, as well as the new varieties that are in commercial
development. New varieties in the Guatemalan sugarcane industry are those
that have a completed evaluation at the Four SCT of CENGICAÑA. At the
time of this publication, standing varieties from the third SCT are: CG98-46,
which is an early variety for the mid, low, and coastal zones; as well as the late
varieties CG98-10, RB73-2577, and SP71-6161 for low and coastal altitudinal
zones of Guatemala. Standing varieties from the fourth SCT are: CG98-78,
CG00-102, and Mex79-431.
Table 4. Sugarcane Variety Directory for the sugarcane industry of Guatemala
updated, July, 2011
Ideal harvest month
November December January February March April
CP88-1165 CP88-1165 Q107 Q107 CG98-10 CG98-10
CP73-1547 SP79-2233 SP79-2233 SP79-2233 Q107 Q107
CG96-135 CG96-135 CG96-135 CG96-135
PR75-2002 PR75-2002 PR75-2002 PR75-2002
CP73-1547 CP73-1547 CP88-1165 CP88-1165 CP72-2086 CG98-10
CP88-1165 CP88-1165 CP72-2086 CP72-2086 CG98-10 Mex69-290
CG98-46 CG98-46 CG98-46 Mex79-431 Mex69-290 RB73-2577
CG98-78 CG98-78 CG98-78 CG98-78 RB73-2577 CG03-025
Mex79-431 Mex79-431 CG03-025 CP97-1931
Ideal harvest month
November December January February March April
CP73-1547 CP73-1547 CP72-2086 CP72-2086 CG98-10 CG98-10
CP88-1165 CP88-1165 CP88-1165 CP88-1165 CP72-2086 Mex79-431
CG98-46 CG98-46 CG98-46 Mex79-431 RB73-2577 RB73-2577
CG98-78 CG98-78 CG98-78 CG98-78 Mex79-431 CG03-240
CG00-102 CG00-102 CG00-102 CG03-240
CP73-1547 CP73-1547 CP72-2086 CP72-2086 CG98-10 CG98-10
CP88-1165 CP88-1165 CP88-165 CP88-1165 CP72-2086 CP72-2086
CG98-46 CG98-46 CG98-46 Mex79-431 RB73-2577 RB73-2577
CG00-102 CG00-102 CG00-102 Mex79-431 Mex79-431
masl = meters above sea level.
Methodology for facilitating the adoption of the new sugarcane varieties
The methodology that will facilitate the adoption of new sugarcane varieties
into Guatemalan sugarcane industry is still in progress, so far, two phases are
being considered: a) strategic planning of replanting with new varieties in short
and long term, which includes joint work of CENGICAÑA's breeders and mill
staff involved in crop management, and b) data analysis and sharing information
about the performance of new and commercial sugarcane varieties under
standard field management.
Seedcane availability is one of the limiting factors to adopt changes in the
varietal composition at the field. Thus a methodology for seedcane
propagation is suggested in Figure 4 which essentially is thought based
on the fact that there is a limited amount of seedcane of a new
sugarcane variety. The methodology scheme considers two issues: a) the
identification of the Stage of Selection to be the source of seedcane for the
new variety, and b) applying accelerated methods for seedcane production.
Stage of Selection V (SCT) is the proper stage for the production of
seedcane for the commercial development of a new sugarcane variety. For
seedcane propagation, the original source of the plant material needs to be
determined: a) a designated plot, or b) a fraction of a row in one replication
of the SCT. In both cases, the accelerated method for seedcane propagation
can be via pieces of stalks harbouring two buds or tissue culture as well.
Both methods are adequate, and the only difference among them will be the
multiplication rate thus the time to get the desired results.
Figure 4. Suggested methodology for speeding up seedcane propagation of a
promissory sugarcane variety, in a mill with a total area of 16,000
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180 m long
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IV. BIOTECHNOLOGY APPLIED TO
BIOTECHNOLOGY APPLIED TO SUGARCANE
Luis Molina and Mario Melgar*
There are many definitions of biotechnology but, according to the Convention
for Biological Diversity, it is “Any technological application that uses
biological systems and live organisms or its derivatives to create or modify
products or processes for specific uses” (ONU,1992).
According to this definition, alcoholic fermentation is a biotechnology, since it
uses the microscopic fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae for the elaboration of
the product: wine, beer or bread. Also lactic fermentation which uses bacteria of
the gender Lactobacillus, for the production of yogurt and the acetic
fermentation produced by bacteria of the gender Acetobacter in the production
of vinegar, the biological pest control with Metarhizium anisopliae, Cotesia
flavipes, or Beauveria bassiana, the use of microorganisms to accelerate the
decomposition of residues. Therefore, bioremediation, meat fermentations and
other specific fermentations are also considered as biotechnologies.
Although, alcoholic fermentation and biological pest control are
biotechnologies used by Guatemala’s sugarcane Agro-industry, these are
described and analyzed in different chapters of this book. In this section we will
treat only those technologies included in the denominated modern
biotechnology, and which fall into 3 groups:
Tissue or cell culture
Modern biotechnology has applications in diverse sectors of the production of
goods and services like medicine, industry, environment, energy and
agriculture, among others. This chapter will focus on the applications in
agriculture; and more specifically in the cultivation of sugarcane, first,
reviewing the historical background and worldwide development, and then,
describing applications that are performed in Guatemala.
* Luis Molina is Agr. Eng, M.Sc., Biotecnologist, andy Mario Melgar is Agr. Eng, Ph.D., General Director of
BACKGROUND OF BIOTECHNOLOGICAL
DEVELOPMENT IN SUGARCANE
Tissue or cell culture
The vision, the purpose establishment, and the potential of the isolated cell
and tissue culture, were attributed to the German botanist Gottlieb
Haberlandt in the year 1902; however, he failed to demonstrate his ideas
with his experiments (Krikorian and Berquam, 1969). The basis of the
technique resides on the concept of cellular totipotency, that is, the cell
capacity to divide and form a complete plant. Philip Rodney White, in the
Unided States, Roger Gautheret and Pierre Nobecourt, in France, during the
1930s decade, were the first ones to achieve the growth of plant tissue
culture, for indefinite periods of time, (Vasil, 2008).
The continuous growth and the division of cells, which do not differentiate in
any specific organ or tissue, form cellular mass called, callus. Heinz and Mee
(1969) were the first to regenerate plants from callus in sugarcane. The callus
was induced in parenchyma tissue of apical shoots, leaves and inflorescences,
using a mineral basic medium, to which they added coconut water (10%) and
2,4-D. Regeneration was obtained when callus tissue was transferred to a
medium without 2,4-D.
From various explants, considering an explant as any part of the plant,
sugarcane plants can be regenerated directly or indirectly. Indirectly involves
the initial formation of callus and further regeneration of plants.
Direct regeneration from young leaf segments and indirect regeneration from
germinated seed callus, coming from leaf primordia, and apical meristems, has
Gill et al., (2006) reported the direct regeneration of shoots from young leaf
segments (1.0-1.5 cm) of varieties CoJ64, CoJ63 and CoJ86. Explants were
inoculated in a medium based in Murashige and Skoog (1962) salts. The
highest frequency of shoot regeneration occurred in a medium supplemented
with naphtalenacetic acid (5.0 mg L¯¹) and kinetin (0.5 mg L¯¹) in variety
Sugarcane plant regeneration can occur due to organogenesis, as the case cited
in the previous paragraph, or by somatic embryogenesis. Ho and Vasil (1983)
induced the formation of embryogenic callus from young leaf segments of
sugarcane cultivated in Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium with 0.5 – 3.0 mg
L¯¹ of 2,4-D, coconut water (5%), and 3-8% of sucrose. In this experiment, they
observed the formation of embryoids (somatic embryos) when callus was
transferred to a medium with low 2,4-D content (0.25 – 0.5 mg L¯¹) . The
embryogenic callus was formed by divisions in mesophyll cells, mainly located
in the abaxial half of the leaf and also from cells from the vascular parenchyma.
Embryoids were developed by internal division of individual cells rich in
cytoplasm, located on the periphery of embryogenic callus and showed the
typical organization of grasses embryos.
Ahloowalia and Maretzki (1983) also reported regeneration of plants by somatic
embryogenesis working with the IJ76-316 clone, and induction of callus
formation from leaf primordia, and apical meristems.
Among the factors influencing the response to tissue culture in sugarcane,
genotype, light, and growth regulators had been analyzed. Garcia et al. (2007)
evaluated the in vitro morphogenesis patterns in sugarcane, determined by light
and the type of growth regulator. On the other hand, Gallo-Meagher et al.
(2000) evaluated the effect of thidiazuron in the regeneration of shoots from
Shiromani et al. (2010) evaluated the response to callus formation and plant
regeneration in 16 different Australian sugarcane cultivars, using leaf discs as
explant. The cultivars Q117, Q135, Q157, Q158, Q185, Q186, Q208 and
Q209 showed a high proportion of yellow and compact embryogenic callus,
approximately 30-40 g per disc of initial tissue after six weeks. The capacity
of plant regeneration was affected by several factors: genotype, 2,4-D
concentration in the stage of callus formation and light intensity.
In some cases tissue culture has been used to generate genetic variability by
inducing mutations that occur as consequence of mistakes in the DNA
replication, due to the process of accelerated multiplication under in vitro
conditions. This is known as somaclonal variation.
Somaclonal Variation, associated to tissue culture, has not been an important
factor in sugarcane. Lourens and Martin (1987), Burner and Grisham (1995)
and Irvine et al. (1991), cited by Lakshmanan et al. (2005), showed that
variations in sugarcane induced by tissue culture were frequently temporal,
since most of the variations reverted to the original phenotype in the first reboot.
Nevertheless, there are reports of stable somaclonal variants. Oropeza et al.
(1995) reported obtaining two somaclonal variants AT626 and BT627, which
showed up to be resistant to sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV) for 7 years in field
trials. These materials were obtained by somatic embryogenesis from the PR62-
258 cultivar, increasing the number of subcultures on MS medium
supplemented with 3mg/l of 2,4-D.
Tawar et al. (2008) reported a new variety released in India, Co94012, derived
from somaclonal variation in variety CoC 671, as well as the variety VSI 434
with high precocity, which could not be reliably differentiated by analysis with
RAPDs. Therefore they concluded that plants of somaclones VSI 434 and Co
94012 produced in vitro, showed high genetic fidelity among them, and that from
333 loci analyzed by RAPDs only some weak bands were polymorphic, with a
rate lower than 0.33 percent of polymorphisms that could be preexistent or
attributed to punctual mutations.
Other application for tissue culture in sugarcane is the recovery of disease-free
plants. Leu, 1978 obtained healthy plants through apical meristem culture and
callus re differentiation from plants that showed symptoms of mosaic virus,
ratoon stunting disease and leaf yellows.
Parmessur et al. (2002) reported regeneration of healthy plants free of yellow leaf
virus (SCYV) and yellowing phytoplasm (SCYP), using foliar discs as explants
for calli formation.
Other area in which sugarcane tissue culture has application is in germplasm
conservation. Taylor and Duckic (1993) developed a methodology for
establishment and storage of more than 200 clones of Saccharum spp hybrids.
Using apical buds as explants and a culture medium supplemented with 6-
benzylmaminopurine (BAP) and 6-furfurylaminopurine (kinetin), they
regenerated multiple shoots, which were transferred to a medium with low
mineral content medium with no growth regulators. After 12 months at 18°C,
plants were transferred to a new medium and then turn back to storage. No
genetic integrity alterations were observed in clones based on phenotypic
Tissue culture is essential to develop genetic transformation in plants, since no
transformation is not performed on a whole plant, due to this would result in
chimerism, but in tissues or cultured cells, from which plants are regenerated.
Lakshmanan (2006) concluded that, since Hawaiian researchers pioneers in
sugarcane tissue culture reported the first successful plant regeneration, in vitro
and micro propagation, regeneration techniques have advanced rapidly and are
now being used in a commercial level for massive propagation of new cultivars in
many countries harboring sugarcane industry. Examples include reports from
Meyer et al. (2010) with Novacane® system in Southafrica, and Mordocco et al.
(2009) with SmartSett® system in Australia.
As an example, consider two DNA fragments which were marked A and B,
which are located one next to the other: AB. Fragment A contains no
valuable information, but we know how to locate it on a sample of
individuals; on the other hand, fragment B contains a gene (allele), which is
of great interest, but it is unknown which individuals contain this fragment.
To figure this out, it could be proposed to find the fragment A in the
population, because if A is present, so is B, and viceversa. What we are
doing is using A as a marker to find B. This is a simplified way of
understand markers performance, in this case, molecular markers. A
methodology used to identify markers that are interrelated, is the analysis of
linkage disequilibrium. The relationships found among markers can generate
genetic maps, also known as linkage maps
Roughan et al. (1971) first reported the use of molecular markers in
sugarcane. Analyzing the variation of β-amylase isoenzyme on Saccharum
officinarum, Saccharum spontaneum and the F1 progeny originated by its
cross-breeding, they were able to differentiate the genotypes of each of the
two species, as well as the hybrid progeny, and the resulting from self-
fecundation; although no correlation was found among markers and starch
content in the stem of the plant.
Nowadays, DNA markers are the most frequently used. These can be
obtained by restriction of fragments or by amplification of fragments,
through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).
Al Janabi et al. (1993) published the first genetic map of Saccharum for
clone “SES 208” of Saccharum spontaneum. Markers were generated using
Randomly Amplifyied Polymorphic DNA (RAPDs), in a progeny from the
cross-breeding of "SES 208" and a double haploid plant coming from the
same variety. Of all the analyzed markers, 176 were simplex and
polymorphic, forming 41 linkage groups. Segregation analysis showed that
"SES 208" behaves as an autopolyploid, it means, without preferential
pairing at meiosis.
The increasing availability of molecular markers has led to the development
of many sugarcane genetic maps, Da Silva et al (1993), using RFLP markers
(Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism, Hoarau et al., (2001) using
AFLP (Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism), Aitken et al. (2005)
using AFLP and SSR (Simple Sequence Repeats). These Mapping Studies
have also allowed the identification of QTL (Quantitalive Trait Loci)
markers, possibly associated to characteristics of agronomical and industrial
interest. However, its use has not yet been reported as part of a breeding
In sugarcane, molecular markers had been frequently used to study and
comprehend its genomic structure. D'Hont et al. (1998) determined that S.
officinarum has a basic chromosome number of x=10, by using in situ
hybridization of two ribosomal RNA gene families; , which means that these
plants are octoploid. They also demonstrated that S. spontaneum has a
chromosome number of x=8 and that the ploidy in this species varies
between 5 and 16.
The polyploid nature of sugarcane causes in most cases that each feature
considered should be analyzed as polygenic, so that markers identified as
associated to the phenotype will explain only a small fraction of the
observed variation (QTLs). This situation has limited the use of molecular
markers as a tool in breeding to perform assisted selection.
Wu et al. (1992) described a methodology to identify markers that could be
associated to a characteristic of monogenic nature. For this, a cross-breeding
must be done assuming that the characteristic –disease resistance for
example-, is shown only on one of the parents, because of the presence of
only one dominant allele, and the rest are recessive. Due to this situation,
gamete production would be made in proportions ½ Aaaa and ½ aaaa. On
the other parent –phenotypically susceptible- it can be assumed that the
dominant allele is not present. Thus, its formation of gametes would be aaaa
as a whole. We would expect that the offspring of this cross-breeding be a
population that shows half of individuals phenotypically resistant and half
phenotypically susceptible, if indeed the feature is controlled by the
Another argument that is included in this methodology establishes the cross-
breeding of two individuals from the same phenotype – resistant, for
example-, or its equivalent, a self-fertilization. As in the previous case, it is
assumed that the characteristic is controlled by the presence of only one
allele dominant, and the rest of them are recessive. If this assumption is
correct, progeny would be expected to show ¾ of resistant population and ¼
of susceptible population.
So far, only one monogenic marker associated to a specific phenotype
developed by Le Cunff (2008) has been reported, this is a PCR based
marker, that is associated with the resistant allele of the disease known as
brown rust, caused by the fungus Puccinia melanocephala.
The genotype of varieties, also knowns as: fingerprinting is another
application of molecular marker that has shown benefits in sugarcane. The
generation of markers based on PCR, has facilitated the identification of
polymorphic markers, with which it is possible to generate genetic patterns
for each variety of interest. This has enhanced the process of quality control
in the production and vegetative seed propagation.
The analysis of molecular patterns also allows the establishment of the
similarity degree among varieties; permitting visualization of genetic
diversity levels that are available in the collections and breeding programs.
That information becomes a tool for hybridization planning.
The applications of molecular markers in sugarcane cultivars had
demonstrated to be useful in particular situations, as mentioned above.
However, there is still a gap that has not been covered, because not enough
markers have been generated to allow the analysis of the complete genome
and the consequent exploitation of this information.
The development of computing has facilitated advances in structural and
functional genomics. In sugarcane, the array technology is already being
used to identify markers (Heller-Uszynska, et al., 2010). It has also
demonstrated to be a powerful tool for the identification of genes associated
with processes or specific characteristics. Carson, et al. (2002) showed that
it is possible to identify genes, using a strategy that combines subtractive
hybridization and cDNA macroarrays.
In the breeding process, the most common way to generate genetic
variability is through cross-breeding. However, there are limitations that
restrict the cross-breedings, since they could only be made among
individuals of the same species and, in some cases, between individuals of
different species or genus. When performing a sexual cross-breeding, the
resulting progeny will possess half the chromosomes of the male parent and
the other half from the female. Recombinant DNA technology, allows
inserting one or a few genes of an individual, in the genome of another
individuals, without species, genus, or even kingdom restriction. This is
possible because the molecule of genetic material that regulates the structure
and function of an organism is the same in all of them. This technology has
made possible, among other things, the expression in bacteria, plants, and
animals, of proteins with pharmaceutical or industrial purposes, as well as
the transformation of plants with characteristics such as tolerance to
herbicides and insect and virus resistance.
Sugarcane has successfully been transformed by various techniques, such as
microprojectile bombardment, electroporation and Agrobacterium. Several
characteristics have been introduced including herbicide resistance, virus
resistance, insect resistance and enzymatic regulation of sucrose. The new
features that had been recently introduced in this crop include, collagen
production and bioplastics (Lakshmanan et al., 2005).
According to Butterfield et al. (2002), the development of new sugarcane
varieties (Saccharum spp. hybrids) is a long and unpredictable process. Genetic
transformation offers the potential to introduce some new desirable
characteristics in existing varieties, and the achievement of stable expression of
Lakshmanan et al. (2005) mentioned that, besides of being an important
nutritional and energetic crop, there are other reasons that make sugarcane, a
candidate for engineered breeding. In the first place, genetic improvement of
elite sugarcane clones by conventional breeding is difficult due to its complex
polyploid-aneuploid genome, low fertility, and the long period required (12-15
years) to generate new cultivars. Backcrosses designed to recover elite
genotypes with desirable agronomic characteristics require long periods of time,
as well. Within this context, genetic engineering is a useful tool to introduce
valuable commercial characteristics in elite germplasm. In second place, there
are transformation systems available in sugarcane useful in practice, and the
useful transgenic lines can be maintained indefinitely by vegetative propagation.
Chen et al. (1987) were the first to report genetic transformation in sugarcane,
introducing a marker gene that confers resistance to the antibiotic kanamycin.
Transformation was performed in protoplasts isolated from commercial hybrid
F164, using polyethylene-glycol induced incorporation and using the vector
plasmid pABD1 isolated from E. coli strain JA221. Calli formed from
transformed protoplasts maintained the expression of resistance to kanamycin in
a medium with a concentration of 80μg mL¯¹ of antibiotic. The DNA in the
transformed tissue hybridized with the gene probe APH(3`)II (aminoglycoside-
phosphotransferase). The efficiency of the transformation process was 8
protoplasts in 107
Bower and Birch (1992) were the first transforming sugarcane plants by
tungsten microprojectile bombardment, concluding that this method is more
effective than others reported.
Rathus and Birch (1992) improved transformation efficiency using
electroporation, to introduce the coding gene of the enzyme
neomycinphosphotransferase (NPTII) in sugarcane protoplasts isolated from
cultivars Q63 and Q96 (one callus transformed for each 102
protoplasts). The integration and expression of NPTII gene, that confers
resistance to kanamycin antibiotic, were confirmed by Southern analysis and
enzymatic assays. The Southern analysis revealed a complex pattern of
integration with rearrangements and multiple copies. It has also
demonstrated the gene co-transformation of β-glucuronidase (GUS) in the
same construct or in separate constructs. Many of the calli that contained
intact copies of β-glucuronidase gene did not show detectable expression.
However, one line of calli regenerated after electroporation with a plasmid
containing both NPTII and GUS genes, showed a stable expression of both
Arencibia et al. (1992) developed a method of plant transformation and
regeneration based in the electroporation of meristematic tissue of cultivars
POJ 2878 and Ja60-5. Transformation was performed with plasmids pBI-
221.1 and pGSCGN-2 that conferred GUS and NPTII activity to transformed
cells. Transformed plants were analyzed with histochemical, fluorometric,
PCR and Southern blot methods. With the transformation of the intact
meristematic tissue, regeneration of plants was facilitated, which was
usually a major obstacle in the transformation of protoplasts. However, , the
chimeras obtantion is a regular problem that could be avoided transforming
embryogenic tissue, due to the meristematic tissue is composed of many
heterogeneous cell layers.
Arencibia et al. (1995) described an efficient procedure for genetic transformation
of commercial varieties POJ2878 and Ja 60-5, based on the electroporation of a
plasmid that confers GUS activity within a group of isolated cells from
embriogenic calli. Between 6 and 8 weeks after electroporation, plants
regenerated from Ja 60-5 were evaluated and confirmed as transgenic, using
histochemical glucuronidase and Southern hybridization analysis.
Arencibia et al. (1998) reported the first successful recovery of transgenic
morphologically normal sugarcane plants using a callus co-cultivation with
Agrobacterium tumefaciens. The transformation frequencies (total of transgenic
plants/number of cell clusters) were between 9.4 x 10-3
and 1.15 x 10-2
. In their
experiments they found that strain LBA4404 (pTOK233) and EHA101
(pMTCA31G) were successful for sugarcane transformation with marker genes.
They found 3 crucial factors to increase the competence of the cells in the
transference process of T-DNA: (1) the use of young regenerable calli as target
explants; (2) Induction or increase of the virulence system of A. tumefaciens
with the sugarcane cell culture, and (3) the pre-induction of organogenesis or
Almost simultaneously, Enriquez-Obregon et al. (1998) introduced the
character of herbicide resistance in sugarcane germplasm. Transgenic plants
resistant to phosphinothricin (PPT), active component of commercial herbicide
BASTA, were generated by transformation with Agrobacterium tumefaciens.
Meristematic sections were used as explants and the reached transformation
frequencies were from 10-35 percent. The regeneration of plants was high and
apparently it was not affected by the process of transformation. Southern
analysis in several transformed plants indicated the integration of one or two
intact copies per genome of the bar gene which codifies for PPT-
acetyltransferase and confers resistance to BASTA. The levels of resistance to
BASTA were evaluated under greenhouse conditions and small plots.
Manickavasagam et al. (2004) also reported the obtantion of transformed plants
with resistance to PPT by Agrobacterium co-cultivation with axillary buds of
sugarcane cultivars Co92061 and Co671. Through this technique,there is no
callus induction, plant stems is originated directly from the axillary bud and
chimeric transformants are removed by repeated proliferation of shoots in the
selection medium. Results show that generation and multiplication of
transformed shoots can be achieved in 5 months with transformation
efficiencies of up to 50 percent. Depending on the cultivar, 50-60 percent of
transgenic plants sprayed with BASTA (60g 1-1
of active ingredient) grew under
greenhouse conditions without herbicide damage.
Other reports of sugarcane transformation by co-cultivation with Agrobacterium
include characters such as insect resistance (Arvinth et al., 2010; Kalunke et al.,
2009; Zhangsun et al., 2007), tolerance to osmotic stress (Wang et al., 2005),
and ethylene regulation (Wang et al., 2009).
Elliot et al. (1998) used green fluorescent protein (GFP) for in vivo selection of
transformed cells by strain AGLO of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, avoiding the
use of antibiotics, herbicides and assays.
Santosa et al. (2004) described a protocol for transformation of sugarcane calli
trhough Agrobacterium tumefaciens strain GV2260 with which they introduced
appA gene that encodes for phytase enzyme of strain ATCC 33965 of
Joyce et al. (2010) found that, the selection system and the co-cultivation
medium, were most important factors that influenced the success of
transformation and regeneration of transgenic plants.
Another widely used method for genetic transformation in sugarcane is known
as biolistic, a technique to introduce DNA through bombardment of tissue with
microprojectiles covered with DNA. Using this method, Franks and Birch
(1992) developed the first transgenic sugarcane plants from Pindar, a
commercial cultivar, in Australia. The obtained plants showed a stable
transformation after bombardment with neomycinphosphotransferase (nptII)
gene that confers resistance to the geneticin antibiotic, under Emu promoter
Later on, transformations in different genotypes of sugarcane through biolistic
were reported in different laboratories around the world. (Gambley et al., 1993;
Snyman et al., 2006; Jain et al., 2007; Van Der Vyver, 2010), and for different
characteristics, like insect resistance (Christy et al., 2009; Sheng et al., 2008;
Falco y Silva-Filho, 2003) and virus resistance (Zhu et al., 2010).
Table 1 resumes the efforts directed to incorporate, by genetic engineering,
some economically important characteristics to commercial cultivar of
sugarcane in different countries.
Table 1. Introduced characteristics or characteristics under study for sugarcane
cultivar transformation in different countries (Maldonado y Melgar,
Transgenic Characteristics Countries
Glufosinate Australia, Brazil, USA, Mauricio, South
Glyphosate Brazil, USA, South Africa
Bt mediated Brazil, Cuba, South Africa
Proteinase inhibitors Brazil, South Africa
Leaf scald Australia, Brazil
Sugarcane mosaic virus Australia, Brazil, USA, South Africa
Yellow leaf syndrome Brazil, Colombia, USA
Sorghum mosaic virus USA
Ratoon stunting disease USA
Fiji disease Australia
Abiotic Stress Resistance
Water deficit Brazil, Mauricio
Low temperatures Brazil, Mauricio
Carbohydrate metabolism Australia, Cuba, USA
Control of flowering Brazil
Pharmaceutical enzymes USA
Biodegradable plastics Australia
Symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria Brazil
International Consortium of sugarcane biotechnology
The International Consortium of Sugarcane Biotechnology (ICSB) is a group
currently integrated by 19 institutions from 14 countries (Table 2) that,
according to Moore (2005), provide economic resources to share technologies
and information, invest in their own biotechnology institutional infrastructure
building, and fund collaborative research projects to make contributions to the
basic understanding of the molecular biology of sugarcane.
Moore (2005) gives a detailed account of the events that led to the formation
of the ICSB. In 1988, during an International Society of Sugarcane
Technologists (ISSCT) workshop, held in conjunction with physiology and
breeding sections, Paul Moore and James Irvine arranged a meeting between
the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) directors, the United States
and Brazil's Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira (CTC);.with the objective to
finance an investigation proposed by Steven Tanksley and Mark Sorrel at
Cornell University (United States of America), with the purpose of
evaluating the feasibility of using DNA markers to map the sugarcane
genome. The agreement between HSPA/CTC included the participation of
one researcher from each institution, working at a laboratory at Cornell and
to facilitate the transference of the acquired technology back to their
The promising results obtained in this project, with the participation of K. K.
Wu from HSPA and William Burnquist from CTC, motivated Irvine to
organize the first International Workshop on Sugarcane Genome Analysis
held in March 1991 at Beltsville, Maryland, USA. During this event, five
additional institutions joined the first two institutions and formalized a
collaboration agreement to expand research efforts, gain a better
understanding of the sugarcane genomics and apply this knowledge to the
improvement of the crop (Moore, 2005).
The second workshop was held in Albany, California, USA in 1992, when
three additional research centers joined the previous seven. A new letter of
understanding was obtained, including the new members and naming this
growing organization as international consortium of sugarcane
biotechnology (Moore 2005).
Table 3 shows the achievements and impact of projects and investigations
financed by ICSB.
CENGICAÑA is part of the ICSB since 1999, and utilizes the generated
knowledge for the diagnosis of sugarcane diseases using DNA markers and
specific immunological reactions, which has strengthed seed production,
quarantine process, and germplasm exchange. Marker assisted selection and
molecular characterization are other derived applications that have
contributed to the selection of parent varieties.
CENGICAÑA is also investing in the development of its own biotechnology
institutional infrastructure, by developing their ability to perform genetic
transformation of plants, thereby it can also exploit the knowledge generated
initially in projects funded by the ICSB.
Table 2.Countries and institutions that integrate ICSB
Chacra Experimental Agricola Santa Rosa
Estación Experimental Agroindustrial Obispo
Australia CRC-SIIB Cooperative Research Centre for Sugarcane
Industry Innovation through Biotechnology
Brazil CTC Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira, formerly
COPERSUCAR Cooperativa de Productores
de Caña de azucar, Azucar y Alcohol del
Estado de Sao Paulo
Colombia CENICAÑA Centro de Investigacion de la Caña de Azucar 1992
Ecuador FIAE/CINCAE Fundacion para la investigacion Azucarera del
Ecuador/ Centro de Investigacion de la Caña
de azúcar de Ecuador
CIRAD/IRAD Agricultural Research for Development,
France/Research Institute for Agricultural
Guatemala CENGICAÑA Centro de investigacion y capacitacion de la
Caña de azucar
Vasantdada Sugar Institute
E.I.D. Parry Ltd.
Barbados BWICSBS British West Indies Central Sugarcane
Mauritius MSIRI Mauritius Sugarcane Industry Research
Philippines PHILSURIN Philippine Sugar Research Institute
Foundation before PSPA Philippine Sugar
SASRI South Africa Sugar Research Institute before
SASEX South Africa Sugar Experiment
Thailand MITR PHOL Mitr Phol Sugar Research Center 2007
Florida Sugarcane League
Hawaii Agriculture Research Center before
HSPA Hawaii Sugar Planters Association.
American Sugarcane League, Louisiana.
Texas A&M Ag. Experiment Station.
Table 3. Research areas, achievements and impact of projects supported by ICBS
(Based on Moore, 2005)
Research Areas Achievements Impact
Diseases Isolation and description of the virus
responsible for yellow leaf in sugarcane
Basis for the
transformation of plants
with resistance to
Sugarcane yellow leaf virus
Development of antibodies for the diagnosis of
Tools available for
yellows virus and assist in
breeding for resistance
Analysis of the worldwide diversity of SCYLV
Isolation of capsid protein genes of mosaic
virus strains in sugarcane and sorghum.
Basis for the
transformation of plants
with resistance to
sugarcane mosaic virus
Improved methods for genetic transformation,
transformed sugarcane cultivars with viral coat
proteins to produce resistant clones
Increase of transgene
Isolation of proteins that interact with plant
viral suppressors of post transcriptional gene
Development of methods to suppress host
protein required for PTGS
Development of a system for chloroplast
Pollen unable to perform
Genetic Mapping Development of methods for genetic mapping
of polyploid organisms of unknown type and
level produced the first of many sugarcane
genetic maps based on molecular markers
Several markers and maps
will allow breeders to make
a precise selection of
parental and progeny for
faster varietal development
Basis for the identification
of genes in sugarcane
Mapping quantitative trait (QTLs) associated
with the sugar content
Mapping QTLs for stem weight, stem number,
stem height, flowering, sugar, fiber, pol, fiber
Assembly of four genetic maps of sugarcane in
one with correspondence to the map of
Construction of bacteria artificial
chromosomes for gene isolation and
development of a physical map
Production of a database for identifying genes
by creating cDNA libraries
Fine mapping for resistance locus of brown
Development of primers for microsatellite
Development of SNP markers for fine mapping
Development of arrays and bioinformatics
BIOTECHNOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS IN THE SUGAR
AGRO-INDUSTRY OF GUATEMALA
Cultivar (esta bien)
As already mentioned, tissue culture allows the regeneration of disease-free
plants. Any plant disease caused by systemic pathogens is absent in apical
meristem sections ranging between 0.1 and 0.2 mm in diameter, thus plants
regenerated from it will also be healthy. There are two important virus affecting
sugarcane in Guatemala: sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV) and sugarcane yellow
leaf virus (SCYLV). Among the diseases caused by bacteria are leaf scald
disease (LSD) caused by Xanthomonas albilineans and ratoon stunting disease
(RSD) caused by Leifsonia xyli subsp. xyli.
It is possible to eliminate both virus and bacteria using meristem as explants,
and by treating buds in a 51°C bath for an hour. After thermal treatment, buds
are allowed to germinate in plastic trays at room temperature.
The procedure used at CENGICAÑA is the following:
a) Stem collection and bud isolation
b) Bud thermal treatment
c) Germination (7-10 days)
d) Apical meristem extraction, sowing in culture medium and development
e) Propagation of the regenerated plants (30 days)
f) Molecular marker diagnosis
g) Propagation of disease free plants (60 days)
h) Rooting (15 days)
i) Acclimatization (60-90 days)
Explants are placed in MS (Murashige & Skoog, 1962) supplemented with
0.1mg/L BAP (6-bencilaminopurine) + 30g/L sucrose + 8g/L agar, incubated at
25°C in the darkness for seven days to avoid oxidation and finally placed in a
16 hour photoperiod.
Plants originated from meristem are allowed to reach about 4 cm height and
then are transferred to an identical liquid culture medium (no agar). This
promotes growing and formation of new shoots that can be sub-cultured and
propagated every 30 days, until a maximum of 5 sub-cultures. Rooting is
induced by placing plants in a medium without BAP for 15 days. Before second
subculture, tissue sample is taken to perform a molecular marker based disease
a b c
d e f
a b c
d e f
diagnostic. Healthy plants are continously propagated. Finally, plants are
separated and sown in trays containing substrate for greenhouse acclimatization.
Figure1 shows some stages of the process.
Whenever germplasm exchange is scheduled, disease free regenerated plants are
transferred to test tubes containing a solid medium without BAP for its packing
Figure 1. Sanitation of sugarcane varieties: (a) thermal treatment, (b)bud
germination, (c)apex from which meristem is extracted, (d)
regenerated plants, (e)clonal propagation, (f)greenhouse
The in vitro plant vegetative multiplication procedure is known as
micropropagation. Compared with field propagation, vegetative propagation has
many advantages among which can be mentioned:
Higher multiplication rate
Less field area
Better disease control
Less time investment
The need of specialized facilities, equipment and technicians, can be mentioned
among the main disadvantages.
This procedure is performed at CENGICAÑA to propagate plants of introduced
varieties which have been healed from the diseases detected in the quarantine
process, according to the procedure of the section 3.1. This multiplication
process allows the production of about 500 plants starting from a single
meristem of each variety, which are ready for field transplantation and disease
free; this process takes eight month since the moment of the initial bud
Besides quarantined plants, some varieties from the Evaluation Phase at
CENGICAÑA’s Breeding Program are propagated too. This action generates
enough plants for evaluation in a larger number of locations.
Some of Guatemala’s sugar mills have micropropagation laboratories for their
own use in the cleaning and multiplication of their varieties. For example,
Magdalena mill has been increasing their production volumes annually and is
projected that they will reach 3 million plants in 2012. Santa Ana mill has been
steadily producing 300,000 plants annually (Table 4). On the other hand,
Tecnología Agrícola Inc. started sugarcane micropropagation in 2010 for La
Unión mill, with the capacity of producing 600,000 plants per year (personal
communication with Ing. Mario Peña).
Table 4. Production of sugarcane plants by micropropagation at the Magdalena
and Santa Ana sugar mills, 2011
Sugar mill Year Plants Production
Santa Ana 2010
Early varieties (15%):CP73-1547, CP98-46
Intermediate varieties (15%): CP72-2086, Mex79-431,
Late varieties (70%): CG98-10, RB73-2577, PR75-2002
Source: Magdalena and Santa Ana mills.
Disease detection using molecular markers
When DNA or RNA of an infected plant is extracted, the pathogen’s DNA and
RNA is extracted too. If there is a method that allows the identification of a
nucleic acid fragment from the pathogen, the pathogen presence in the sample
can be diagnosed. This reasoning is the base of nucleic analisys for disease
detection using molecular markers. CENGICAÑA uses this technology for the
diagnostic of the following diseases:
Ratoon stunt disease (RSD)
Leaf scald disease (LSD)
Sugarcane yellow leaf phytoplasma (SCYLP)
Sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV)
Simultaneous detection of RSD and LSD is based on the Davis, Rott and Astua-
monge report (1998); SCYLP is detected according to Parmessur et al. (2002)
and SCMV is detected according to Smith & Van de Velde (1994).
Disease diagnostics is performed as part of the variety sanitation before
micropropagation so the absence of important pathogens is confirmed. In
general, the procedure involves DNA or RNA extraction, a pathogen’s specific
fragment amplification using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), separation of
fragments, using agarose gelelectrophoresis and the visualization of the
fragments using etidium bromide and UV light (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Agarose gel showing the results of a diagnostic procedure for SCYP.
Lane 1= molecular weight ladder, lane 2= negative control, lane 3=
positive control, lanes 4-12= evaluated varieties. CENGICAÑA 2011
The use of molecular markers for disease diagnosis has the advantage of being
more sensitive than the immunological counterpart. DNA analysis represents a
0.03 0.15 0.28 0.40 0.52
Genetic diversity analysis
The evaluation of different polymorphic DNA markers in different sugarcane
varieties generates a group of bands, one set of bands per variety. A binary
matrix where the absence (0) or presence (1) of bands is represented can be
statistically analyzed to establish similarity levels among varieties. The results
of the analysis can be shown as a dendrogram and can be used to show the
degree of genetic variability in a germplasm collection or for cross planning in a
plant breeding program.
Figure 3 shows the similarity between individuals of a group of 48 varieties
used as parental in CENGICAÑA’s Breeding Program. In this study, the band
patterns of each variety were generated using 5 microsatellite markers (SSR).
The primers were provided by CIRAD (La Recherche Agronomique Pour Le
Developpement, France). The results of this work are being considered for the
annual cross planning (Quemé, Molina and Melgar, 2005).
Figure 3. Dendrogram (UPGMA) generated with the information of SSR
markers. This graphic representation shows the genetic relationships
between 48 sugarcane varieties (Quemé, Molina and Melgar, 2005)
Maldonado et al. (2009) characterized the genetic diversity of 26 strains of the
fungus Metarhizium anisopliae Metchnikoff using SSR and RAPD markers.
This fungus is used as biological control of sugarcane pests and other crops.
This study detected 8 local strains which remain viable three months after the
application to the soil.
Figure 4. Dendrogram generated with SSR and RAPD markers showing genetic
similarity between 26 strains of the fungus M. anisopliae Metchnikoff
(Maldonado et al., 2009)
Marker assisted selection
Despite great efforts to identify genetic markers associated to important traits
and to generate genetic maps, sugarcane’s complex genome remains as the
major barrier for the use of marker assisted selection (MAS). To date, only two
markers have been identified as tightly related to a monogenic characteristic:
rust resistance (Le Cunff, 2008). The research conducted to identify these
markers, was funded partially by the International Consortium of Sugarcane
Biotechnology (ICSB) . These markers have been given to CENGICAÑA by
CIRAD and they will be used for assisted selection markers .
The use of other molecular marker in assisted selection, has not been reported to
be used in sugarcane MAS, even when there has been shown the association of
several markers to QTL’s.
a ba b
Development of transgenic varieties
The use of sugarcane transgenic varieties places its users in a comparative and
competitive advantage. Guatemala’s Sugarcane Agro-Industry is well aware of
this and the technological development limitations of the country. Nevertheless,
the genetic transformation process itself seems to be at the reach of Guatemala´s
Agro-industry. For this reason, CENGICAÑA has initiated the development of
local capacities to perform genetic transformation. At the moment, it is planned
to execute laboratory confined activities, since the country has no regulatory
frame that allows the field experimentation of transformed plants.
As already mentioned, the genetic transformation is not possible if there is not
an established tissue culture procedure that allows cell transformation and
efficient plant regeneration. For this reason, the optimization of a tissue culture
protocol aimed towards genetic transformation is being performed; the varieties
with better response to in vitro culture are CGSP98-16, CG01-17 and CG98-10.
These varieties have regenerated up to 70 plants per foliar disc (unpublished
Figure 5 shows part of the plant regeneration process by means of somatic
embryogenesis using foliar discs as explants.
Figure 5. Plant regeneration from leaf discs (variety CG98-10). (a)foliar discs
showing somatic embryos and plantlets, (b) regenerated plants from a
Biotechnology is a growing discipline nationwide thanks to the efforts of
enthusiast researchers, who are members of the Intersectorial Biotechnology
Commission of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONCYT). A
plan for biotechnology training was recently developed. Coordinated efforts of
private, academic, and government sectors to acquire bioinformatics capabilities
have been conducted. All the above, will permit to take advantage of
CENGICAÑA’s Breeding Program has been progressively reinforced by the
biotechnological applications. It is expected that the genotyping, sanitaation,
varieties propagation, marker assisted selection, and genetic transformation
activities will work optimally together along with the rest of the plant breeding
program in the short term. It is also expected to use molecular markers to assess
pathogen diversity and the identification of genes of interest.
Additionally, Biotechnology Area can also continue its involvement in the
Integrated Pest Management Program, by means of genetic diversity as
performed in 2009 by Maldonado and collaborators in the analysis of
Metarhizium anisopliae. In a global manner, a growing demand of activities
involving the Biotecnology Area is expected, as a direct consequence of the
favorable and informative results obtained to date.
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of somaclonal variants of sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) resistant to
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Sugarcane yellow leaf virus and sugarcane yellows phytoplasma:
elimination by tissue culture. Plant Pathology , 51:561-566.
29. Quemé, J.; Molina, L.; Melgar, M. 2005. Analysis of genetic similarity
among 48 sugarcane varieties using microsatellite DNA sequences. Proc.
Int. Soc. Sugar Cane Technol., Vol. 25:592-596.
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Saccharum. Enzyme polymorphism for B-amylase in interspecific and
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dose restriction fragments. Theoretical and Applied Genetics , 83:294-300.
SOIL PREPARATION FOR SUGARCANE
Joel García, Braulio Villatoro, Fernando Díaz y Gil Sandoval*
Soil preparation is the combination of mechanized tasks that provides to
sugarcane seed (vegetative reproduction) the right conditions to stimulate
good “germination” (emerging) and vigorous canopy and root mass
growth. For good “germination”, sugarcane seed requires an adequate
relationship among soil, air, water and temperature. The optimal
development of the leaf mass will result in better use of solar radiation and
a high rate stalk production; also, a suitable root development will provide
nutrients, water, oxygen and foliage support to the crop during its
exploitation years until its total renovation.
The benefits obtained with the proper soil preparation are: stools
destruction and removal of residues and weeds from previous crops,
favoring the chemical and biological activity, facilitating gas exchange
required by the soil´s flora and fauna; soil pest control by burying
Froghopper eggs or by exposing larvae of white grubs and wireworms, also
improves water infiltration and subsurface drainage; soil preparation
contributes to brake compacted layers favoring the roots penetration and
its subsequent development (Campollo, 1999). Despite the importance of
soil preparation for planting, care should be taken for not over doing it
because this can result in damaging and in an inadequate preparation as
Soil moisture content is very important in order to set the best time to
perform further preparation. The agricultural soil management under ideal
humidity reduces compaction, tractor’s tensile strength, the tractor’s and
implements wear and tear, fuel consumption and operating costs, resulting
all this in a better agronomic work.
Agr. Eng. Joel García Manager Head of Land Preparation at Pantaleon Sugar Mill, www.pantaleon.com;
Agr. Eng. Braulio Villatoro, Specialist in Information Systems for Precision Agriculture CENGICAÑA,
www.cengicana.org; Agr. Eng. Fernando Diaz Head, Department of Agricultural Engineering San Diego
S.A.Sugar Mill, www.sandiego.com.gt and Agr. Eng. Gil Sandoval Head of the Adaptation and Soil
Preparation La Unión Sugar Mill, www.launion.com.gt
The factors involved in the proper selection of the sequence of soil
preparation are highly variable; hence the field manager responsible, must
observe the field conditions and use the best criteria to select the labor
sequence to be followed.
SEQUENCE AND LABOR DESCRIPTION
The necessary work for an adequate soil preparation and its sequence will
depend on the characteristics of the soil, in the area to be renewed. These
can be known by observation and profile description in profile a pit (1m x
1m x 1m) or a profile box (0.6mx 0.6mx 0.6m) which must be
representative of the interest area. The main characteristics to be observed
in the profile are the sequence of the present horizons, its thickness, depth,
texture, and structure; it will be also necessary to detect compacted layers
and stones presence or other limiting factors. Additionally, field
compaction is measured at various representative points using an
instrument such as the penetrometer and by making humidity
determinations. Labor and sequence are variable due to the different soil
existent types in the sugarcane plantation area and to the variations in the
crop management activities used by mills; but, in a general manner, a
typical sequence of work preparation is shown in Figure 1.
Figure1. Implements used in soil preparation (sequence) a) plowing (chisel
plow), b) Flipping (Trail plow), c) Polishing (dredge), d) subsoiling
(subsoiler), e) furrowing (mowing)
In general and by order, the sequence would be: plowing with a chisel plow,
then turn up the soil with plough, afterward perform a first polished with a
harrow, subsequently, subsoiling with subsoiler; next, a second polished, and
finally the furrows formation for planting. Prior to the soil preparation, if
location and distance from the mill make it economically viable, industrial filter
cake residues (“cachaza”) can be applied. This compound is hauled by trucks
and deposited in piles distributed throughout the planting lot area, leaving a
uniform layer on the surface. This is accomplished using a rimmed tractor with
150 to 175 HP pulling a bulldozer. It is recommended to do this application
before 72 hours, in order to prevent the material compaction and fermentation
and the subsequent generation of gases and bad smells.
The function of each work in the field and the specific function of implement
are listed below:
This activity is performed in compacted soil layers with resistance values higher
than 200 psi. It is made by inserting parabolic pieces of equipment on the soil,
spaced 0.45 m between each other, not exceeding 0.45 m in depth for loam
soils, for clays, 0.30 m is advised. The chisel plow consist of parabolic bodies
held in a tool bar, which is pulled by a rimmed tractor with 320 HP for five
piece equipment and 215 HP for three piece equipment. Operating speed goes
from 4.5 to 5.5 km per hour. The result of this activity is a substrate on which
sugar cane plants will develop properly. The chisel plowing labor is vertical,
and its main characteristic is to propitiate to loosen the soil, deeper than the
common plow or disc plows trail, without turning or mixing the layers of the
soil profile, which allows the maintainance of the internal structure of the soil.
The chisel plow labor is done parallel to the furrows, and could need a second
step performed in a 45 ° orientation. This is usually performed after subsoiling.
The labor is usually done in a transverse direction at 90 ° to the given direction
of the furrow (Daza Rodriguez, 1995). The quality of this work is measured by
the degree of fracturing of the compact layer, which in turn, is closely related to
soil texture and moisture content, and the implement used as well; also depends
on the speed and direction of the operation. The plough cuts, lifts, and removes
the topsoil, burying the stubble and crop residues, aerating the soil by increasing
its porosity and allowing a benefitial weeds, diseases, and pests control. The
depth depends on the equipment. In the case of soil pests, some observed results
have shown a control up to 70 per cent if it is waiting eight days between the
soil turning out and the following labor (Campollo, 1999).
Among the advantages of the chisel plow are the next: a) removes compacted
layers and imperfections caused by successive passage of disks to the same
depth, b) replaces the use of subsoiler, in soils with compaction at depths below
of 0.45 m, c) in some cases can replace a plow labor step, d) leaves noridges or
dead furrows during the operation and maintains the internal soil structure.
The operation method mostly used consists in several continuous passes. Chisel
plows are mounted on special frames (Figure 2)or in special rimmed frames
used for transportation (Figure 3).
Picture 2. Integral chisel plow
Picture 3. Chisel plow draft
The soil flipping is done with an implement called "trail plow". It is used to cut,
lift, and flip the soil, with the purpose of destroying the stubble of the previous
crop, this labor also helps in the weeds and soil pests’ control.
The soil tillage at depths greater than 0.20 m, allows the crop establishment and
its further development. The depth of this labor should be increased by at least
0.05 m from the furrow level, to ensure that the cane-seed will be placed on
The trail plow can be used in two types of soil: a) soils with medium and heavy
slopes or with rocks presence; and b) stone free flat areas.
Small trail plows are used in areas with medium or heavy slope and in those
soils with presence of stones, this implement uses from 12 to 16 discs of 0.81 m
(32inches) in diameter, the cutting depth should not be less than 0.20 m, and in
rimmed tractors of 170 to 320 HP, respectively, should be use at a speed of 5-7
km per hour. In areas with a medium gradient slope, the plow drag is performed
in the sense of the previous furrows, forming beds to the proper equipment
circulation. If the aggregates diameter is still too big and if a second labor is
needed, this is mustly done in transverse direction or turning 45 ° mostly with
respect to the first labor. In areas with a slope greater than 50 per thousand, the
flipping takes place along the slope.
In stone free flat areas, harrows with 20 to 24 discs of 0.81 m (32 inches) in
diameter are used; pulled by rimmed tractor of 320 HP, at a speed rate of 7 -8
km per hour; cutting depth should not be less than 0.20 m.
To make the soil flipping, disc plow or moldboard plow can be used, arranged
in two eccentric throw sections, mounted on carriers or chassis frames (Figure
4). The separation between disks on the section goes from 0.35 to 0.45 m. The
weight per disc is 240 to 280 kg with a power requirement of 14-16 HP per disk
for rimmed tractors.
Picture 4. Trail plow 20 discs of 81 cm (32 inches)
If the crests of the ridges are too high to facilitate the return of the tractor
and implement (beds outside-in), headers can be worked at the beginning or
at the end of the labor (beds inside-out), as shown in Figures 5 and 6.
Picture 5. Melgas method, from the outside in.
Picture 6. Melgas method, inside out
If the crest of the grooves is too high, the first flipping step should be done
in parallel to the previous crop rows, if a second step is needed, it should be
done perpendicularly to the first step. On the contrary, if the crest of the
furrow of the previous crop is not so high to obstruct the displacement of the
tractor and implement, the first flipping step must be diagonal to the
direction of the furrows, and if a second step is necessary, this should be
perpendicular to the first step. It is necessary to verify that the overlap
between one step and the other is from 0.30 to 0.40 m, or that the overlap is
equivalent to the distance of the discs separation, otherwise, the direction of
the tractor must be adjusted.
It is necessary to check periodically that the depth of the plow is in between
of 0.24 to 0.27 m, and the maximum depth that can be achieved is ⅓ of the
disc diameter. Generally, when the furrows crest is too high, the desired
depth it is not achieved with the first step, then a second step is required.
Polishing is performed with an implement known as harrow. The objective
of polishing is to plow and split clumps produced during the soil flipping or
underground. Polishing also destroys and incorporates crop residues and
helps to control soil pests.
A good polishing quality ensures a better contact between soil and seed;
consequently ensures good germination and high herbicidal effectiveness.
Its main functions are crumbling lumps remaining after the previous
activities , it also helps to destroy the previous crop stools and support the
control soil pests and weeds. Polishing smooths the bumps left from the
previous labor, and to till the soil between 0.15 and 0.21 m in size, to form a
bed of soil in which the seed can germinate and emerge without major
In areas with medium to heavy slope or stone presence, harrows of 28 discs
of 0.66 m (26inches) in diameter are used and are pulled by 170 horsepower
tractors. In flat areas, harrows with 66 discs of 0.61 m (24 inches) in
diameter are used and those are pulled by 320 horsepower rimmed tractors.
The operating speed of the equipment should ocillate between 7 and 10
miles per hour, with transversally displacement to the flipping soil. The
disks are arranged in two sections tandem, mounted on carriers or chassis
frame (Figure 7) with disks spacing from 0.20 to 0.25 m. The disk weight
ranges between 85 and 100 kg. The power required is 4.5 to 5.5 HP per disk
in a rimmed tractor. This is done with the method of “beds” as shown in
Figures 5 and 6.
Picture 7. Eccentrically Pulled Harrow
An attachment called "subsoiler" is used during this operation. This work
breaks the impermeable layers of the soil, which are located below the
normal depth of cultivation layer (plow pan). Subsoiling improves the water
infiltration, drainage and root penetration, which leads to the increase of
crop yields (Campollo, 1999 and Rodriguez and Daza, 1995).
The need of subsoiling depends on an appropriate technical evaluation, since
it has a high cost. A penetrometer, which is an instrument that measures
penetration resistance expressed in pressure units, is generally used to
measure the compaction level. The measurement is done inserting the
tapered tip of the equipment to a certain depth (force per unit area). This
variable is not by itself, a direct measure of the state of soil compaction.
Subsoiling quality is measured by the fracturing degree, and depends on the
soil moisture content, soil texture, the equipment to be used, and the
operating speed. The depth of the tilled soil and other preparation work can
be measured with a simple instrument called soil depth gauge, which is not
more than a solid metal rod, graduated in cm, 75 cm long and 1.27 cm
The most common implements used for this operation are the parabolic
subsoiler, which provides greater efficiency and consists of three or five
tillers of 0.6 m long, attached 0.75 - 1.00 m apart each other, in the frame
(Figure 8). Power demand varies between 50 to 65 HP by tiller; this depends
on the compaction degree, the depth of work, and the operation speed. The
operation method consists of continuous movements (Figure 9). During the
work execution, the field must be left unpacked within 200 psi, showing
cracks after the passage of the implement tillers (Figure 10).
Picture 8. Pulled Subsoiler
Picture 9. Suboiling Method in continues movements
Figure 10. Soil breaking during the work
This labor is done with the “ridger” or “furrower” implement. It builds parallel
furrows, distributed along straight or curved rows previously designed and
established by the agricultural design process. The furrows are made from 1.50
m to 1.75 m apart from each other; their depth is 0.15 0.25 m in conventional
tillage, and 0.25 - 0.35 m for crops planted under high moisture conditions. The
purpose of this labor is to prepare a bed of soil in which the seed can settle and
emerge properly, and also to allow crop development. In addition to ridge,
granular fertilizers based on phosphorus and / or potassium may be applied,
insecticide for soil pest control can be done as well, adapting special equipment
to the structure (Figure 11). This work can be ended with furrowers with two,
three or four bodies mounted on an integral tool bar. The power required
depends on the size of the equipment, depth of work and operation speed. The
operation speed in the field can be 6 to 10 km per hour under normal conditions.
Picture 11. Furrower of three bodies with equipment to apply fertilizer and
For the “furrower” calibration, the next steps must be accomplished:
• Place the tractor with the implement on a flat ground.
• Check that the distance between the furrower bodies is the required for the
field to be worked.
• Adjust the equipment longitudinally, with the third tractor’s fitting point, in
order to regulate the angle of incidence of the furrow forming bodies.
• Adjust the implement transversely using the lifting arms until the tips of
each furrower body touch the flat ground at once.
• Check that furrow depth for conventional tillage is between 0.15 to 0.25 m
and 0.25 - 0.35 m when planting under high moisture conditions.
• Adjust the position of the markers in the furrower to make the distance
between overlapping rows would be the same between one passing and the
other (variation less than 5 percent).
• Currently the global positioning system (GPS), allows performing the
furrowing operation without the use of markers. These systems work with
correction mechanisms through RTK antenna, providing a better
equidistance and parallelism among the rows.
1. Campollo, P. S. 1999. Fundamentos de mecanización agrícola para caña de
azúcar. Ingenio Pantaleon. Guatemala. 43 p.
2. Storino, M.; Peche, A.; Hiroaki, S. A. 2010. Aspectos operacionais do
preparo de solo. In: Cana-de-açucar. Ed. Dinardo-Mirandda LL.,
Vasconcelos AN., Landell MG. Campinas. 1ª. Ed. – 1ª. Reimpresao. Sao
Paulo, Brasil. pp. 547-572.
3. Rodríguez, C. A.; Daza, O. H. 1995. Preparación de Suelos. En: El cultivo
de la caña en la zona azucarera de Colombia. Cassalett, C.; Torres, J.;
Isaacs, C. (eds.). Cali, Colombia. pp. 109-114.
4. Faveri, J. H.; Juárez, A. 1992. Manual de mecanización del campo cañero.
Grupo de Países Latinoamericanos y del Caribe Exportadores de Azúcar
(GEPLACEA). México. 40 p.
NURSERIES AND COMMERCIAL PLANTING
Werner Ovalle, José Luis Quemé, Héctor Orozco and Ovidio Pérez
Sugarcane Nurseries Establishment
In the sugarcane profitable plantations establishment, one of the important
issues is the nurseries planning, in order to obtain high quality asexual seed.
This seed should gather several characteristics: genetic, physiological,
sanitary, and physical quality. Also several factors that are related with the
establishment of sugarcane nurseries should be taken into account.
Location, size and nursery planting planning: The nursery should be
located in a strategic place to reduce transportation costs to the other nursery
areas or commercial fields. The size of the nursery depends on the final
commercial planting area. If it is considered that, semi-commercial and
commercial nurseries will be in production, then two increments cycles will
occur, starting in the “basic nursery”. Usually, the rate of stalk-seed
multiplication in sugarcane is 1:10, then, the area of basic nursery must be
the thousandth part of the final commercial area, that is, if someone wants to
plant 1,000 hectares of commercial sugarcane, then the basic nursery should
be 1 hectare, the semi commercial nursery 10 hectares, and finally, the
commercial nursery 100 hectares.
Nurseries planting dates will depend on the date on which the planting of the
commercial field will take place. It is necessary to take into account that the
proper age of the seed is seven months for most varieties. An example might
be: if someone wants to make commercial planting on January 15, 2014,
then the commercial planting of commercial nursery would be June 15,
2013; the semi commercial nursery planting on November 15, 2012 and the
basic nursery on April 15, 2012. That means that the planning of the
commercial planting must be made two years in advance. It is important also
to consider the reduction of time between cutting the seed, and nursery
establishment and commercial planting.
Werner Ovalle is Agr. Eng, M.Sc., Plant Pathology; José Luis Quemé is Agr. Eng, Ph.D., Plant breeder;
Héctor Orozco is Agr. Eng, M.Sc., Sugarcane Breeding and Selection Program leader; Ovidio Pérez is Agr.
Eng, M.Sc., Agronomy Program Leader at CENGICAÑA. www.cengicana.org
Area management before planting of nurseries: To sugarcane nurseries
planting, the location of areas whose potential yield is better than the
average of the farm and ideally with irrigation availability is
recommended. (South African Sugar Association, 1999). It is convenient to
divide the area into three parts: one third dedicated to the first ratoon
nursery, other third to plant nursery, and the last third for resting, and
waiting for the next nursery planting. Proper handling of previous
plantings avoids the presence of crop residues or stools, which can turn in
undesirable plant mixtures within the desired variety and also could be
infected with pathogens. For avoiding this, the burning of residues of the
previous crop is recommended. Subsequently, the stools of previous
cultivar should be killed, using an herbicide, 35 to 40 days after harvest.
The recommended dose and product are 4 to 5 liters per hectare of
glyphosate (Montepeque, 2007).
Rotations with leguminous plants for their incorporation as green manure, were
evaluated in areas designated for nurseries, and the results are promising, in the
third of the nursery waiting area. Rotations with green manure, further of
providing nitrogen, it improves structure and preserve the soil. Rotations also
are able to break the soil, pests and diseases cycles, and restore biodiversity.
Rotation is advised either with Crotalaria juncea or Cannavalia ensiformis.
These two leguminous plant species are well adapted to the soil and climate
where sugar cane is grown in the south coast of Guatemala. It has been
estimated that C. juncea can produce up to 35 metric tons of fresh biomass per
hectare in relatively poor soils with a total contribution of 235 kg of nitrogen
per hectare. Under favorable weather conditions and high fertility soils C.
juncea can produce up to 50 tons of fresh biomass, with a total contribution of
more than 300 kg N / ha (Perez et al., 2008, Balañá et al., 2010).
Soil preparation for planting of legumes matches with common labors used to
grow sugar cane. One to two weeks after of herbicide application to kill the old
stools, plowing is performed, which depending on the soil; consists of one or
two passings of Breaking plow and after, one or two passings of Leveling plow
(leveling). This ensures a good bed for seed germination of legumes. Planting of
rotation plant is made immediately after leveling, sowing in furrows with
spacing of 0.5 to 0.6 meters between rows for both legumes. For C. juncea plant
one or two seeds per hole is recommended, with a distance of 0.10 m between
holes, whereas for C. ensiformis sowing one or two seeds per hole every 0.2
meters, is suggested. With these distances, the average amount of seed used is
about 15-20 kg / ha in the case of Crotalaria and 100-150 kg / ha for
Depending on the altitude stratum and the planting date, the maximum
accumulation of biomass occur between 60 and 75 days after planting in
the lower stratum, and this in most cases, corresponds to the onset of
flowering. In the higher stratum, where growth is slower, this can be
extended to 120 days. The biomass is incorporated mechanically, through
two passings of plow that allow a good incorporation of the material to a
depth of 0.15 m to 0.20 m. The furrowing and sugarcane planting must be
made in the first two weeks after green manure incorporation, in order to
take advantage of the availability of nitrogen from mineralization of green
Hot water treatment of the seed: For the systemic bacteria pathogen control, as
the causal agent of the ratoon stunting disease (Leifsonia xyli subsp. xyli) and
leaf scald (Xanthomonas albilineans), hot water treatment is important. It has
been demonstrated the production increasing of sugar per area by removing
those pathogens. For L. xyli, the average differences in production of healthy
and infected nine varieties were 7.88 percent, 16.47 percent and 21.38 percent,
in cultivated cane, first ratoon and second ratoon, respectively, which a
represented up to 26.9 tons of cane per hectare on average in the second ratoon
(Ovalle and García, 2006). For X. albilineans, the differences in sugar
production between healthy and disease plants were 8.69 percent and 2.48
percent for two varieties with different susceptibility levels to the disease
(Ovalle, 2002). Due to these differences in the resistance of L. xyli and X.
albilineans to the heat, it has been experimentally determined the better
treatment for each of these pathogens (CENGICAÑA, 2001; Egan and Sturgess,
For L. xyli, any of the following two treatments to the seed is recommended: a)
Dip inmersion in hot water at 51oC for 10 minutes, followed by resting out of
water for 8 to 12 hours and finally, inmersion in hot water at 51oC through one
hour, b) Hot water treatment at 52oC for 30 minutes. In both cases, seedpieces
(setts) with one or two buds should be used. It has been shown that either
described treatments can decrease the amount of cells of L. xyli to undetectable
levels using the serological test "dot blot immunoassay". In the case of the
second depicted treatment, 52oC for 30 minutes, further losses of the buds
germination can occur (seven percent more losses on average in three studied
varieties) (Ovalle et al., 2001). If records show the seed rotting due to soil
fungal infection or termites infestations, it is desirable that after hot water
treatment, the cutting surfaces are protected by fungicide application (Captan+
carboxin) 25 grams per gallon, and insecticide (Fipronil) 8 cc per gallon during
two minutes (Azañón et al., 2005). It is important to emphasize that immersion
in fungicide and insecticide is recommended only if there have been problems
in previous plantings in the used fields.
Most varieties evaluated by CENGICAÑA have shown increases in sugarcane
production when treated thermally, compared with L. xyli infected plant
material. Therefore, hydrothermal treatment to control the ratoon stunting
disease is recommended in any of the varieties to be used commercially.
For X. albilineans control, immersion of one or two bud setts in a constant
water flow, at room temperature for 48 hours is recommended. It can be made
in a tank with a controlled water flow to allow the continuous overflow water
renewal, and thus prevent the fermentation. After that, the seed-pieces are
dipped in water at 50°C for three hours. Steindl, cited by Egan and Sturgess
(1980) showed that such treatment can completely eliminate the infection by the
leaf scald. Taking the necessary precautions to prevent reinfection by X.
albilineans, in subsequent cycles, treatments can be made at 52oC for 30
minutes (the same short treatment used to L. xyli control). Since some sugarcane
cultivars are resistant to infection by X. albilineans, it is not necessary to subject
them to specific hydrothermal treatment for that bacteria.
Care must be taken to avoid reinfection by systemic pathogens: Fungi,
bacteria, or viruses are Systemic pathogens found in at least one infection stage,
located into the plant vascular system and / or within their tissues. Due to this
factor, an important way of systemic disease dissemination in sugar cane is
through the use of infected seed pieces. As it was mentioned, it is possible to
obtain systemic pathogen free seed pieces, which drives to healthy plants in the
nursery; reinfection of these nurseries should be avoided to maintain good
Both for the ratoon stunting disease and for leaf scald, the causing bacteria, can
be transported through the tools, for that reason, the next recommendations
must be taken into account: 1) Use of specific tools, equipment, and clothes for
each work in the nurseries. 2) Avoid the use of machinery in nursery areas, after
having been used in commercial fields. 3) Make machetes disinfection by
dipping them for 30 seconds, in a 5 percent Iodine solution (Victoria et al.,
1985), or by washing them with detergent, and burning them with ethanol at 95
percent of purity. (Ovalle and Nelson, 2005). In tasks carried out in the nursery
(tilling or seed cutting), such disinfections should be done as often as possible.
It has been found that this kind of care eliminate the possibility of reinfection in
seed-pieces free from L. xyli infection (Victoria et al., 1985; Ovalle and Nelson,
2005). 4)In the leaf scald case, if stools with disease symptoms are observed in
the nurseries, they should be eliminated by applying the Glyphosate (Roundup
35.6 s.l.) at a dose which can be in between of 250 and 500 ml in 20 liters of
water as follows: cover the hand with a chlorinated latex glove and with a sock,
then introduce covered hand in the Glyphosate solution to soak the sock. Rub
the scald infected leaf stool until the top, with careful, to cover the top as far as
the tip leaves. Immediately, bend the tip of the stool to be left as marked. The
effect is observed from 8 to 10 days after treatment, and it has the advantage of
avoiding the damage to surrounding stools and mechanical dissemination of the
bacterium too (Mayén, 2007; Sáenz, 2007).
The described procedure can also be used to remove stools of unwanted clones
(remnants or mixtures into the row) and Johnson grass plants (Sorghum
halepense) or itchgrass plants (Rottboellia cochinchinensis) growing within the
nurseries into the sugarcane rows. All the described care to achieve nurseries
free from systemic diseases caused by L. xyli and X. albilineans is useless, if the
commercial field management does not also includes certain precautions to
reduce reinfection; that is: the disinfection of the cutting tools, which can be
made as recommended for nurseries, as often as possible (at least every time the
change of labors from one plot to another is made) and although, initially, this
activity seems to represent decreases in efficiency of cutting the benefits will be
Nurseries sampling for detection of pathogens which cause ratoon
stunting disease and leaf scald disease
Age of Plant: To detect the ratoon stunting disease bacterium, the best results
are obtained from sampling seven months of age plants. For leaf scald
bacterium, sampling can be made from four months of age, but for practical
reasons, it is better to use the same stalks sampled to ratoon stunting disease, at
seven months of age.
Sample size: Regardless of the size area of the nursery, the sample for
laboratory analysis must be 50 stalks. The stalks should be obtained randomly,
covering the entire area of the nursery, without regard, if stalks are primary,
secondary, tertiary or "suckers" and, therefore, regardless its diameter size.
Useful portion of the stalks: For detection of the bacterium that causes the
ratoon stunting disease (L. xyli) it is required the sampling of the basal portion
of the stalk (the lower third). Therefore, the stalks are cut off at ground level
and 50 pieces must be sent to the lab, with four or five internodes from the base,
all in the same position (the bases on the same side). To detect the bacterium
that causes leaf scald (X. albilineans) is required the upper portion of the stalk
(upper third). Therefore, the stalks are cut out in half and 50 pieces from the
upper half of the stalks, without tips are sent to the laboratory, all in the same
position (the tips to the same side).
Identification of samples: For each package of 50 stalks an identification label
must be attached to it with the following information: Date, Sugar mill, farm
name, plot number, variety, nursery age, nursery category (basic,
semicommercial or commercial), total area of nursery and the requested
Qualification criteria for nursery categories
Taking into account the results of laboratory tests, at seven months of age
(incidences of the ratoon stunting and leaf scald), also regarding the field
evaluations at four months of age (genetic purity; smut, rust brown, orange rust
and mosaic incidence) and other factors, the quality level of the nurseries will
be defined and therefore whether a nursery qualifies as source material for the
establishment of the following category of nursery, or for commercial planting.
Suggested criteria for genetic purity and disease infection level for nurseries
categorizing, are presented in Table 1.
Table 1. Maximum permissible limits depending on nursery category
Basic Semicommercial Commercial
Genetic purity (%) 99 99 99
RSD < 2 < 2 < 4
Smut 0 0 0
Leaf scald < 2 < 2 < 4
Brown rust * < 10/5 < 10/5 < 10/5
Orange rust ** < 10/5 < 10/5 < 10/5
Mosaic < 1 < 5 < 5
* + 3 leave assessing, ** + 7 leave assessing
The commercial cultivation of sugarcane is characterized by having productions
for several years, from one sowing.
. This situation makes important to take into account several factors involved in
the initial phases of the crop, on these factors the good crop development and
production will rely. Hence, it is necessary to consider, in addition to the soil
and nursery preparation, (described in previous sections) the sowing of
Sowing includes the obtainment of seed from the nurseries, fertilization,
distribution of the seed-pieces in the furrow, the seed covering with soil, the
irrigation for “germination”, and the population evaluation (shoots) in the initial
phases (Subiros, 1995; Bakker, 1999).
Varieties and sowing date
For choosing the varieties to be planted, the "Sugarcane Variety Directory"
(described in the Sugarcane Breeding and Selection chapter) should be
consulted. This directory was developed by the Sugarcane breeding and
selection program of CENGICAÑA and the Variety Release Committee of the
Sugar Agro-industry of Guatemala. This directory includes the current
commercial varieties and new varieties that are in commercial development. It
is a matrix, whose first row are the planting/harvest months (from November to
April) and the altitudinal strata appear in the first column; therefore the varieties
are located in the month and stratum where the sugar production and other
interesting features are optimized.
Seed should have different characteristics, such as the genetic quality (varietal
purity), health (free from pests and diseases), physic (stalk vigor without
mechanical damage, mixtures and others) and physiological state (Tarenti,
2004). For physiological quality, the seed age, the good condition of buds and
the good germination, should be considered, also the time between cutting and
planting, and others issues should be regarded. These elements must be
evaluated throughout the entire process of the nurseries production, which are
finally evaluated to define whether they have the necessary conditions for the
seed using or not.
Densities and planting systems
Single furrow method: : it is the most used in Guatemala. There must be
prepared packages of seed of 30 pieces with approximately 0.60 m of length and
preferably with 3-4 buds per piece. The distance between rows can be from 1.5
m to 1.75 m, depending on topography, field production potential, altitude,
variety and other factors such as the type of harvest (manual or mechanized)
and the availability of suitable machinery for each case. Planting is done
manually and the cuttings can be distributed in different ways, being one of
them the "double overlapping chain", which is achieved by placing
approximately 15 viable buds per lineal meter when the seed have good quality,
ensuring thus a good population density in the furrows. The spacing to
distribute a package of 30 cuttings in the furrow (“estaquillado” in Spanish)
depends on the variety and quality of the seed, usually are 9 m. According to
Orozco et al., 2000, in assessments conducted by CENGICAÑA it has been
found that “estaquillado” of 12 m shows results similar to those of 9 m. Planting
depth ranges from 0.20 m to 0.35 m. In traditional planting (with irrigation),
seed-pieces should be covered with approximately 0.05 m of soil, while without
irrigation planting, coverage must be from 0.10 m to 0.15 m.
Double furrow method: This method is also known as "Australian furrow” or
"Pineapple type”. The distance between simple furrows of each pair can be
from 0.40 m to 0.70 m, and the distance among the pairs of furrows can
befrom 1.40 m to 1.80 m. With this type of modifications, the density of stalks
per hectare is increased, therefore the adjustments in fertilizer levels,
“ripener” doses and others, should be considered.
Fertilization and irrigation for germination
The phosphorus fertilizer must be applied at the same time of the furrows
opening and the amount to be applied depends on the soil type and the
phosphorus content determined in a previous soil analysis. The lamina
irrigation depends on soil texture, making the first irrigation of germination
between the moment of covering of the seed-pieces and 24 hours after
planting, applying a lamina of 30 mm. The second irrigation germination is
between 8 and 10 days after the first germination irrigation, applying a lamina
of 40 mm. In the “Pineapple type” system drip irrigation can be used, placing
the distribution hoses at the center of the two each pair of furrows.
Evaluation of the population and the replanting
The evaluation of the plant population has the aim to determine the success of
the planting and for making decisions in case of replanting. From 30 to 40
days after planting, a counting of the plant population (shoots per linear
meter) must be performed, and a population of 10 shoots per meter is
considered suitable, assuming near of 70 percent of germination. Where
spaces of more than 0.75 m along the furrow without shoots are found,
replanting must be done only on those empty spaces.
1. Azañón, V.; Portocarrero, E.; Solares, E.; Guevara, L.; Ovalle, W. 2005.
Efecto de tres calidades de semilla en la producción de dos variedades de
caña de azúcar. In: Memoria. Presentación de resultados de investigación.
Zafra 2004-2005. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. pp. 54-58.
2. Balañá, P.; Pérez, O.; Alfaro, M. A.; Fernández, M. V. 2010. Crotalaria
juncea, Canavalia ensiformis and Mucuna sp. As Possible Nitrogen Sources
for Fertilisation in Sugarcane Commercial Nurseries. Proc. Int. Soc. Sugar
Cane Technol., Vol. 27.
3. Bakker, H. 1999. Sugar cane cultivation and management. Kluwer
academic/Plenum Publishers. New York.
4. BSES. Sugarcane for the future. Ratoon Stunting Disease.
5. http://www.bses.org.au/InfoSheets/IS05053.pdf. Consulta del 23-07-07.
6. Egan, B.T.; Sturgess, O. W. 1980. Commercial control of leaf scald disease
by thermotherapy and a clean seed programme. Proc. Int. Soc. Sugar Cane
7. Mayén, Mario. 2007. Comunicación personal. Febrero 2007.
8. Montepeque, Romeo. 2007. Comunicación personal. Febrero 2007.
9. Orozco, H.; Ceballos, L.; Azañón V. 2000. Aumento de la distancia de
estaquillado. Una opción viable para la reducción de la cantidad de
semilla agámica por unidad de área. In: Memoria Presentación de
resultados de investigación. Zafra 1999-2000. Guatemala,
CENGICAÑA. pp. 31-37.
10. Ovalle, W.; López, E.; Cojtín, J.; Azañón, V.; González, A.; Oliva, E. 2002.
Efecto de cuatro enfermedades en la producción de la caña de azúcar en la
zona sur de Guatemala. In: MEMORIA. 14 Congreso de la Asociación de
Técnicos Azucareros de Centroamérica. pp. 93-99.
11. Ovalle, E.; García, S. 2006. Efecto de la enfermedad del Raquitismo de las
socas (Leifsonia xyli subs. xyli) en el rendimiento de caña de nueve
variedades. Segunda soca. In: Memoria. Presentación de resultados de
investigación. Zafra 2005-2006. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. pp. 95-99.
12. Ovalle, W.; López, E.; Oliva, E. 2001. Evaluación de cinco tratamientos
hidrotérmicos para el control de Raquitismo de las socas. In: Memoria.
Presentación de resultados de investigación. Zafra 2000-2001. Guatemala,
CENGICAÑA. pp. 63-65.
13. Ovalle, W.; Nelson, A. 2005. Efecto de la enfermedad del Raquitismo de las
socas (Leifsonia xyli subs. xyli) en la producción de nueve variedades. In:
Memoria. Presentación de resultados de investigación. Zafra 2004-2005.
Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. pp. 49-53.
14. Pérez, O.; Hernández, F.; López, A.; Balañá, P.; Solares, E. y Maldonado A.
2008. El uso de abonos verdes como alternativa para mejorar la
productividad y sostenibilidad del cultivo de la caña de azúcar. Sugar
Journal, Vol. 70, No. 9. 14-21 p.
15. Sáenz, Oswaldo. 2007. Comunicación personal.
16. Soto, G.; Orozco, H.; Ovalle, W. 1997. Multiplicación y certificación de
semilla asexual de caña de azúcar (Saccharum spp) para la Agroindustria
Azucarera Guatemalteca. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. Documento Técnico
No. 12. 37 p.
17. Subiros Ruiz, F. 1995. El cultivo de la caña de azúcar. San José C. R. Ed.
UNED reimpresión 2000. 448 p.
18. South African Sugar Association. Experimental Station. 1999. Seedcane.
Good quality seedcane. Information Sheet. 3 p.
19. Tarenti, O. 2004. Calidad de semilla, lo que implica y como evaluarla.
Consultado 17 de Agosto de 2011.
20. Victoria, J. I.; Guzmán, M. L.; Ochoa, O. 1985. Chemicals used to
disinfect tools in order to limit the spread of ratoon disease of sugarcane.
CENICAÑA. Colombia. Documento Técnico No. 69. 8 p.
WEED CONTROL AND MANAGEMENT
Weed control and management development has had several phases. First,
the intensive use of herbicides, followed by mechanical work sequence
integration and herbicide use as a second line of defense. Second, herbicide
molecules rotation, dose reduction and application of less polluting
molecules; and finally, weeds control through the use of precision
agriculture, green manures, and herbicide-tolerant varieties.
The critical period of weed interference in sugarcane production occurs in
the first 120 days, after cutting or planting. Therefore, in the sugar industry
pre-emergence and post-emergence herbicides applications are the basis for
weed control, combined with mechanical control that help, in some way, to
control weeds. Among the most important weeds in the zone are: Cyperus
rotundus, Rottboellia cochinchinensis; weeds from Convulvulaceae family
(Ipomoea and Merremia), and Sorghum halapense, Cynodon dactylon,
among others. These weeds cause several complications in crop
management, which can be summarized in production loss and
overspending. It is important to know the strategies for herbicide selection,
which must be founded on technical criteria related with environmental
variables, edapho-climatic issues, cultural practices, and also, physical and
chemical properties of selected herbicide.
The aim of this chapter is to describe the management and rational
recommendations of weed management to the Guatemalan sugarcane
MAJOR WEEDS OF GUATEMALA’S SUGARCANE
The major weeds of Guatemala’s sugarcane regions are listed in order of
importance in Table 1. “Coco-grass” (Cyperus rotundus), is the most
Agr. Eng., M.Sc., Specialist in Weeds and Ripeners at CENGICAÑA www.cengicana.org
important weed, with greater presence in the low (40-100mASL) and coastal
strata (<40mASL), where soils with loam, and sandy loam predominate
Figure 1. Behavior and distribution of Cyperus rotundus
The Itchgrass (Rottboellia cochinchinensis) is the weed that is second in
importance and is one of the most difficult weeds to control because its
biology, rapid growth and high competitivity ability against sugarcane. The
weeds in the sugar industry, not only affect the first days of the crop growth,
but some such as Convulvulaceae family (Ipomoea and Merremia), due to
their kind of growth,invade sugarcane stalks at the end of its cycle, and
cause problems at harvest, with losses in crop-cutting efficiency. In recent
years, there has been a difficulty to control two other weeds species present
throughout the sugarcane area: Momordica charantia y Croton lobatus, and
so far it is not known whether they have some kind of tolerance to certain
herbicides used in Guatemala. Finally, there are some grasses difficult to
control due to their reproduction system as it is the case of Sorghum
halapense and Panicum maximum.
Table 1. Guatemala’ sugar industry major weeds in order of importance
No. Weed Scientific Name
1 Coco-grass, Purple Nut Sedge Cyperus rotundus
2 Itchgrass Rottboellia cochinchinensis
3 Red Sprangletop Leptocloa filiformis
4 Johnson grass, Johnson, Sorghum Sorghum halapense
5 Guinea grass, Buffalo grass Panicum maximum
6 Bermuda grass Cynodon dactylon
7 Snakevine, Wood roses Merremia quinquefolia
8 Picotee morning glory, Japanese
9 Littlebell, Aiea morning glory Ipomoea triloba
10 Bittermelon, Bittergourd or Bitter
11 Lobed croton Croton lobatus
12 Desert horse purslane Trianthema portulacastrum
13 Verdolaga, Pigweed, Little
14 Big Caltrop Kallstroemia maxima
Crop interference with growing weeds
In Agriculture, the term “interference” refers to the sum of pressures on a
particular crop, as a result of weed presence in the common environment,
including competition and allelopathy concepts. Weeds have the ability to
compete for limiting environmental resources (mainly water, light and
nutrients), by releasing allelopathic substances, harbor pests and diseases, and
especially affecting the crop yields, by reducing the number of plantation cuts
(harvests). The degree of interference depends on other factors of competition,
duration, and time of occurrence, modified by soil and climatic factors and by
management factors. It is important to mention that the crop itself has the ability
to limit weed growth, primarily through shading.
According to Meirelles et al., (2009), there are three critical periods for the
weed interference: a) Period before weed interference (PBI), b) Total period of
interference (TPI) c) Critical period of weed interference (CPWI).
The period before weed interference (PBI) refers to the period from sugarcane
sprouting in the presence of weeds, but without negative interference in the final
The total period of interference (TPI) refers to the time from sugarcane
sprouting, in which the crop must be free of weeds without significant
The critical period of weed interference (CPWI) is when effective control
methods must act to minimize production losses (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Sugarcane production percentage observed (blue squares) and
estimated by sigmoidal Boltzman equation (red circles) as a function of
initial periods of coexistence and weed control
In Guatemala several studies have been conducted to determine the critical
period of weed interference. For the upper stratum (<300 mASL), the critical
period is 63 days after planting, while for the middle stratum (100-300mASL)
the period is 57 days. Although there are no data points for low and coastal
strata, empirical experience has shown that the critical period may be less than
40 days, due to that the soil and water conditions, promote a stronger
Weed control methods
In Guatemala, two methods are used for sugarcane weed control: a)
mechanical control and b) chemical control.
Mechanical control: Refers to the use of different implements as part of the
mechanical work carried out in the crop. Among those mechanical works is
the “step tiller” which aims to level the ridge between rows in plant-cane.
This work is done at 40 or 50 days after planting, controlling weeds for
about 15 days, depending on infestation conditions.
Optionally, a second step tiller can be made between 55 and 65 days after
achieving integrated management with chemical control.
In ratoons, cultural work will be 45 days after cutting, i.e. after pre-
emergence herbicide application. A second mechanical control can be
performed 60 days after harvest.
Chemical control: Involves herbicide application. This method is of ample and
easy use in sugarcane crop and with successful control results. The combination of
the two indicated methods is used to achieve longer periods of control. Herbicide
application can be done in three ways: a) mechanized, b) manual, and c) aerial.
-Mechanized application: It is commonly used in Guatemala; involves pre-
emergence and post-emergence herbicide application through sprayers
mounted to 120HP tractors. These sprayers are composed of a reservoir tank
for mixing, and a boom with 25 nozzles depending on its type, distributed in
a band of 12m width. This type of application is generally for flat areas, in
order to be more efficient. When making post-emergence applications in
further developed cane (up to 1.5m) “High Crop” tractors are used.
-Manual application: This is practiced where it is not possible to control
weeds mechanically, because of sugarcane development (closed) or in areas
of irregular topography. It is also performed to control weeds in specific
areas or small areas infested in the lot. For this type of herbicide application
knapsacks with constant pressure are used, which are more efficient than the
traditional ones. This practice is more expensive than the mechanized
practice, that’s why, it should be evaluated whether use it or not, in areas
which really deserve it.
-Aerial application: It is only used for pre-emergent herbicide application
in flat areas, located away from other crops, due to damages that it may
FACTORS AFFECTING HERBICIDE EFFICIENCY
Solar radiation. There are herbicides that have high evaporation losses,
causing decreased effectiveness in weeds control. These losses are given by
photo-decomposition of the herbicide molecule due to sunlight (ultraviolet
radiation). Herbicide degradation is induced when they are applied to dry
soil surface, without irrigation or rainfall. So, when pre-emergent herbicide
is applied, it is recommended its incorporation into the soil to ensure product
efficiency and residual effect. This operation can be performed with
irrigation or rainwater.
Precipitation (humidity). The rain interferes with the action of herbicides,
depending on when it occurs. The occurrence of rainfall before herbicide
application increases the water content in the soil and in the top plants hydrates
the waxes of the leaf surface, thus increasing the plant’s susceptibility to
herbicides and improving the control degree.
The influence of rainfall on herbicide-uptake through leaves, also depends
on the characteristic of each product, as some are absorbed quickly, and
others slowly. Herbicides formulated in oil are less affected by rain than
those ones that are based on water formulation. The time required for the
absorption of post-emergence herbicides in plants is of great importance.
This varies according to the herbicide, but generally, is about 30 minutes.
Plants exposed to prolonged stress moisture, may have thicker cuticle, more
pubescence, and consequently, herbicide leaf-uptake and translocation will
be less, due to lower metabolic activity. Herbicide must be applied when
topsoil moisture is suitable to favor herbicide molecule-binding with the
soil’s solid phase, reducing the risk of losses to the atmosphere. In pre-
emergent herbicide applications, soil moisture is important, due to product
dispersion through the soil, reaching, seed or weed’s roots.
Temperature. Air temperature influences in many ways herbicide action,
they can modify physical properties such as solubility, vapor pressure and
alter plant’s physiological processes. Generally, within the physiological
limits of each plant, herbicide absorption by the leaves increases with
temperature. High temperature increases the leaf cuticle and affects plant’s
metabolic activity, also promotes the volatilization of herbicide molecules.
In general, high temperature on the ground surface is a factor that enhances
the loss by herbicide volatilization. There are some practices that reduce the
negative impact of adverse environmental conditions, these include:
1.-Do not apply, when relative humidity is less than 60 percent, when
temperature is higher than 35°C, and when wind speed is greater than
2.-Do not apply herbicides when plants are under stress.
3.-Apply formulations less sensitive to environmental conditions.
4.-Apply at initial morning hours, late afternoon or evening.
5.-Use, if possible, large drops during pulverization.
Sorption. It refers to the organic molecule retention by the soil, without
distinction of specific processes of adsorption, absorption, precipitation and
hydrophobic partition (Oliveira et al., 2003). These specific sorption
processes, can act concurrently in herbicide molecule retention. Thus,
sorption of these molecules is much more complex than ions that serve as
plant nutrients (Oliveira et al., 2003). Herbicide sorption involves
hydrophobic interactions, physical and chemical processes in the compound
that passes from the soil solution to the external and internal colloid surface.
In some situations, sorbed molecules can convert in unavailable forms,
called residues. Organic matter is the main residue site formation. Residue
formation is an important mechanism of herbicide dissipation. While the
formation of these compounds may compromise herbicide efficacy,
especially residual herbicide applied to the soil, the amount of herbicide
sorbed depends on the physical-chemical soil characteristics, the
formulation, the applied product dose, and the climatic conditions.
Herbicides can penetrate through aerial structures (leaves, stems, flowers,
and fruits) and through underground organs (roots, rhizomes, stolons, tubers,
etcetera), younger structures and also seeds.
Leaves. They are the weed’s main organs involved in the penetration of
postemergence applied herbicides. In foliar surfaces with low epicuticular
wax content, drops of applied herbicide cover large areas. In leaves with
high epicuticular wax content, the leaf surface covered by herbicide,
decreases. Leaves present various levels of trichomes and gland
development, which may vary with the species. Leaves can intercept applied
drops, preventing them to reach the epidermal surface. Although, it is stated
that small absorption can occur through trichomes.
Cuticle and stomata. This is the main route of herbicide absorption in
postemergence application. Therefore, the use of selected surfactants in the
mixtures, contribute to the mixture’s surface tension breakup that is applied
in the leaf, causing a better spread of the product and allowing stomata sorbs
more product making an important role in the herbicides penetration. The
maximum mixture’s surface tension needed to penetrate stomata is 30
dynes/cm2. The cuticle over the guard cells appears to be thinner and more
permeable (less epicuticular wax), being a less rigid barrier to herbicide
penetration. All weed species have stomata on both adaxial and abaxial
surfaces, although most of these stomata are located on the abaxial surface
of the leaf. The exact penetration mechanism is not yet known for all
products, but it is admitted that the nonpolar and polar compounds follow
the lipophilic and hydrophilic route, respectively.
WEED CONTROL AND MANAGEMENT
Ratoon. The first weed control in ratoon is performed 3-12 days after cutting
(dac), according to weeds area incidence or coverage and soil moisture. The
second control should be effective around 30 to 35 dac, after verifying the soil
moisture and when the maximum coverage threshold is reached (15 percent). In
areas without irrigation, or low soil moisture, high solubility products should be
used. The herbicide mixture and dose will be made in terms of incidence and
type of weed, and the highest control days will be seek (120 days).
Plant cane. In plant-cane, weed control starts 8 or 10 days after planting (dap)
with a pre-emergence herbicide application after a second irrigation. Coverage,
mixture, and dosage should be previously determined. The second herbicide
application (post-emergence) is performed after fertilization work. It is
important to define the maximum threshold and the weed development to
calculate mixture and dose that will be applied. There are intermediate
mechanical tasks that help achieve longer control thus, is important to note that
in areas with high infestation, weeds must be uprooted and/or patching (directed
applications) in the lot.
In plant-cane and ratoon-cane, trials have been made in the sugarcane region
with diverse soil types with the presence of “Purple Nut Sedge and “Red
Sprangletop”. In these trials herbicides of the Imidazoline group (Plateau 70
WG; Arsenal 24 SL and Mayoral 350 SL) have been applied; these products
have shown 64-89 percent weed control, achieving between 48-75 control days
(Figure 3). Also postemergence control with Sulfonylureas herbicides (Sempra
75 WG) mixed with low 2-4D Amine dose (0.41/ha), have shown satisfactory
control of Purple Nut Sedge, both aerial and underground, although for grass
control like Red Sprangletop, Krismat 75 WG has proved to be efficient
(Morales et al., 2010).
For Imidazolinone applications is important to consider soil type, to avoid
Toxicity, particularly in sandy soils. These products can cause a negative effect
on crop growth and development at an early stage thus, is recommended ratoon
applications not later than five days after harvest.
For post-emergence broadleaf weed control, herbicide applications based on
triazine (Ametryn and Terbutryn) applied 15 days after harvest have shown
control that ranges from 60 to 79 percent with 60 days control. In late
applications (over 30 days), the controls are inefficient and with phytotoxic
effects (burning effect) in the sugarcane plants, resulting in lower sugarcane
Another pre-emergence weed control management option is Clomazone
herbicide, which has an effect on a wide range of broadleaf weeds and grasses.
Results indicate that 90 percent weed control is obtained with control
applications at 40 days. In post-emergence control applications of Cynodon
dactylon, satisfactory results are obtained, since no repopulation appears at least
100 days after application. Indaziflam herbicide is another option for pre-
emergence grass weeds control, especially “Itchgrass” and some broadleaf
weeds. In summary, there are new and traditional herbicides as technology
options for chemical weed control. Herbicide use should be done in an
integrated manner with mechanical control tasks to achieve good control, at the
Figure 3. Cyperus rotundus and Leptochloa filiformis control, A) Control
treatment without application and B) Plateau 70 WG, Verapaz Farm,
Pantaleon Sugarmill, 2010
Herbicides used in sugarcane cultivation
There are about 70 commercial products from 17 chemical families used as
herbicides in Guatemala’ Sugar Agro-Industry, which information is detailed
in the herbicide catalog harvest 08-09, with links to online dynamic
uales/CatalogoHerbicidasZafra08-09.pdf). The description of the most
relevant herbicide management aspects are listed below.
1. Aryloxyphenoxypropionate: Fluazifop-p-butil. This is a post-emergence
systemic herbicide used in grasses in doses of 1 to 2 L/ha. It is recommended
to apply before tillering when weeds are young (5-8 leaves) and before
flowering. Some species under control are: Echinochloa spp.; Setaria spp.;
Cynodon dactylon; Digitaria sanguinalis; Paspalum dilatatum and Sorghum
2. Phosphonic acid: Glufosinate-ammonium. This is a post-emergence non-
selective herbicide. Under water stress conditions decreases its effectiveness
on broadleaf weeds. The recommended dose is in between of 1.5 and 2.5
L/ha. In high relative humidity conditions the product efficiency increases.
When applied with ammonium sulphate (adjuvant) this one increases the
product absorption and is highly soluble, with poor absorption into the soil.
Some species under control are: Echinochloa colonum; Setaria spp.; Cynodon
dactylon; Digitaria sanguinalis; Sorghum halapense; Portulaca oleraceae and
3. Benzoic Acid: Dicamba. Post-emergence contact herbicide in relation to
the weeds. The recommended doses range from 1 to 1.5 L/ha. It is an
herbicide used on broadleaf weeds and sedge, it is recommended to mix it
with water at pH less than 7. Some species under control are: Amaranthus
spinosus; Bidens pilosa; Croton lobatus; Cyperus rotundus; Euphorbia
heterophylla; Ipomoea nil; Kallstroemia maxima; Oxalis neaei and Richardia
4. Bipyridilium:Paraquat. These are post-emergence contact herbicides. The
recommended dose ranges from 1.5 to 3L/ha. It is a herbicide used on
broadleaf weeds and sedge. It is recommended to mix it in water with pH less
than 7. This herbicide has a solubility (also called Log Kow) of4. It is a non-
selective herbicide; therefore it has a wide weed control spectrum.
5. Cyclohexanone: Cletodium or Cletodim. This is a systemic post-
emergence herbicide recommended for target applications and during summer.
It is used in grasses in doses from 0.12 to 0.18 kg i.a/ha. It is a herbicide that
leaches rapidly and it is recommended to be applied with adjuvants, such as
oils. Tank mixtures with sodium bentazone salts, must not be prepared. Some
species under control are: Digitaria sanguinalis; Echinochloa spp.; Cynodon
dactylon and Sorghum halapense.
6. Chloroacetamide: Acetoclor. This is a pre-emergent systemic herbicide,
with relation to weeds, with poor mobility within the plant. The
recommended dose is 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms of i.a/ha. This is a herbicide used in
grasses and some broadleaf weeds with waxy appearance. Some species
under control are; Sonchus oleraceus; Polygonum aviculare; Raphanus
sativus; Digitaria sanguinalis; Croton lobatus; Echinochloa colonum;
Portulaca oleraceae; Richardia scabra; Leptochloa filiformis y Rottboellia
cochinchinensis (Leonardo, 1998).
7. Diphenyl ether: Oxyfluorfen. It is a post-emergence contact herbicide and
for some pre-emergence weed species. Doses range from 0.5 to 2 L/ha,
depending on soil type. This herbicide has a log Kow = 4.47; it is inmobilized
in clay soils with high organic matter content, which affects weed control.
Some of the species under control are: In post-emergence: Bidens pilosa;
Ipomoea nil; Kallstroemia maxima; Panicum maximum and Portulaca
oleraceae. In pre-emergence: Croton lobatus; Echinochloa colonum;
Euphorbia hirta and Leptochloa filiformis.
8. Dinitroaniline: Pendimethalin: These are pre-emergence contact
herbicides recommended in dose that ranges from 0.6 to 1.2 kilograms i.a. /ha.
These are used on broadleaf weeds and grasses. The product is almost
insoluble in water and therefore must be added in the mixture after surfactant
application. It is slightly soluble with a low Kow of 5.18. Some species under
control are: Digitaria sanguinalis; Echinochloa colonum; Eleusine indica;
Ixophorus unisetus; Leptochloa filiformis and Rottboellia cochinchinensis.
9. Phenoxycarboxylic acid: 2, 4-D. It is a post-emergence herbicide with a
recommended dose of 0.8 to 1.3 liters of i.a/ha. The application should be
directed to the weeds and when the plant is in a young stage and greater
physiological activity. The mixture should be done with water at pH below 7.
It is a moderately soluble product with a log Kow of 2.81. Some species
under control are: Amaranthus viridis; Bidens pilosa; Commelina diffusa;
Croton lobatus; Cyperus flavus; Cyperus rotundus; Euphorbia hirta; Ipomoea
triloba and Kallstroemia maxima.
10. Phosphonic acid: Glyphosate. These are postemergence contact
herbicides in relation to weed, recommended dose is between of 0.5 and 0.8
kilograms of i.a/ha. It is a herbicide recommended for perennial weed
directed or previous cane emergence application. The water for mixtures
should have a pH of between 4 and 6. Cane phytotoxicity causes leaf chlorosis
and young leaves yellowing. It is highly soluble with a log Kow of -1.6
(Alister and Kogan, 2005). Some species under control are: Brachiaria
mutica; Commelina diffusa; Cynodon dactylon; Cyperus flavus; Cyperus
odoratus; Cyperus rotundus; Echinochloa colonum; Panicum maximum;
Sorghum halapense and Tirantia erecta.
11. Imidazoline: Imazapyr and Imazapic. These are non-selective
herbicides applied to pre-emergence weeds in doses of 0.5 to 1 L/ha. They
can be applied to post-emergence weed and cane, but in a targeted manner.
The product has a residual effect, which is activated in humid conditions and
is soluble with a log Kow of 1.30-0.16. Some species under control are:
Croton lobatus; Cynodon dactylon; Digitaria sanguinalis; Echinochloa
colonum; Euphorbia heterophylla; Ipomoea nil; Leptochloa filiformis and
12. Isoxazole: Isoxaflutole. This is a herbicide applied in pre-emergence of
the weed and cane, in doses of 100 to 400g/ha. It can be applied to
posemergence weed and cane, but in a targeted manner. A phytotoxicity
symptom is a cane leaf chlorosis. This herbicide is highly mobile in the plant.
It has log Kow=2.50 (DKN) and 2.32 (IFT). It is recommended water pH less
than 7. Some species under control are: Amaranthus spinosus; Amaranthus
viridis; Digitaria sanguinalis; Echinochloa colonum; Eleusine indica and
13. Sulfonylureas: Trifloxysulfuron, Halosulfuron-methyl,
Ethoxysulfuron, and Metsulfuron Methyl. These are herbicides applied to
the weeds post-emergence weeds. The Krismat (Trifloxysulfuron) and Sempra
(Halosulfuron-methyl) recommended dose are 160 to 180g/ha and 100 to 150
g/ha, respectively. They can be applied to the post-emergence weeds and cane.
It is highly mobile in the plant. It has a log Kow=1.40 (Trifloxysulfuron).
Some species under control are: Cyperus flavus, Cyperus odoratus and
Cyperus rotundus. Krismat controls in pre-emergence and post-emergence:
Amaranthus spp.; Digitaria sanguinalis; Euphorbia spp.; and Rottboellia
14. Triazine: Ametryn, Atrazine, Hexazinone, Metribuzin, Terbutryn.
These are herbicides frequently used for pre-emergence weeds, with
combination of several triazines to increase the weed control spectrum.
Metryn used doses are 1 to 1.8 kg i.a/ha. Atrazine 1 to 1.5 kg i.a/ha.
Hexazinone and Metribuzin 0.5 kg i.a/ha. Soluble products, Atrazine with a
log Kow of 2.34 and Hexazinone with 1.17. Some species under Atrazine and
Metribuzin control are: Amaranthus spinosus; Anagallis arvensis; Bidens
pilosa; Croton lobatus; Euphorbia hirta; Ipomoea nil; Kallstroemia maxima
and Melampodium divaricatum. Terbutryn, Ametryn and Hexazinone control
in pre-emergence and post-emergence control: Bidens pilosa; Digitaria
sanguinalis; Echinochloa colonum; Ixophorus unisetus; Panicum
fasciculatum; Rottboellia cochinchinensis; Leptochloa filiformis; Melanthera
nicea; Cyperus flavus; Cyperus odoratus; Oxalis neaei; Portulaca oleracea
and Sida rhombifolia.
15. Substituted urea: Diuron. These are contact herbicides that can be
applied in pos-emergence in relation to weeds, and in some cases, they can be
applied in pre-emergence. Recommended doses ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 kg
i.a/ha. These are herbicides used on broadleaf weeds and some grasses.
Moderately soluble product with a log Kow of 2.77. Some species under
control are: In pre-emergence: Croton lobatus; Echinochloa colonum;
Euphorbia hirta and Leptochloa filiformis. In post-emergence: Bidens pilosa;
Ipomoea nil; Kallstroemia maxima; Panicum maximum and Portulaca
Herbicide phytotoxicity on promising sugarcane varieties
Figure 4 shows sugarcane’s susceptibility and tolerance stages to applied
herbicides according to their phenological stages. Stage 1 comprises from
planting to 20 days, during which sugarcane regrowth shows greater cuticle
thickness. At this stage, herbicide does not reach inner leaves, so the plant
becomes tolerant to herbicides and weeds (Christoffoleti and Lopez, 2009). In
ratoon cane, this phase is faster, thus, more residual herbicides can be
considered for application. Stage 2 comprises from 20 to 50 days after
planting, when there are two to three leaves; likewise there is root loss from
the seed or wand, this stage is susceptible to herbicide application. In ratoon
cane there is higher number of roots, thus the crop tolerates more soluble
herbicide applications. Stage 3 is in between 50 and 90 days after sowing,
when there are true roots. At this stage, there is severe weed competition with
the crop, affecting plant tillering and making it susceptible to post-emergence
herbicide application. Stage 4 or commonly called: crop closing, occurs after
120 days after planting. At this stage, the stalks are developed and defined,
and they will not be affected by herbicide application.
Figure 4. Tolerance and susceptibility instars to sugarcane’s herbicide
application (Bezuidenhout, 2003). Adapted by Espinoza and Morales,
Table 2. Tolerance or susceptibility of new or recently introduced varieties to
pre-emergence (15 days after planting dap) and post-emergence (50
dap) herbicide application
Herbicide tolerance Susceptibility to the herbicide
Preemergence Posemergency Preemergence Posemergency
CG99-048 Diuron and
CG98-10 Terbutryne and
CP88-1165 Terbutryne and
RB87-2015 Terbutryne Terbutryne
RB73-2577 Terbutryne and
Mex82-114 Terbutryne Terbutryne and
1. Alister, C.; Kogan, M. 2005. ERI Environmental risk index. A simple
proposal to select agrochemicals for agricultural use. Crop Protection., v.
25, n. 3, p. 202-211.
2. Bezuidenhout, N.; O'Learya, J.; Singelsa, G.; Bajicb V. 2003. A process-
based model to simulate changes in tiller density and light interception of
sugarcane crops. Agricultural Systems Volume 76, Issue 2, P. 589-599.
3. Christoffoleti, P.; López, R. 2009. Comportamento dos herbicidas,
aplicados ao solo na cultura da cana-de-açúcar. 1era
Edición, CP 2,
Piracicaba, SP. 72 p.
4. Espinoza, J. G. 2009. Acumulación de sacarosa y función de glifosato como
madurante en caña de azúcar. Guatemala: CENGICAÑA. 7 p.
5. Espinoza, J. G. 2010. Evaluaciones de herbicidas en la agroindustria cañera
de Guatemala. Presentaciones de resultados 2008-2009-2010 Comité de
malezas y madurantes. CENGICAÑA. Presentación Power Point 15
6. Meirelles, G.; Alves, P. L. C. A.; Nepomuceno, M.P. 2009. Determinação
dos períodos de convivência da cana-soca com plantas daninhas. Planta
Daninha, Viçosa-MG, V. 27, n. 1, p. 67-73,
7. Leonardo, A. 1998. Manual para la identificación y manejo de las
principales malezas en la caña de azúcar en Guatemala. Guatemala,
CENGICAÑA. 131 P.
8. Morales, J.; Pérez, V.; Garita, I. 2010. Evaluación de la eficiencia de
Sempra 75 WG (Halosulfuron metil) + 2,4-D, en el control de coyolillo
(Cyperus spp).Informe Técnico, Ingenio Pantaleon-Duwest. 2010. 5 p.
9. Oliveira, P.; Silva, A.; Vargas, L.; Ferreira, F. 2003. Manejo de plantas
daninhas na cultura da caña de açúcar. Vicosa, MG. 150 p.
10. Ufer, C.; Mejía, M. 2010. Mapeo de la distribución de malezas en la zona
cañera del ingenio Pantaleon. Informe de resultados, Departamento de
Agronomía. 15 p.
NUTRITION AND FERTILIZATION
NUTRIENT REQUIREMENT OF SUGAR CANE
Plants like sugar cane, require 16 essential elements for growth and
development. These nutrients are carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O),
nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg),
sulfur (S), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), boron (B),
molybdenum (Mo) and chlorine (Cl). Further, silicon (Si) could be included,
although it is not considered essential it is important and a beneficial element in
the nutrition of sugar cane cultivar. C, H and O which conform a mayor portion
of the weight in the plant, are obtained from water and air. The other elements
are minerals and may come from the soil or are added as fertilizers.
Nutrient requirement for sugar cane varies depending on variety, soil type,
weather conditions and crop management. Table 1 shows the total nutrient
extraction (N, P, K, Ca and Mg) by for four sugar cane varieties, under
irrigation conditions, on the central region of the Guatemalan sugar cane
Table 1. Extraction of N, P, K, Ca and Mg by each tonne of comercial sugarcane
(kg/t cane) by four varieties of sugar cane in Guatemala
CP72-2086 PGM89-968 SP79-2233 CG96-59
Nitrogen (N) 1.0 0.92 0.88 1.19
Phosphorus (P2O5) 0.40 0.45 0.45 0.48
Potassium (K2O) 2.65 2.81 3.1 2.87
Calcium (Ca) 0.60 0.51 0.64 0.65
Magnesium (Mg) 0.27 0.19 0.33 0.21
It can be observed in Table 1, that K is the nutrient required in the highest
amount by the sugarcane plant and it ranges from 2.65 kg in variety CP72-2086
to 3.1 kg of K2O per tonne of cane in variety SP79-2233. With regard to N,
requirements among varieties are different too. For example, variety CG96-59
requieres more N than the others, with 1.19 kg of N/t cane. Variety CP72-2086
is considered of intermediate extraction ability with 1 kg of N/t cane.
Agr. Eng., M.Sc., Agronomy Program Leader at CENGICAÑA. www.cengicana.org
Varieties such as SP79-2233 and PGM89-968 have smaller requirements with
lower extraction values such as 0.88 and 0.92 kg of N/t of commercial cane. The
lower requirements of N for these two varieties could be associated to the
presence of efficient nitrogen fixing bacteria as reported in a study on biological
fixation of nitrogen where isotopic 15
N techniques were used (Pérez et al., 2005).
Nitrogen is an essential component of aminoacids, nucleic acids, chlorophyll and
other pigments and it also takes part in all enzymatic processes. Nitrogen is
absorbed by the plant roots in the form of ammonium (NH4
) and nitrate (NO3
ions (Mengel and Kirkby, 2000). Lack of nitrogen is manifested in poor
development of the whole plant, poor stunting ability, thin, raquitic stalks and
pale yellowish green tone of the leaves (Figure 1). Symptms appear first on older
leaves due to the mobility of this element in the plant.
Figure 1. Sugar cane variety CP73-1547 on a Mollisol soil with residual humidity, in
the coast area. a) without N application it presents general deficiency
symptoms. b) with 130 kg of N/ha applied as urea. Finca Santa Elena,
San Diego Sugar Mill.
Forms of N in the soil: Soil N can be found mainly in organic forms (more than
95%, in general), bound to C in humus of in plant cells (dead of alive),
microorganisms and small animals (Allison, 1973); only a very small amount is
found in mineral forms. The organic forms on soil N are not available for plants
and they should be transformed into mineral forms (NH4
) through the soil
microorganisms, so they can be used by the plant roots. This is how
mineralization of organic N, coming from organic matter (OM) is an important
source of available N for the plants. Mineralization rate of the soil organic N is
determined by environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and the
amount and type of the present organic N.
Organic Matter of the sugar cane plantation area in Guatemala: In general, it
can be said that the contents of organic matter in the soils of the sugar cane
plantation area in Guatemala are high when compared with other tropical regions
cultivated with the same crop. Accumulation of organic matter is a characteristic
of soils that derive from volcanic ash, especially, the Andisols with high contents
of amorphous clays such as “alophane” (Broadbent, 1964).
Figure 2 shows the distribution of OM in the soils of the Guatemalan sugar cane
plantation area. In the coast level stratum (< 40 masl) most soils have a content of
organic matter below 3.0 per cent, with predominance of Mollisol and Entisol
soils, with high productivity potential, due mainly to temperature conditions,
humidity and solar radiation which benefit crop development in these areas. It is
common to find intermediate contents of OM (3.0% – 5.0%) in Inceptisol and
Mollisol soils of the low stratum and in Andisol soils derived from recent
volcanic ash in the higher stratum or piedmont. The higher levels of organic
matter (MO > 5.0%) are found in more evolutioned Andisol soils of the middle
zone in the region.
Figure 2. Organic Matter Map for the Guatemalan Sugar cane plantation area
Crop response to nitrogen application: sugar cane crop response to nitrogen
application shows a high correlation with organic matter in the soils of the
Guatemalan sugar cane plantation area. Figure 3 shows the ratio of organic
matter with the response of the crop in terms of the percentage increases in cane
yield. In the inserted table, the probabilities of response to N are included.
Figure 3 shows that in 94% of cases when the organic matter content of the soil
was low (OM < 3.0%) increments over 20 per cent TCH were obtained,
whereas for all soils with higher contents (OM > 5.0%) the increments were
below 11 per cent. In soils with medium levels of organic matter (3.0 – 5.0 %)
responses were variable, but in most cases they were lower tan 20 per cent.
Figure 3. Ratio between soil organic matter and percent increase in tonnage due
to N application
It was determined also that N doses are increased with ratoon crop, especially
for those soils with low contents of organic matter. Figure 4 shows the
evolution of the response of variety CP72-2086 to the application of different
levels of N in four consecutive years, the optimum economic dose is also
shown (OEDN). The Soil was Mollisol with low content of organic matter (1.8
%). In plant crop stage (1995), the application of 50 kg of N/ha was sufficient
enough to achieve high yields of cane, similar to those obtained with the higher
doses of N and showing a very significant difference with the non fertilized
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Soil organic matter (%)
Low Medium High
Response probabilities to N
TCH increase (%)
< 11 11 – 20 > 20
< 3 0 6 94
3 – 5 31 47 21
> 5 100 0 0
control crop (0N). For the first ratoon (1996), it was observed that the
application of 50 kg of N/h was not sufficient and 100 kg N/ha was needed to
achieve high yields. For second and third ratoon crops (1997 and 1998
respectively), responses to N were even higher, requiring high N doses
(equivalent to the NODN) to maintain adecuate yields. These doses which
varied within harvestings were estimated from the cuadratic adjusted
regressions for each year of the experiment (Pérez, 2001).
Figure 4. Evolution of the response of variety CP72-2086 to applications of
different doses of N and the estimated Optimal Economic Dose (OEDN)
during four consecutive years in a Mollisol soil with low content of
organic matter (1.8 %)
Higher doses of N that are required each time the crop is harvested could be
explained by the decrease in the mineralization ratio of organic mater, as a
consecuence of soil compactation, which is caused by heavy machinery and
traffic used during crop management after harvesting (tillage and
Recommended N doses: Table 2, shows the Guide for N application doses that
are recommended considering basically organic matter content of soil, expected
cane yield and cultivar cycle (plant or ratoon crop). N dose recommendations
for plant crop go from 60 to 80 kg of N/ha, according to organic matter content,
while the recommendations for ratoon crop are made according to the expected
cane yields (TCH), using the nitrogen per tone of cane ratio (Rel N:TC), which
varies with organic matter level.
Variable OED N
For soils containing low OM levels (< 3.0 %) the N per hectare dose is
determined multiplying expected sugarcane yield (TCH) by 1.14 factor. In
medium content soils (3.0 – 5.0 % of OM) it is obtained using a factor of 1.0
and for soils with higher levels of OM (> 5.0 %), by using the factor 0.9. For
sandy soils, add between 10 and 20 kg of N/ha additional to the recommended
Table 2. Recomended N doses (kg N/ha) for the sugar cane crop in Guatemalan
soils originated from volcanic ash
Kg of N/ha
80 1.14 100 150
(3.0 – 5.0)
70 1.0 90 130
60 0.9 80 120
N:TC ratio= Ratio of kg of N per metric tone of cane expected
Minimun recommended N doses should not be lower than 100, 90 and 80 kg per
hectare respectively for low, medium and high OM containing soils, as shown in
Table 2. The reason is that in marginal areas there are limiting factors other than
N that affect the efficiency in the use of the nitrogenous fertilizer by the plant,
causing very low yields. In the same way, maximum doses of N should not
exceed 150, 130 and 120 kg per hectare respectively for low, medium and high
OM containing soils, since higher expected cane yields are generaly associated
with favorable conditions that allow more efficient use of N by the crop.
Time and forms of N application: proper application of nitrogen in terms of
time and shape is important for the best use of the fertilizer by the crop. In
ratoon crop, it is recommended that N be applied 30 days after cutting or
harvesting (dac) in a band, incorporating it into both sides of the groove. In
Plant crop, fertilization should be done 45-60 days after sowing, which is when
the crop roots initiate the absorption and utilization of the fertilizer.
For not irrigated areas (with residual humidity) which have been harvested
during the first or second third of the season (from November to February) early
application of fertilizer is recommended (15-30 dac), applying it in both sides of
the groove in precense of residual humidity. This practice is better than delaying
the application until May or June in expectation of the rainy season. This
information was obtained with experimental tests which showed that when the
interval between early fertilization (30 dac) and delayed fertilization was 145
days, there was a significant advantage of 14 TCH for an early fertilization, as
shown in Figure 5 (Montenegro et al., 2000).
Figure 5. Effect of early application of N (urea) under residual humidity conditions
vs late application when expecting establishment of the rainy season in
a Mollisol soil with low content of OM
Early fertilization against late fertilization when expecting establishment of
the rainy season, also offers very important operative advantages in sugar
cane crop management such as being able to perform the application of
fertilizer in mechanical way avoiding less efficient and more expensive
manual applications. Fertilization operations can be programmed according
to the harvesting season, avoiding accumulation of areas to fertilize with the
Fractioning of N doses in sugarcane crop depends mainly on edafic (texture)
and climatic (rain) factors. In Guatemala, it has been found that only one
application of N is needed (30 dac) for most soils and climatic conditions.
Nitrogen dose fractioning in two applications (30 and 120 dac) has been
found important for Andisol soils with coarse texture, located in the high
Urea 30 dah
incorporated in a
Urea 30 dah
incorporated in a
Urea 145 dah,
(beggining of rainy
No N, No irrigation
Nitrogen forms and times of application
stratum with heavy rains, also in superficial Andisol soils in the medium
stratum and Entisol sandy soils (Pérez, 1998).
Nitrogen Sources: most widely used sources are: a) Urea (CO(NH2)2) with
an N concentration of 46 per cent, completely in amide form (NH2). It is the
most preferred granulated fertilizer due to its high N concentration. In order
to avoid losses, urea has to be incorporated, since it will suffer volatilization
if left in the surface. b) Ammonium Nitrate (NH4NO3): it contains 33.5 per
cent of N, half of it in the form of NH4
and the other half in the form of
. It has to be transported and be kept in storage with caution since it
may become explosive when in contact with organic materials. c)
Anhydrous Ammonia (NH3): it contains 82 per cent N. Since it is a gas
under normal atmospheric pressure, it must be stored in high pressure tanks
or in refrigeration. Ammonia application in the field requires special
injection equipment and adequate preparation of the soil. d) Ammonium
Sulfate ((NH4)2 SO4) contains 21 per cent of N and 24 per cent of S. Since
this fertilizer is not hygroscopic, it does not require special handling. It has
the lowest concentration of N of all the sources described above.
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants since it plays a vital role in
photosynthesis and other biochemical processes. Its main functions are:
energy transportation and storage and maintenance of cell wall integrity.
Phosphorus promotes tillering and root development, making it
indispensable during the first growing stages of the cultivar (Humbert,
1974). It is absorbed by the plant roots in primary and secondary
orthophosphate ions (H2PO4
) depending on soil pH (Marshner,
Phosphorus deficiencies in the sugarcane plant show poor rattoning ability
with thin stalks and short inter nodes; leaves are thin, small and narrow, as
shown in Figure 6.
Figure 6. Left: sugarcane variety PR75-2002 without P, in an Andisol soil
poor of the element. Right: Plants of the same variety fertilized with
80 kg of P2O5/ha, in the same soil
Phosphorus in soil: P is found in the soils in both organic and inorganic
forms. Inorganic forms are in the solid phase compounds mainly as Ca, Fe
and Al phosphates, depending on the soil pH. Organic Phosphorus is in
phospholipids, nucleic acids and phytine and its derivatives. These organic
forms have to be mineralized in order to be used by the plants.
Available Phosphorus in the soils of the sugar cane plantation area in
Guatemala: phosphorus availability in the sugar cane plantation area in
Guatemala depends on soil type especially on clay type (alophane)
Presence of amorphous materials and alophane are characteristics of the fine
portion of those soils derived from recent volcanic ashes. These materials
give special characteristics to the soils such as high phosphorus fixation.
This fixation is defined as the transformation of soluble phosphates to
insoluble forms which are not easily used by the plants. Figure 7 shows the
map of P levels in soils of the cane planting zone.
Figure 7. Availability of Phosphorus in the Guatemalan Sugar cane plantation
In the higher and medium strata there are soils with high retention of P and in
consequence with low levels of the available forms of the nutrient. These
regions are dominated by Andisol soils with high amounts of alophane. Moving
to the lower zones towards the Pacific Ocean, the levels of alophane decrease
and high contents of P are found on the predominant Mollisol and Entisol soils.
Measuring soil pH in a sodium fluoride solution is a good indicator of alophane
and amorphous material presence. Figure 8 shows the relationship determined
between sodium fluoride (NaF) pH and available P in Andisol soils and other
soils in the region. It can be noticed that the Andisol soil pH values determined
in NaF are close or above 10 showing a big difference when compared to the
lower values obtained for the other types of soil. It is also observed that
Andisol soils are associated to low levels of available P (< 5 ppm).
Figure 8. Relation between pH in NaF and soil available P (Mehlich 1) in
Andisols soils and other types of soil of the sugar cane area in
Crop response to phosphorus applications: sugar cane response to
phosphorus application in the Guatemalan cane planting zone are related to the
original contents of P in the soils extracted with the Mehlich 1 solution, as
shown on Figure 9. It can be observed that relative yields (RY) that are equal or
below 90 per cent of maximum yield are associated to original soil contents of P
below 10 ppm, indicating that the higher probabilities to get a response to
phosphorus applications are below that level (Pérez et al., 2003).
7 8 9 10 11 12
Andisols other soils
Figure 9. Relation between soils P (extracted with Mehlich 1 solution) and cane
relative yield percent (RR), during planting crop on volcanic soils in
Figure 10 shows the importance of applying P to the soils deficient in this
element and which have been planted with sugar cane. These are: Andisol,
Inceptisol and Vertisol soils (Pérez et al., 2011). Also it can be observed
that all P deficient soils increased cane yield when applied with this element,
more than those applied only with N, and higher increments of up to 33 TCH
were obtained in a sandy Andisol, located on the high stratum of the region,
which is the one where the higher responses to phosphorus have been
P Residual Effect: low residuality has been determined for soils with high P
retention (Andisol soils) for this reason it is recommended to apply this
element every year, instead of applying the whole dose during planting, as
shown for an Andisol soil in the medium stratum of the region in Figure 11.
It can be seen that in all cases the media for sugar cane yield was higher
when the dose was fractioned into two years between planting and ratton
stages, independiently of the total dose of P applied (adapted from Perez et
al., 2007). Similar results were reported in other studies performed on
Andisol soils in the region (Pérez y Melgar, 1998).
Figure 10. TCH increments after P application in different soils of the region
Figure 11. Effect of P dose fractioning on average yield (TCH) when applied in
planting crop and first ratoon, in an Andisol soil of the sugar cane
plantation area in Guatemala
80 120 160
Total P applied and dose fractioning (P2O5/ha)
Recommended P doses: dose recommendations are presented in Table 3,
for different categories of soils according to their original P contents,
cultivar cycle and soil type.
In new planting areas or renewals of Andisol soils with low levels of P (<
10 ppm) it is recommended to apply 80 kg of P2O5/ha and for other soils,
the recommendation is 60 kg of P2O5/ha. For soils with medium levels of
P, dose is lowered to 60 and 40 kg of P2O5 for Andisol and no Andisol
soils, respectively. P does not need to be applied in soils with high levels
of P (>30 ppm). For ratoon crop, P should be applied only if the original
levels are below 10 ppm, due to the lower response to this element that has
been observed in this stage. Recommended doses are 40 kg of P2O5/ha for
Andisoles and 25 kg of P2O5/ha for other soils with lower retention rates of
Table 3. P dose recommendations (kg de P2O5/ha) based on initial content,
cultivar cycle and type of soil
P level in soil
Planting crop Ratoon cane
Andisol Other soils Andisol Other soils
Low (< 10 ppm) 80 60 40 25
Medium (10 – 30 ppm) 60 40 0 0
High (>30 ppm) 0 0 0 0
Sources of P: the most common P sources used in sugar cane crop are: di
ammonium phosphate (DAP) which contains 46 per cent of P2O5, mono
ammonium phosphate (MAP) with 52 per cent of P2O5. These fertilizers
also bring N in its ammonia form in their original composition. Tri Super
Phosphate (TSP) with 46 per cent of P2O5 also contains between 15.0 and
18.5 per cent of Ca. Another source of P is the phosphoric rock, a less
soluble compound with variable P content which is recommended only for
Potassium is an essential element for osmoregulation, enzyme activation,
pH regulation and cell anion and cation balance. It takes part in
photosynthesis and controls sugar mobility and the efficient use of water
by the plants. It is absorbed as an ion and moves inside the plant. Lack of
potassium is noticed first in the old leaves of the plant with spots and
chlorosys in the edges which ends up in the death of the affected leaves.
Long term deficiency of potassium may affect mersitem development
indicated by spindle distortion and a “bunched top” or “fan” appearance.
(Anderson and Bowen, 1994). In the other hand, an excess in potassium
increases the content of ash in cane juice affecting sugar crystallization
Potassium in Soil: potassium in soil can be found in different forms and
with different availability levels. The most available fractions are those
exchangeable forms that are in solution; these are extracted for lab analysis
in order to measure K availability in the soil. The soils that are originated
from volcanic ashes have good storage of K, however, the combination of
some factors such as rain frequency and intensity and light texture promote
lixiviation of available forms of K.
Potassium in soils of the sugar cane plantation area in Guatemala: in
the sugarcane plantation area of Guatemala it is common to find low levels
of exchangeable K (< 100 ppm), in the Andisol soils of the high stratum
(piedmont) which are characterized by a high precipitation (>3500
mm/year) and by light texture soils. Low to adequate levels of
exchangeable K have been detected in soils of the medium stratum with
predominance of medium texture Andisol and Inceptisol soils, in contrast
with higher levels of K in soils which are found in the low and seashore
stratum with high fertility Mollisol soils.
Crop response to K application: different studies performed in the region
have shown that the response obtained by the plant correspond to the levels
of exchangeable K in soils. In Andisol soils with low content of this
element (below 100 ppm) the application of potassium has produced
significative increments in cane yield and sugar concentration. No
response to K application was detected in Mollisols with sandy loam
texture with contents of K higher than 200 ppm. In the other hand, a
positive interaction between K and N was observed. Figure 12 shows this
interaction, for a K deficient soil (86 ppm). It is observed that with no
amnendment for potassium (0 K), nitrogen effect was null. But for the
applied crop with 120 kg de K2O/ha a positive lineal effect of N was
obtained (Figure 12 a). For a soil with 203 ppm of K, response to N was
similar with or without K (Figure 12 b), indicating that this element was
not a limitant for the production (Pérez y Melgar, 2000).
Figure 12. Effect of applying 120 kg of K2O/ha over response to N in sugar yield
(t/ha), in two soils with different content of exchangeable K. a) Soil with
86 ppm of K and b) soil with 203 ppm of K
K application in soils that were defficient improves sugar cane juice purity, as
shown on Table 4 (Pérez y Melgar, 2000).
Table 4. Effect of K in juice purity (%) in two Andisols in Guatemala
Juice purity (%)
La Unión Sugar Mill
(102 ppm K)
El Baul, Pantaleón Sugar Mill
(86 ppm K)
0 84.3 87.0
40 88.9 89.2
80 90.2 90.9
120 88.5 91.4
160 89.2 90.5
200 90.4 89.5
240 89.4 90.8
Recommended K doses: dose recommendations are presented in Table 5,
according to original contents of exchangeable K in soil and the amount of clay
Recommended application dose is 60 kg of K2O/ha when levels of
exchangeable K in soil are below 100 ppm and 80 kg of K2O/ha for soils with
more than 35% of clay. Medium levels of K are different for soils with clay
content below or equal 35 per cent or for levels above that percentage. In both
cases doses of 40 kg of K2O/ha are recommended. For soils with more than 150
pm of K and less than 35 per cent clay or for soils with more than 300 ppm of K
and clay content over 35 per cent the application of K is not recommended.
50 100 150
Sandy Andisol soil
K: 86 ppm
50 100 150
Loamy Mollisol soil
Table 5. Recommended doses of K in the Guatemalan sugar cane plantation area
Clay content in soil =<35 % Clay content in soil > 35 %
K in soil (ppm) Dose K
K in soil (ppm) Dose K
< 100 60 < 100 80
100 – 150 40 100 – 300 40
>150 0 >300 0
Soils with > 150 and > 300 ppm of K check base ratios respecting to K.
Apply 40 kg of K2O/ha if (Ca+Mg)/K > 40 and Mg/K<15
Sulfur is essential for amino acid, protein and vitamin synthesis, also in the
production of chlorophyll and plant growth. It is absorbed by the plant roots as
ion and is a non mobile nutrient in the plant. Deficiency symptoms are
first shown in young leaves with purple edges and chlorosys, being smaller and
narrower than normal. Stalks are thin.
Sulfur in soil: soil sulfur can be found in inorganic and organic forms. In
humid and semi humid areas, S is principally found in organic forms as part of
OM, similar to nitrogen. When OM is mineralized, it releases S in the SO4
Response to sulfur application has not been evident in the sugar cane plantation
area in Guatemala, due maybe to the high contents of OM of soils in the region.
Some responses have been noticed in sandy soils and in the higher stratum soils
which receive high levels of rain, also in low OM Vertisols with drainage
problems (Pérez, 2004). It has been observed that N/S relation in the sugar cane
cultivar may be a good indicator for detecting nutritional levels of S with
respect to N. In Figure 13, N/S ratio is presented for a plant (4-6 months old), in
28 fields of the cane plantation area and its relationship to cane production. It can
be observed that the higher tone production was associated with N/S ratios close
Sulfur applications are justified when the soil OM contents are low (< 3.0%) in
high rain conditions and bad drainage soils. In general, S deficiencies are over
come with the application of 40 kg S per ha.
Figure 13. N/S Ratio in sugar cane plant and its relation with yield (TCH) on 28
fields of La Unión sugar cane mill, sampling between 4 and 6 months
Sulfur sources: the most common sources are ammonium sulfate (24 % S
and 21 % N) and calcium sulphate (18.6 % S). Ammonium sulfate is a
high solubility fertilizer, easily available which also has a significant
amount of N. Calcium sulfate or gypsum is an economical source of S,
which also contains Ca in variable proportion. A cheaper option is
elemental sulfur (90.0 – 100% S), however it has slower reactivity since it
needs to be oxidized to SO4
by soil microorganism and may suffer losses
Calcium is an essential element which forms part of Ca pectates, a very
important constituent of cell walls. Calcium takes place in electrostatic
equilibrium in the cell and is an activator of numerous enzymes in the
plant such as amylases, phospholypases, kinases and ATP-ases and it plays
a very important rol in N metabolism. Calcium is a relatively inmobile
nutrient within the plant. Calcium deficiencies produce thin stalks and
poor radicular growth. Also, old leaves have spots and present local
chlorosys with similar symptoms to rust and which may die prematurely
(Anderson and Bowen, 1994). When Ca deficiency is acute, leaves are
necrotic and distorted.
11 12 13 14 15 16
Rel N/S in leaves
Calcium in soil: In the Guatemalan sugar cane plantation area, soils are
characterized for having adequate levels of exchangeable Ca, except for
those in the higher stratum and some middle areas with medium to low
levels due, among other factors, to the high precipitation in the region and
to the presence of sandy soils (Villatoro et al., 2009). Soils Ca levels
lower than 4.0 meq/100 g are considered low. However, one has to
consider Ca saturation in soil and the relationship among bases.
Some responses to lime application have been detected only in soils with
pH below 5.5, in Vertisoils and some Andisoils in the higher stratum.
The most common sources of Ca are gypsum (18-22%) and different types
of lime such as Ca carbonate, important to acid soils. Simple super
phosphate (20%) and triple super phosphate (15 %) are Ca containing
Magnesium is a constituent of chlorophyll, in consequence, is involved in
CO2 assimilation and protein synthesis. It is important for the P mobility
in the plant and participates in the respiration processes. Mg is absorbed
by the roots in its Mg2+
form and is a mobile nutrient. Mg deficiencies
may cause intravein chlorosis, turning old leaves from orange to yellow,
and may migrate to young leaves under severe deficiency contidions.
Sprouts are weak and cane growth is retarded.
Magnesium in the soil: low levels of Mg in the soil (< 1.0 meq/100g) are
found mainly in the higher stratum (over 300 mosl) where precipitation is
high and there is abundance of sandy soils. Adequate to high levels of Mg
are found in the other strata (Villatoro et al., 2009). Deficient soils would
contain lower than 1.0 meq/100 g and application of 30-40 kg of Mg/ha is
recommended. In soils with higher contents, Mg saturation has to be
checked along with soil bases. For poor Mg soils (0.4 meq/100g) located
in the higher stratum of the sugar cane plantation area the application of 30
kg of Mg/ha has resulted in the increment of up to 8 TCH. (Pérez et al.,
ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF FERTILIZERS
Cachaza is a residue in form of sediment, which result from sugarcane juice
clarification in sugar cane production process. For each tone of milled cane,
about 34 kg of cachaza are produced. During the last harvesting season, after
milling 20,000,000 ton of cane, 680,000 ton of cachaza were obtained.
Cachaza contains high levels of organic C, phosphorus, calcium and lower
amounts of nitrogen, this is the reason why is used during fertilization and soil
improvement practices. In Table 6, the general chemical composition of
cachaza from different mills is presented.
Table 6. Cachaza analysis (dry basis) average obtained for various mills in
Water (%) 75
N (%) 1.2
P2O5 (%) 2.2
K2O (%) 0.6
CaO (%) 1.0
MgO (%) 0.6
C (%) 40
Ratio C/N 33.3
From table 6, it can be concluded that each tone of fresh cachaza contributes
with 3.0 kg of N, 5.5 kg of P2O5 and 1.5 kg of K2O. This amount could give
between 0.6 and 1.5 kg of availabe N per tone of cachaza depending on the
soil; 3.3 kg of P2O5 and 0.9 kg de K2O available per ton of fresh cachaza (Pérez,
Cachaza applications increase available P levels in soil in relation to the applied
levels. Soil P went form 6.1 to 10.4, 17.4 and 33.8 ppm with applications of
100, 300 and 500 t, respectively, on all the soil surface of a Mollisol soil in the
seashore stratum, therefore, P went from low to high level of available P in that
soil. (Pérez, 2003).
Higher TCH increments were observed with applications of cachaza in poor
soils such as superficial Entisols with low humidity retention. The highest
increments, up to 35 TCH were obtained after applying 500 t of cachaza/ha.
Azañon et al., 2002, reported cumulative increases in productivity for five
years from 52 to 64 TCH when applying 100 and 200 t of cachaza/ha before
planting and compared to the control without cachaza. The most economical
dose was determined to be 100 t. On table 7, the forms and doses of applied
cachaza for the Guatemalan sugar cane plantation area are shown.
Table 7. Recommended doses and forms of cachaza application
Form of aplication
On total surface
100 - 300
- Dose by distance considering high
- High TCH increments, especially for high
doses (300 t/ha or more)
- Problems in application uniformity, especially
for low doses (<200t/ha)
- Doesn´t require special equipment
- When using 100-200 t/ha, reduce nitrogen
fertilization down to 50 per cent and eliminate
N fertilization if using more than 300 t/ha
At the end of the
- Lower trasportation cost
- Better application uniformity
- Requires adequate equipment for application
- It is recommended to apply 30-40 kg of N
with this doses of cachaza
On the band during
- Lower trasportation cost
- Better application uniformity
- Requires adequate equipment for application
- It is recommended to make adjustments in
N and K doses considering soil type and
Vinasse is a liquid residue originated during alcohol distillation and is formed
principally by water, organic matter and minerals, K being the most abundant
among these elements. Vinasse is used in cultivation fields with positive results
increasing productivity, saving in the use of fertilizerers and helping to improve
soils in general (Pennatti et al., 2005).
In Guatemala, it has been observed that vinasse application has increased cane
production in different soils, providing all of the K and part of the N that the
cultivar needs. In a study conducted for six consecutive years on an Andisol
soil and with applications of vinasse and N doses, it was observed that every
year, sugar cane yield increased in relation to the amount of vinasse that was
applied. In average, with the higher dose (120m3
/ha) an anual increment of
16.6 TCH was obtained compared to the control with no vinasse applied, this
represented a cumulative increase of 100 TCH over the years of the study
(Pérez et al., 2011).
Also, in this study it was found that vinasse modifies the cultivar response to N.
In Figure 14, average effect of different doses of vinasse on N response is
shown for this soil.
Figure 14.Average effect of the application of different levels of vinasse (m3
the response to N during 6 consecutive years, in an Andisol soil with a
high content of OM (7.6 %). El Bálsamo, Pantaleón Sugar Mill.
In figure 14, it is observed that when zero (0) vinasse is applied, the
application of N resulted in cane yield increases (TCH), with an average of 8
per cent with the 100 kg N/ha dose, which is an expected result for this type
of soils. However, in the presence of any level of vinasse, N effect on yield
was null or small and yields were comparable or a little higher than those
obtained for the witness crop, which was applied only with N in the higher
dose. The highest yields were obtained for those treatments with vinasse
and 0 N when compared to traditional treatment (100 kg N/ha), this indicates
that vinasse is covering for all the N that the cultivar need and also is
making corrections for other nutrients which affect the production in these
0 50 100
N applied (kg/ha)
The use of high doses of vinasse (> 60 m3
/ha) is attractive due to the production
increments and the potential reduction of N doses; however, it is important to
consider that the continuous application of high levels of vinasse may cause the
significant increment of exchangeable K in soils, as shown in Figure 15. It is
observed that annual application of 120 m3
of vinasse/ha, for six consecutive
years increased 25 times the original K concentration on soil surface (0-25 cm)
going from 70 up to 1,750 ppm at the end of the study. On the other hand, it
can be observed, for those treatments with the higher doses of vinasse, that K
concentration has migrated to lower stratum (but no lower than 75 cm in depth).
Increments of exchangeable K in soil produce disbalances in soil bases due to
the fact that Ca and Mg contents do not change, while K saturation is increased
(Pérez et al., 2011). In consecuence, it is important to have control on the
applied doses of vinasse in commercial fields and to monitor the evolution of K
in soil. In Brazil, it has been reported that with high concentrations of applied
vinasse, cane maturation is retarded, pol %cane is reduced and the contents of K
and ashes are increased in sugarcane juice, which may result in problems during
sugar production process in the mill ( Silva et al., 1976; Orlando Filho et al.,
Figure 15. Effect of application of different doses of vinasse for 6 consecutive years
on exchangeable K in the profile of an Andisol deep soil. El Bálsamo.
Pantaleón Sugar Mill. (Pérez et al., 2011)
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800
0 30 60 90 120 Vin (m3/ha)
Green manure are an option to reduce N use in sugar cane cultivar and are
a practice that aims improvement on productivity and sustainability of the
crop. Introducing a crop such as legumes in the traditional cane
cultivation system, derives in various direct and indirect benefits by
breaking the monocultivar practice (Wiseman, 2005). Planting Crotalaria
juncea and Canavalia ensiformis as green manures, rotating in sugar cane
seed fields and in renewal plantations allows for potential savings in N
fertilization of up to 100 per cent, with expected increments in yield.
On a Mollisol soil increments between 4 and 11 per cent in cane seeds
were observed, with the rotation of Crotalaria juncea and Canavalia
ensiformis, respectively (Balañá, 2010). In Australia increments of 20 and
30 per cent in tonage are reported with soybean and peanut rotation when
renewing sugar cane fields (Garside et al., 2001).
In Guatemalan superficial Andisol soils, it has been determined that planting
Crotalaria juncea as monoculture could cause an accumulation of up to 235
kg of N/ha in aereal biomass, in 65 days, while accumulation of N in
Canavalia ensiformis is a little lower (175 kg of N/ha) (Pérez et al., 2008).
Intercropping of Canavalia ensiformis with cane, during renovation of the
field or during ratooning, could be an option for soils with high OM contents
(such as superficial Andisol soils in the higher stratum), where growth is
slow. Average yield increments of 5.3 per cent were observed for this
system over four cycles of cane production (planting crop and three ratoon
periods), with inter cropping of Canavalia ensiformis with no application of
N in during the four years (Pérez et al., 2010).
In general and in a short term, use of green manure in Guatemala is
recommended for sugar cane seed production areas, since those areas are not
used between three and four months for productive activities. On the same
way, there is great potential in the intercropping of legumes with Crotalaria
juncea, in short term, , especially in those areas with the higher stratum
where planting is performed in humid conditions. Development of
Crotalaria juncea can be observed in Figure 16, previous to its
incorporation in a renovation field of the higher stratum under humidity
conditions (November) and growth of Canavalia ensiformis intercropping
with sugar cane, in an experimental field in Pantaleón sugar cane mill.
Figure 16. Left: Crotalaria juncea, in November, previous to its incorporation
during cane crop planting under residual humidity conditions (it was
originally planted in May in El Baul, Pantaleon), Right: Canavalia
ensiformis intercropping with sugar cane in an experimental field
(Pantaleon Sugar Mill).
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cachaza bajo dos niveles de fertilizante químico convencional en siembra
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juncea, Canavalia ensiformis and Mucuna sp. As possible nitrogen
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2005. Vinasse: A liquid fertilizer. Proc. Int. Soc. Sugar Cane Technol.
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vinhaça em solo arenoso do Brasil e poluiçao do lençol freático com
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optimal use of nitrogen fertilisers in the sugarcane crop in Guatemala.
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16. Pérez, O.; Hernández, F.; López, A.; Balañá, P.; Solares, E.; Maldonado,
A. 2008. The use of green manures as an alternative to improve and
sustainability of the sugarcane crop. Sugar Journal. Vol. 70. No. 9. pp.
17. Pérez, O.; López, A.; Hernández F.; Chajil E. 2007. Efecto del
fraccionamiento del fertilizante fosforado en el cultivo de caña de azúcar
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caña de azúcar y su efecto en la acumulación de potasio y otros
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Fertilization and Phosphorus- Extraction Method Calibration for
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OF SUGARCANE CROP
Irrigation is a very important activity in the Guatemalan sugarcane plantation
area. It takes place along with the harvesting during the dry season (from the
middle of November to mid May). Irrigation activities are increased as one gets
closer to seashore were water deficiencies are bigger. By 2000 there was a
burst in the irrigation practices in the area under administration by the mills,
growing from 61 per cent up to 80 per cent by the 2009/2010 harvesting season.
The objectives of the irrigation practices are: assure initial crop population and
increase of stalk weight. The activities are programmed post harvest, during
plantation or before harvesting, depending on the crop need and phenological
Nowadays, to select the appropriate irrigation system, the following parameters
are considered: efficiency in the use of water, investment savings and irrigation
system management. These allow to reach optimal use of water from different
sources such as: rivers, wells, deep wells, artisan wells and wastewater from
In this chapter, first the evolution of irrigation practices is described, then the
classification of irrigation systems in use and the influence of these activities in
increasing productivity (in tones of sugarcane per hectare, TCH). Also, there is
information on irrigation planning and decision making from a technical point
of view, and important recommendations on the use of technical tools used to
ease irrigation activities in the field.
EVOLUTION OF IRRIGATION PRACTICES IN
GUATEMALAN SUGARCANE PLANTING ZONE
During the 1990´s the predominant irrigation systems were by gravity, by
flooding, canyon spraying; then by 1998, new technologies came to hand.
Different approaches to irrigate among furrow (all or every other furrow); uses
of water pumping systems, gravity conduction or canyon spray were employed.
Agr. Eng., M.Sc., Specialist in Irrigation at CENGICAÑA. www.cengicana.org
Growth of irrigation practices is observed in Figure 1. From 1990/91 to
1998/99 irrigation activities had a growth index of 0.89. Between 2001/02 and
2008/09 growth included twice the area. In 2009/10 the irrigated physical area
was 146,347 hectares, five times the area from 1990/91 and 2.58 times the area
irrigated from 2001/02.
Figure 2. Growth in area of irrigation activities in the Guatemalan sugarcane
plantation area (CENGICAÑA 2010)
Today, the use of the different irrigation systems will depend on factors such as:
investment costs, water use efficiency, operational costs and management
easiness. Pressurized systems have become popular in the past 5 years; an
example is canyon type spraying, since its growing index goes up to 1.43. This
is due to factors such as handling easiness, accumulated experience of the staff
and adequate adaptability to special areas.
Medium pressure systems are considered innovative, such as mini spraying
central fixed pivot (mechanized, low pressure), and have grown in area 38 and 9
times, respectively, when compared to their use by the 2005/06 harvesting
season. Mini spraying has been used mainly in the fields under administration
by Magdalena Sugar Mill. While central fixed pivot is an alternative for most
sugar mills. The three mentioned systems are used along the three altitudinal
strata and before or after harvesting.
Rivers continue to be the most important source of irrigation water (63%),
followed by wells (15%), deep wells (11%), residual water (10%) and artisan
90/91 94/95 96/97 98/99 01/02 03/04 04/05 05/06 06/07 07/08 08/09 09/10 10/11
Hectáreas regadas 29,068 43,907 55,425 55,048 71,240 81,971 86,571 95,755 119,170 128,709 132,497 146,347 155,740
Índice de crecimento 1 1.51 1.91 1.89 2.45 2.82 2.98 3.29 4.10 4.43 4.56 5.03 5.36
made wells (1%). It Is important to mention that the use of deep wells has
grown 5 times during the last harvesting season if compared to season 2003/04.
CLASSIFICATION OF IRRIGATION SYSTEMS IN
GUATEMALAN SUGARCANE PLANTING ZONE
The Agro Industry Irrigation Committee analyzed and validated in 2005 the
following classification for the sugarcane plantation area:
Irrigation systems by groove
These are different because of the way water is extracted from the source: a)
furrows with water extracted by gravity and b) furrows with water extracted
using fossil energy. For both, water transportation and distribution on the plot
can be done by any of the following modalities:
1. Continuous furrows, without piping in the water transportation or
2. Alternated furrows, withoutpiping in the water transportation or
3. Continuous furrows with mobile PVC piping and use of impulses
4. Continuous furrows using polyethylene sleeves during water distribution,
it is a fixed system
5. Alternated furrows with mobile PVC piping and use of impulses
6. Alternated furrows using polyethylene sleeves during water
transportation and distribution, it is a fixed system that uses gates
Pressurized irrigation systems:
Stationary sprinkler systems: They are fixed during irrigation, are
differentiated by the energy type and operation pressure of sprinklers,
according to Tarjuelo, 1995, these are classified as:
1. High pressure spray gun type, powered by gravity. This system uses
the height differential energy, it has fixed pipe in drive and distributes
water to the plot through hydrants. It uses mobile pipe sprinkler
distribution of high pressure (40-50 PSI). Two sprinklers operate in each
hydrant. The water distribution efficiency should be between 75 and 80
percent in the plot.
2. High pressure spray gun with fossil energy type. This is a mobile
system in all its components, works with a pump, conduction and
distribution piping with high pressure sprinklers (40-50 PSI). The number
of operating sprinklers varies from two to eight. Water distribution
efficiency by plot should be between 75 and 80 percent.
3. Medium pressure spray and fossil energy. Used variants: Mobile
system in all its components and the mobile system only in the water
distribution part. It works with motor pump which sprinklers are medium
pressure (30-40 PSI). Amount of sprinklers per side varies from 25 to 30.
This is a system designed to work mainly with eight sides. It is known as
mini spraying in the industry (when compared to the high pressure spray
Sprinkler systems with continuous displacement:, and are classified as:
1. Pivots (circular displacement) fixed and mobile
Fixed pivot (not transportable system): this system has a fixed irrigation
branch where it receives water and electric energy, and a mobile branch which
moves in circular manner, rotating over the first. It is formed by emission
carrying piping, mounted on approximately 11 automotive towers.
Pluviometric results are different for each tower. Branch mobility could be
hydraulic, too. Water distribution efficiency by These systems irrigate the
crop while moving, they differ in the way of displacement, and the sprinklers
are characterized by operating at low pressure (<20 psi) and are classified as:
- Moving branches known as mechanized systemsplot should be
between 85 and 90 percent.
Mobile pivot (transportable system): it is transported by tractor in
different positions depending on the agronomical design. It can work in a
fixed position, irrigating just as fixed pivot system, but with a smaller
amount of towers, usually four. Water distribution efficiency by plot
should be between 80 and 85 percent.
2. Frontal Advance (parallel displacement): Water distribution
efficiency by plot should be between 85 and 90 percent.
One wing frontal advance, not pivot: this system moves in parallel, at
the same time it applies water, it is formed by a side branch or wing, and
in one side it gets the water from a channel with the use of a pump. It
may vary between 200 and 600 m in length. Pluviometry is uniform along
the branch. When it finishes its trip along the plot, it returns in the same
One wing frontal advance, pivot: the difference between this system and
the one described above is that it makes a 180º turn at the end of the plot,
allowing it to apply water in a different plot.
Two winged frontal advance: it moves in parallel form while applying
water, it is formed by two side branches or wings, one, to each side of the
water supply line. It can be 200 to 500 meters in length. Pluviometry is
uniform along the branch. At the end of its trip, it returns over the same
Travelling gun: the gun is mounted over a vehicle that moves guided by a
cable and is fed by a flexible hose tied to a hydrant. It uses high pressure
gun type sprinklers (> 50 PSI). Water distribution efficiency in the plot,
should be between 75 and 80 per cent.
Drip irrigation systems: the characteristic of these systems is that water
distribution is by drips, which only wet the area with the highest
concentration of sugarcane roots. Irrigation water should be of high
quality. The system is very efficient in water distribution, closer 95 per
IRRIGATION EFFECT ON SUGARCANE AND SUCROSE
Sugarcane crop is managed under very different conditions among the
sugarcane plantation area in Guatemala; different types of soil have different
capacities to store and/or provide water, the climate can cause different signs of
hydric deficiency, depending on the altitudinal stratum. Besides, sugarcane can
generate different responses to irrigation, depending on the time of the year,
when it was planted.
Research work (including experimental research, validation fields and
observations) performed since 1994 in different parts of the sugarcane
plantation area; indicate that crop response to water application depends on the
following factors: altitudinal stratum, cane phenology, period in the harvesting
season, soil water retention capacity and management of the irrigation systems.
Figure 2, includes a qualitative analysis of the best results obtained in terms of
crop response to irrigation.
Figure 2. Qualitative analysis of the sugarcane crop response, to water
application through irrigation. Guatemalan sugarcane planting zone
The higher responses of sugarcane crop to water application were obtained in
areas between 0 and 200 meters above the sea level, masl. Variable responses
have been obtained with increments between 10-70 TCH when comparing to
non irrigated crops, lower increments were obtained in high capillarity silt loam
soils and better results were obtained in soils with high contents of sand (sandy
loam). For the 200-300 masl stratum, increments are between 20-30 TCH. In
the areas over 300 masl, increments are between 10-20 TCH, the lower response
is due mainly to water deficiency.
Different responses of sugarcane crop to water application after harvesting have
been obtained due to interactions between phenological stages and harvesting or
planting dates. Higher responses are obtained during the first third of the
season (Nov 15-Jan 15), especially in areas below 200 masl, where the dry
season is longer. Yield increments (TCH) obtained for different research work
in the lower stratum (treatments compared to the witness crop without
irrigation) are presented on Table 1.
2nd and 3rd
capacity of soils:
Sandy, Clay, Sandy
Loam, Loam, Silt
operation: fixed or
Initial Stage and
1/3 season (post-
3/3 season (pre-
Sandy Loam, Silt
systems and hydro
SUGAR CANE CROP RESPONSE TO WATER APPLICATION THROUGH
Table 1. Yield increment (TCH) due to after harvesting irrigation, for soils with
main texture types in Guatemalan cane planting zone (CENGICAÑA,
Texture Predominant sandy Loam Silt Loam
30 40 50 60 70 80
(according to non irrigated
60 51 43 34 26 17
Mm of required net water3
270 240 200 240 140 160
: Results are given for harvesting or planting performed during the first third of the harvesting season, in the
low stratum (<100 masl)
: LARA=Readily available film of water, at 60 cm of soil depth, given in mm
: For harvest performed during the first third of the season, the industry average is 360 mm using gun type
sprinkling aspersion,: 6 applications of water, frequency of 20 days during 3 hours, 60 mm of net water film per
When evaluating susceptibility of sugarcane crop to water deficiency, the
following stages are considered: initiation or preparation (45 days), rapid
growth period or elongation (about six months). These stages are more
sensitive to water deficiency so they must be prioritized during irrigation
planning for each one of the harvesting periods. The main objective of applying
water after harvesting (post harvesting irrigation), during the initiation stage is
to assure optimum crop population, also optimize fertilization and weed control
practices. When harvesting or planting is performed during the first third of the
harvesting season, there is a critical period for irrigation during elongation of
the plant which comes between April and May. Water deficiency effects are
more evident after hot phases of the “ENSO” phenomenon, known as Niño.
This phenomenon causes a delay in the beginning of the rainy season, moving it
to the beginning of June in the low and seashore strata; when this occurs, yield
reductions have been observed between 10 and 20 TCH under the absence of
water application and rain delay.
When harvesting or planting during the second third of the harvesting season
(between January and March) the critical period is at the end of elongation
stage, especially if the rainy season ends by mid October, in which case, pre
harvesting irrigations should be performed by the second half of October and
November. These irrigations are necessary up to 30 days before harvesting,
mainly in areas predominant in clay and sand, while in those soils with adequate
water retention such as silt loam or silty clay loam, last irrigation can be
performed 45 days before harvesting. Tillering stage is less sensitive, so
irrigation frequency may be spaced.
The objective of irrigation before harvesting is to assure the increment in
weight of sugarcane stalks at the end of the elongation stage, which takes place
at the end of the harvesting season. Important outcomes were obtained in
different research works. In sandy loam soils, yield increments between 27 and
36 TCH were obtained, in clay loam soils, the increments were between 15 and
28 TCH. On soils with sandy streaks, sugarcane crop response to water
application was found to be highly significant; increments between 70 and 84
TCH were obtained in two different trials as compared to the control crops in
these sandy areas.
Positive response of sugarcane crop to water application in a loam soil, during
three harvesting periods (higher response in the first period and lower at the
end) is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Sugarcane crop response to water during different harvesting periods in
the lower stratum (La Unión, 1999)
Irrigation practice is profitable and its variability will depend on the following
factors: water application costs, amount of water to be used which depends on
soil´s water retention ability, price of the sugarcane tone in the field. According
to Table 2, if a sugarcane field Price of USD 11.00 is considered, it can be
observed that LARA is equivalent to the applied sheet and cost of irrigation
(water application) are factors that influence the capital return index which can
vary between 4.44 and 0.33 (interpretation: if the value inside indicated
variation is 1.50, it can be concluded that USD 1.50 is obtained additional to
each invested dollar). The higher the application costs, the smaller the return
index values. And sometimes the practice can result not profitable at all, as it is
observed on Table 2.
104 104 106
DEC JAN FEB MAR APR MAY
Table 2. Rates of return of capital as net benefits and costs in irrigation, in
different soil types of the sugarcane area of Guatemala (CENGICAÑA,
When investing in irrigation systems, the following factors should be
considered: 1. the areas with highest water deficiency are in the low and coastal
strata, so these are the most adequate for investment. 2. It is important to
consider that irrigation is more profitable when applied in crops during the first
third of the harvesting season. 3. Within the lower stratum and coastal, the soil's
ability to retain moisture and represented by LARA is determinant. In this
sense, mechanized irrigation systems (pivots and frontal), should be performed
in soils with LARA between 30 and 60 mm, representing return rates of 2.48 to
0.75. While investments in spraying gun systems should be done only in soils
with LARA between 30 and 50 mm, in these conditions return rates from 0.87
to 0.38 are obtained and these are much lower than those for mechanized
systems because of the cost of operation.
This process is determined by deduction. In this manner, water use is
prioritized and optimized. Planning sequence is described in Figure 4.
LARA a 60 cm depth
(mm) 20 30 40 50 60 70 801
▲ adjusted TCH (15%) 68 60 51 43 34 26 17
# total irrigations 23 9 6 4 4 2 2
(mm) 460 270 240 200 240 140 160
$/mm/ha Rate of return=Net income/Total cost extra ton produced
4.44 ‐ 0.33 Non
Field price: US$ 11.00
1/increments(∆) are lower due to capillar properties , characteristic of silty loam textures
Figure 4. Irrigation Planning Process in the Guatemalan Sugarcane planting zone
Altitudinal stratum, harvesting period and irrigation system: planning the
water application activities depend on the altitudinal stratum and period of the
harvesting season. Irrigation systems determine if the application will be performed
after or before harvesting the crop for each stratum and period. If soils are
abundant in sand or clay, water should be applied 30 days before harvesting, but
silty loam soils, must be irrigated 45 days before harvesting. See Figure 5.
Figure 5. Information on average amount of days under water deficit, irrigation days before
and after harvesting for each of the harvesting periods and altitudinal strata
• COAST LINE (0‐20)
DEFINITION OF HARVEST
PERIOD TO IRRIGATE
•FIRST THIRD (15 Nov‐15 Jan)
• SECOND THIRD (16 Jan‐15 Mar)
• THIRD THIRD (16 Mar‐15 May)
DEFINITION OF THE
DEFINITION OF SOIL CAPACITY TO
RETAIN WATER AND CAPILLARY
• CLAY LOAM
• SANDY LOAM
• SILT LOAM
• SILTY CLAY LOAM
• SANDY LOAM
DEFINITION OF TYPE OF
DEFINITION OF SUGAR CANE
CROP ABILITY TO EVAPO
DURATION OF PHENOLOGIC
STAGES AND DAYS UNDER
Período de lluvia
Notes: 1. Five altitudinal stratum are defined for irrigation purposes. 2. For pre harvest irrigation, number of days was calculated
based on 30 days previous to harvesting. If harvesting was performed 45 days before, substract 15 days.
Post harvest irrigation Pre harvest irrigation
Days under irrigationHigh
Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar
1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3
Phenological stages and irrigation: sugarcane crop needs irrigation during
its different phenological stages which depends on harvesting period and
irrigation system. Sugarcane stalk growing behavior is analyzed in Figure 6,
through a gamma type model which includes duration and accumulation
during each phenological stage. Sugarcane stalks reach their maximum
growth (average 1.95 cm/day) in a period between 135 and 250 days after
planting (PS-3). This is a critical stage in which the crop should not be
stressed. The initial stage is also important (PS-1) due to low water content
in the soil, which ends up reducing crop population, significantly. The
number of days for each phenological stage can be estimated using this
figure and then relate them to irrigation frequency (previous or after
harvesting) for each stratum.
Figure 6. Sugarcane crop phenological stages in the Guatemalan sugarcane
Climate demand: This is determined through a crop evapotranspiration
(ETo), which is a parameter related to the climate that expresses the
evaporation power of the atmosphere. The only factors affecting ETo, are
climatic parameters (FAO, 2008). Eto values, estimated by Penman-
Monteith, are shown in Table 3, for each phenological stage and harvesting
PS‐1 PS‐2 PS‐3 PS‐4 PS‐5
Source: Trial performed on a lysimetric area, Camantulul Experimental Station. CENGICAÑA, 1997
Note: duration of phenological stages varies depending on variety, number of cuts and altitudinal stratum.
65 days115 days
Table 3. Average ETo values for phenological stages and harvesting periods
PS-1 PS-2 PS-3 PS-4
1/3 2/3 3/3 1/3 2/3 3/3 1/3 2/3 3/3 1/3 2/3 3/3
High 4.36 4.75 5.00 4.84 5.08 5.16 4.48 4.44 4.45
Medium 4.70 5.30 5.41 5.39 5.54 5.47 4.66 4.60 4.89
Low 4.76 5.13 5.74 5.29 5.75 5.69 5.82 4.88 4.83 4.79
Lower 4.31 5.25 5.55 5.35 5.50 4.89 5.18 4.40 4.37 4.59
Coastal 4.51 5.03 5.55 5.14 5.48 5.10 5.28 4.57 4.65 4.63
Remarks: Evapotranspiration of a witness crop (ETo) estimated with Penman-Monteith. Average for 2006-
2010. The PS-3 on the 2/3 coincides with rainy season. The PS-4 does not apply for the first third of the
Phenological Stages Harvesting
Initiation (PS-1) 1/3=first third
Tillering (PS-2) 2/3=second third
a. Elongation Stage I (ES-3) 3/3=last third
b. Elongation Stage II (ES-4)
Water retention capacity of soil: soil capacity to retain water is variable in
the zone and depends on soil texture. Soils rich in sand have low retention
capacity, the contrary occurs for loam soils. This ability to retain water is
equivalent to usable water depth (LAA), which can be calculated with the
gravimetric humidity in soil constants: Field capacity and Wilting point,
both determined in the lab under pressures of 0.3 and 15 atmospheres,
respectively. Apparent density and soil depth are considered, too.
Determined LAA for each type of soil texture and their humidity constants,
are included in Figure 7.
Figure 7. Mean values of water holding capacity of soils in the Guatemalan
sugarcane area, according to their texture
Loam Silty clay
1.63 1.75 1.85
Evapotranspiration ability in sugarcane crop: Kc values are selected based on
the crops ability to evapotranspire and then used to calculate amounts of water
that the crop needs during each phenological stage (Fig. 6). Different Kc values
are shown on Table 4 for areas in the sugarcane planting zone.
Table 4. Kc values for selected phenological stages and types of soil in Guatemala
Phenological Stages (DAC)
PS-1 (0-45) PS-2 (45-135)
FS-3 (135-250) PS-4 (250-315)
Kc (evapotranspiration ability of cane crop)
0.3 0.6 0.9 1
Silty clay loam
0.3 0.3 0.6 0.7
Silt loam + capillary in
0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3
Source: Kc values were selected based on sugarcane response to irrigation. Different levels of Kc in soils with
different texture were evaluated in the trials.
Irrigation system operation: This factor is very important during irrigation
planning, since it determines how to irrigate. The selection of the ideal irrigation
system, will be determined by the use of mobile irrigation systems; which due to
their characteristics of mobility, have to operate with frequencies or fixed
intervals (pipe type sprinkles –high pressure-, and miniaspersion – medium
pressure-, mobile or semi-fixed, frontal moving –one or two laterals-, and
continuous or alternate furrows using hoses or floodgates, among the most
common)., The other decision in the irrigation system selection that could be
operated with frecuencies or free intervals (stationary fixed permanent spraying –
total covering buried-, temporary stationary spraying –total aereal covering-, fixed
pivot and dripping –total covering buried, without turns-). The most common
irrigation operation form in the Guatemalan sugarcane zone, is the use of
frequencies or fixed intervals. In the near future, the frequencies and free interval
systems, will be more relevant, mainly in agriculture of precision. Models for the
different modalities, are described on Figure 8.
- Planning follow up
Examples of irrigation planning and follow up (depending on system operation)
are included on Tables 5 and 6. As it can be seen in Figure 8, available
information for each process, will determine the model to be used in order to
answer the questions of how much and when irrigation should be performed.
Sample calculation for the use of a fixed frequency system: required
information is described on Table 5.
Figure 8. Models to determine How Much and When should water be applied,
depending on the operation of the irrigation system
Table 5. Basic information required for the calculation example of a fixed
frequency irrigation system
Planning process Information
Irrigation period based on altitudinal
Coastal, Oct 20-May 25 (Figure 5)
Harvesting season period
First third: Nov 15 (191 days under defficiency)
Irrigation Type Post harvest irrigation (Figure 5)
Phenological stage duration and days under
Iniciation: 45, tillering 90 y elongation Stage I: 56
Climatic demand (mm)
Iniciation: 4.5, tillering:5, Elongation Stage I: 5.5
Soil ability to retain water (mm/cm) Sandy loam: 1.63, no capillarity (Figure 7)
Evapotranspiration ability of sugarcane
crop (Kc non dimensional)
Iniciation: 0.3, tillering: 0.6 and elongation: 0.9
Irrigation system operation Fixed frequency, spray gun system
Based on the information provided in Table 5, it is established that analysis
frequency should be performed as indicated on Table 6.
FIXED FREQUENCY FREE FREQUENCY
Non dynamic water balance with fixed
parametersfor: soil, cane and climate for
each phenological stage
Dynamic water balance with weather
parametersin real time and soil and cane
parametersfixed in each phenological stage
How much water/20 cm deep?
LARA= LAA *DPM (1) » where:
LARA, readily available water depth in mm.
LAA, available water depth in mm, defined in 6.
DPM, allowed defficiency to manage= 0.6
(non dimensional). Residual water in soil 0.4
Depth (cms)= 20 (PS‐1), 40(PS‐2) and 60 (PS‐3 and 4)
¿How much water to apply?
LARA= LAA *DPM (2) » where:
DPM= 0.2 a 0.3. Residual water in soil between 0.7 and 0.8
Depth(cm)= 20 (PS‐1), 40(PS‐2) y 60 (PS‐3 and 4)
¿When to apply water?
When to apply water?
IRRIGATION INTERVAL (IR)
LARAfd = readily available water depth at the end of
LARAid = readily available water depth at the
begining of the day
P = Precipitation, R = Irrigation,
ETo = Reference Crop Evapotranspiration (FAO),
Kc= constant on the ability of cane crop to evapo
transpiration (non dimensional value),
ETc = Maximum Evapotranspiration (daily water
demand for the crop)
ETo * Kc
Table 6. Calculation example for planning how much and when to apply water,
for a fixed frequency system (traditional operation)
Factor Variable to consider Value Calculation Results
mm/cm of soil 1.63
Depth during initiation stage (cm) 20 20 * 1.63 = 32.6
Depth during tillering (cm) 40 40 * 1.63 = 65.2
Depth during elongation stage (cm) 60 60 * 1.63 = 97.8
Remarks: In the exercise, a homogeneous soil is considered, it is recommended to determine
the texture for each 20 cm in depth for a good diagnosis of the soil's ability to retain moisture.
LAA at 20cm 32.6 32.6 * 0.6 = 19.56
LAA at 40cm 65.2 65.2 * 0.6 = 39.12
LAA at 60cm 97.8 97.8 * 0.6 = 58.68
DPM= 60% 0.6 Use equation (1)
Remarks: LARA equals the net sheet, to quantify the gross depth, measure the efficiency with
which the system operates
Eto during Initiation 4.5
Eto during tillering 5
Eto during elongation 5.5
Kc en Initiation 0.3
Kc en tillering 0.6
Kc en Elongation 0.9
Initiation 4.5 * 0.3 = 1.35
Tillering 5.0 * 0.6 = 3.00
Elongation 5.5 * 0.9 = 4.95
Initiation 19.56 / 1.35 = 14
Tillering 39.12 / 3.00 = 13
Elongation 58.68 / 4.95 = 12
Use equation (3)
Initiation (Nov 15-30 Dec 30) 45 45/14= 3
Tillering (Dec 31-March 30) 90 90/13= 7
Elongation (March 31-May 25) 56 56/12= 5
total 191 15
Note: The planning considers the period November 15, 2011 to May 25, 2012. Not taking into
account the scattered showers that may arise in the period.
For using the free frequency option, especially fixed pivot, meteorological
information is the most viable and economic way to use the hydric model
balance (Figure 8, equation 4). When using this model, ETo and atmospheric
precipitation daily records, must be kept. As indicated before, the best model to
estimate ETo is Penman-Monteith, which can be obtained on daily bases from
the Meteorological Information System (SIM) in CENGICAÑA´s website.
Other models can be used to estimate ETo, but correction factors must be applied.
The use of equation (4) on Figure 8 gives the user the advantage of making the
decision of irrigating being at the office, without any problem. Moreover, hydric
balance calculations can be done on the computer using spreadsheets. The use of
this model can also be very important in terms of savings, especially in the years
under “La Niña” conditions, which in Guatemalan latitude, it represents an
increment of isolated rains coinciding with irrigation periods, also, it is adequate to
determine, each year, the beginning and the end of the irrigation period.
Sample calculation for a system which operates with free frequency: in Figure
9 the calculation example of hydric balance using Equation 4 is presented:
Figure 9. Calculation example of hydric balance using Equation 4
Hydric balance calculation is dynamic since it is necessary to keep registration
of daily crop consumption calculating Etc = maximum evapotranspiration
(daily water demand for the crop). Daily consumption can also be determined
on the soil by controlling humidity in the soil, using direct or indirect
methods. On site, humidity control requires investment in specific equipment
and additional cost on human labor.
Soil humidity control: It is an important alternative for irrigation application
control, water distribution in the plot, adjustments in irrigation frequency
Día LARAid ETP Kc ETm P LARAfd R D
1 30 4.5 0.6 2.7 0 27.3
2 27.3 5 0.6 3 0 24.3
3 24.3 5.5 0.6 3.3 0 21
4 21.0 3.5 0.6 2.1 0 18.9
5 18.9 6 0.6 3.6 0 15.3
6 15.3 4 0.6 2.4 0 12.9
7 12.9 4 0.6 2.4 0 10.5
8 10.5 4 0.6 2.4 6 14.1
9 14.1 5 0.6 3 0 11.1
10 11.1 5 0.6 3 31 30 9.1
11 30 4 0.6 2.4 0 27.6
12 27.6 4 0.6 2.4 0 25.2
13 25.2 4.5 0.6 2.7 0 22.5
14 22.5 5 0.6 3 0 19.5
15 19.5 5.5 0.6 3.3 0 16.2
16 16.2 5 0.6 3 0 13.2
17 13.2 4.5 0.6 2.7 0 10.5
18 10.5 3.5 0.6 2.1 0 8.4
19 8.4 4 0.6 2.4 0 6
20 6 4.5 0.6 2.7 0 3.3
21 3.3 5 0.6 3 0 0.3 30
22 0.3 4 0.6 2.4 0 27.6
23 27.6 4.5 0.6 2.7 0 24.9
LARAfd= LARAid + Σ
[P + R – (ETo*Kc)]
Values given in mm
Example: Sandy soil,
LARAfd = readily available water
depth at the end of the day
LARAid= readily available water
depth at the begining of the day
P = Precipitation, R = Irrigation,
ETo = Reference Crop
Kc = constant on the ability of
canecrop to evapo transpiration
(non dimensional value),
ETc = Maximum
Evapotranspiration (daily water
demand for the crop)
D = drainage
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
RAIN LASf DRAINAGE IRRIGATION
Number of days under water balance
during tillering and elongation stages (especially for those systems operating
under fixed frequencies). This option also allows the performance of the
hydric balance for free frequency systems.
Soil water can be measured using direct or indirect methods. Gravimetric-
volumetric and determination by touch are direct methods.
Determination by touch is the oldest and simplest method, it may be efficient
when perfomed with experience. This method consists on examining the soil
in an ocular form or by touch in the soil sampling from the rooting zone
extracted with a drill. Israelsen technique, 1965 is used to determine humidity
The gravimetric-volumetric method is the most accurate method, but it has
the disadvantage that requires too much time, is more expensive, and
destructive when sampling in the same point, constantly. Direct method is
used to calíbrate indirect procedures and is very important for basic research.
Figure 10 shows soil water relation and equations (5) and (6) are used to
determine gravimetric and/or volumetric humidity values.
Indirect methods measure soil water with instruments such as: tensiometer and
granular matrix sensors (GMS), which measure matrix potential, also, the
neutron probe is used, this equipment uses radioactive sources. New
instruments which are based on electromagnetism are available today, for
example TDR (time domain reflectometry), and FDR (frequency domain
Figure 10. The mass-volume relation and gravimetric-volumetric determination
of soil moisture (used in calibration of indirect methods)
Masa (M) Volumen (V)
Water mass (Mw)
PSH - PSS
PSH = moist soil weight
PSS = dry soil weight
Hv = Hg x Da
-Technical criteria to be considered when using indirect methods:
Site selection: this step is very important since the spot must represent the
area where the irrigation system is located. The amount of representative
sites will depend on the homogeneity of the area, needing more sites for less
homogeneous areas. For those soils with much heterogeneous areas, the
decision will depend on the agricultural practices and irrigation system.
Precision agriculture would need many sites. All decisions depend on How
much and When will water be applied.
Humidity interval: It is defined by the selection of the way of operating the
irrigation system. For example, if irrigation systems are used which operate
with dynamic water balance, as an example, the fixed central pivot. Under
these circumstances, the moisture range among saturation will be quantified
to 30 percent of consumption, the range between FC and WP.The calibration
in this case could be done in the humidity range among saturation at 40% of
water consumption, which evaluates the lowering of the moisture in this
range. If indirect methods are used as a mean of controlling soil moisture for
fixed frequency systems, the calibration range should be among 70 percent
saturation of soil consumption. For experimental trials, used method should
be calibrated between saturation and wilting point.
Indirect method: this should be chosen based on the range under study.
Every distributor provide specific recommendations for using and
calibrating the instruments. For example, for calibrating the FDR probe,
enviroscan type, it is necessary to make readings for the sensor frequency
under dry air, under water, and in the soil, in order to calculate normalized
or universal frequency.
- Measurement Units and Conversions
Basis 1 meter (m)
1m=0.001 kilmeters= 100 centimeters= 1000 millimeters= 39.37 inches
= 3.28 pies= 1.094 yards
Basis 1 hectere (ha)
1 ha=10,000 m2
=2.471 acres= 1.429
The atmosphere (atm) is equivalent to 76 cm of mercury. As the specific
weight of mercury is 13.5951 g/cm3 follows:
1 atm=13.5951 g/cm3
* 76= 1,033 g/cm2
1 atm=1.013 bar
Another form of pressure measuring, is by making it wquivalent to a water
column, which basis is: 1 cm2
and its height is h.
=1 cm * 1 cm * h cm
h= 1,033 cm = 10.33 m de water column (mca).
In the practice, the following is considered:
1 atm= 1 kg/cm2
= 10 mca = 1 bar = 105
Pa = 100 kPa = 100cb = 0.1 MPa =
- Conversion of pressure values to soil gravimetric moisture (%)
Conversion of pressure (or stress) values in soil to gravimetric moisture percent
can be performed using the Palacios Vélez method (1966). This is based on the
facts that the determination of Field Capacity and Wilting Point are determined
in the lab under 0.3 and 15 atmospheres, respectively. In Figure 11, there is an
example for this calculation.
Figure 11. Converting pressure values to percent water in soil
Basis 1 cubic meter (m3
= 1,000 liters= 264.1 gallons = 35.31 cubic feet
1 Megaliter (ML)
1 ML= 1,000 m3
T= soil tension, atm
Ps= Percent humidity, %
n,k ,c= Constant depending on the soil
C = ‐ 0.000014 CC 2.7 + 0.3
Log (Ps FC ‐ Log (Ps WP)
Log (T FC – C) – Log (T WP – C )
Log (0.3– 0.2989) – Log (15– 0.2989 )
Log (5) ‐ Log (2)
Log k = Log (T WP – C) – n Log Ps WP
Log k = Log (15– 0.2989) – (‐10.368) Log (2)
Log k = 4.2878 10x = 4.2878
k = 19,399.9
Ps (%) T (atm)
FC 5 0.3
WP 2 15
C= ‐ 0.000014 (5)2.6 + 0.3 = 0.2989
n = ‐ 10.368
T ‐ 0.2989
+ CT =
Basis 1 cubic meter /second (m3
/s= 1,000 liters/second= 6 x 104
liters/ minute= 36 x 105
liters/hour=864 x 105
/min=36 x 102 m3
/h= 864x 102 m3
/s=264.17 gallons/second= 15,850.32 gallos per minute
Basis 1 millimeter (mm)
1 mm= 1 liter/m2
= 10,000 liters/hectare= 10 m3
1 mm/day= 0.116 liters per second/day= 1.83 gallons per minute/day= 10
1. Barragán, F., Javier. 1998. Evaluación de los regadíos y mejora de su
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el período de verano, caso finca “Laguna Blanca”. Corporación San Diego-
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2003-2004. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. pp.168-162.
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al riego, resultados de plantía temporada de riego 2002-2003. In: Memoria.
Presentación de resultados de investigación. Zafra 2003-2004. Guatemala,
CENGICAÑA. pp. 173-179.
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económicas para la aplicación del riego en la caña de azúcar. In:
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guatemalteca. In: Memoria. Presentación de resultados de investigación.
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Técnicos Azucareros de Latinoamérica y el Caribe. Presentación en Power
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la fecha. Área de Agrometeorología. Archivo electrónico.
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Ediciones Mundi – prensa. España. pp. 81-135.
INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT
José Manuel Márquez
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a broad concept which refers to a pest
population management system that uses all suitable techniques in a consistent
manner to reduce and maintain these populations below those levels that cause
economic damage (Smith and Reynolds, 1966). It combines and integrates
chemical, cultural, physical, ethological, genetic and biological methods, for the
purpose of reducing economic losses. In decision making, the fundamental
question on which it is based, is the need to know how many insects may cause
certain damage and if it is significant to initiate control. Clearly, population
evaluation through monitoring should involve a decision-making process, and
according to Pedigo (1966) this knowledge fall in Bioeconomics, defined as the
study of the relationship between pest density, host responses to injury, and
resulting economic losses. On decision rules, none has been more successful
than those related to the concept of economic injury level (EIL) from Stern et
al. (1959). This concept is the basis for most integrated pest management
programs that are currently used, with the advantage of practical and simple
application in most situations. The economic injury level should be interpreted
as the pest population density, in which the cost of the control measure equals
the expected economic benefit, so, the control action “saves” a part of yield,
which would have been lost without pest control management decision making.
This condition is expressed by the equation:
C = ID*D*P*K
C = Cost of the management tactic per production unit.
ID = Injury units per pest.
D = Pest density
P = Market value of product, managed resource.
K = Proportional reduction in pest attack.
Agr. Eng., M.Sc., Integrated Pests Management Program Leader at CENGICAÑA. www.cengicana.org
Saved or protected yield has a monetary value, which is estimated using
biological and economic parameters that are represented by (ID, D, P, and K). It
should equal the value spent on the control action (C), in other words, EIL is the
pest population density where the value of saved yield covers the cost of
control. The injury unit (ID) is the loss of sugar (pounds, kilograms or tones)
per hectare, associated with a unit of pest density or damage. To determine ID,
experiments are designed in order to provide insight and quantify the
relationship between pest density and its effect on yield reduction in sugarcane
weight or sugar recovery. The IPM-CENGICAÑA program in collaboration
with the IPM committee (CAÑAMIP) generated values of postharvest losses
and injury levels for the major pests, which are represented in Table 1. These
values are relative and variable, according to local conditions and management
values of each sugarmill.
Table 1. Loss factor and injury level estimated for the main pests in Guatemala.
Pest Loss Factor Injury Level Economic
5.83 kg Sugar/t/1adult/cane
1465 kg Sugar/ha/1
0.62 TCH/larvae/m2 70.9 kg Sugar/ha/1
larvae/m2 10 larvae/m2
Field Rat 0.5 TCH/1% infestation.
2.19 kg Sugar/t/1%
65 kg s/ha/1%
6% damaged cane
0.36 kg Sugar/t/1%
32.4 kg Sugar/ha/1%
Burrowing Bug 0.053 TCH/insect/m2 6.09 kg
Sugar/ha/insect/m2 100 insects/m2
0.45 TCH (CP72-1312)
0.22 TCH (CP72-2086)
23.3-47.7 kg Sugar/ha/
10% damaged cane in
INTEGRATED STEMBORER MANAGEMENT IN
Borers from Diatraea genus
Species of Diatraea genus (Lepidoptera:Pyralidae) have greater economic
importance and geographic distribution in Guatemala. Diatraea nr.
crambidoides (Grote) has a relative abundance of 73 percent in the lower and
coastal stratum, compared with 27 percent of D.saccharalis (Fabricius). Other
species such as Xubida dentilineatella (Lepidoptera: Crambidae), Phassus
phalerus Druce (Lepidoptera: Hepialidae) and others yet undetermined,
occurring at altitudes above 300 meters in the temperate and humid sugarcane
region. The biology of Diatraea indicated that both species deposit their eggs
in clusters (Figure 1) and require between 5 to 6 days to hatch (Figure 2). The
larval development period is significantly different, since in D.saccharalis is 21
to 23 days, while in D.nr.crambidoides extends from 33 to 43 days. That’s why
the average life cycle is estimated between 41 and 57 days respectively.
D.saccharalis larvae have dorsal mesothoracic tubercle transversely elongated
and rounded at the front; while D.nr.crambidoides has the dorsal mesothoracic
tubercle in an elongated B-shape form, with an anterior midline incision (Figure
3). The pupal period requires 8 to 10 days; afterwards adults emerge (Figure 4).
The adult stage averages 3 to 8 days. Rarely, adults are seen in the field, since
they are nocturnal and short range flying, attracted by artificial lights at night.
Figure 1. Oviposition of Diatraea nr.
Figure 2. Borer larvae emergence from
Figure 3. Mesothoracic tubercle from D. saccharalis (left) and D. nr.
Figure 4. Female and male adults of D.nr. crambidoides
The damage is the result of larvae feeding activity, which may cause the death
of meristems in young sugarcane tillers that have not formed aboveground
internodes (deadheart), but in elongation and maturation periods, damage is
associated with the construction of tunnels, where the larvae lives most of its
cycle (Figure 5). The reduction in tonnage appears not significant, in contrast to
juice quality due to the presence of fungus Colletrotrichum falcatum in borer
tunnels. C. falcatum is responsible of sugarcane red rot causing reductions in
Pol, Brix, and increase of fiber percentage. CENGICAÑA-CAÑAMIP studies
indicate that the loss factor is 0.36 kg sugar/t, for every one percent of damaged
internodes. For an average production of 90 t/ha, an injury level of
approximately 32.4 kg sugar per hectare/ 1 percent damaged internodes is
estimated. The greatest losses occur in the Pacific coastal stratum, where at
least 57,075 hectares have been monitored, of these about 11.9 percent
exceeded the action threshold of 5 percent intensity of infestation (i.i.) in the
Figure 5. Drilling on the stem and borer larvae within the gallery.
Phassus phalerus Druce
Phassus phalerus (Lepidoptera: Hepialidae) is a borer of seasonal occurrence
between July and November, in sugarcane fields located at altitudes above 300
masl. According to Marquez et al. (2009), the relative abundance is between
19.9 and 20.8 percent in Guatemalan temperate and humid sugarcane regions. In
Figure 6, there are larvae, pupa, and adult of this borer.
Figure 6. Phassus phalerus borer life forms in sugarcane. IPM-
Elasmopalpus lignosellus Zeller (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae)
The larvae has a variable coloration, from pale to greenish yellow, then pale
green and finally blue green coloration. Reddish purple transverse bands and
several reddish brown longitudinal lines are present on the larvae’s back, which
are interrupted at the end of each segment (Figure 7). The highest infestation
occurs every year between January and April (15.7-19.9 percent), when soil is
dry and the crop is in tillering stage. The larvae pierces the seedlings neck,
penetrates and builds a gallery where it feeds, causing drying of the central bud
(deadheart). E. lignosellus larvae disappears when rain is established or due to
irrigation period. Is not considered a specie of economic importance.
Figure 7. Elasmopalpus lignosellus larvae
Tillering: Based on the measured damage value at harvest, ranges are
established to program a basic sequence of control. Low ranges between 0.001
and 2 intensity of infestation (i.i) requires at least two releases of Trichogramma
exiguum (Hymenoptera: Trichogrammatidae), an egg parasitoid, at the rate of
40 square inches per acre. Ranges of 2.01 to 4.00 require the same release rate
of Trichogramma (Figure 8) and “deadheart” thinning to extract larvae, between
60 and 90 days after harvest. Between 4.01 and 6 percent, requires three
Trichogramma releases, deadheart thinning and consider the application of
commercial biopesticides, like Bacillus thuringiensis, Nuclear Polyhedrosis
Virus (NPV), Cytoplasmic Polyhedrosis Virus (CPV). Damage greater than 6
percent requires the capture of adults with light traps, 20 days after harvest; four
release program of Trichogramma; dead heart thinning, when sampling
indicates larval density greater than 1300 larvae/ha; as well as the possibility of
three biopesticide applications. Weed control in and out of the plantation is
necessary to get rid of alternate hosts.
Elongation: Control actions are reduced due to the difficulty to enter the fields,
but according to prioritization obtained with damage and larval density
sampling, it will be necessary to implement an alternative program of Cotesia
flavipes (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) and Paratheresia claripalpis (Diptera:
Tachinidae) releases. This action must be supported by parasitism sampling,
which is obtained by collecting borer larvae 15 and 30 days after release (Figure
9 and 10).
Maturation: Infestation is growing at this stage, associated with the dry season
establishment and high crop development, however, control actions taken in
previous stages should show an effective reduction. In cases of high infestation,
aerial biopesticide application or Tebufenozide can be made. It is recommended
to harvest in blocks, ensure a flush cut sugarcane and remove the buds, as they
become alternate host for the next crop cycle.
Figure 8. Trichogramma exiguum wasp on borer oviposition (left) and
detail of parasitized borer eggs
Figure 9. Paratheresia claripalpis adult (left) and borer larvae parasitism
Figure 10. Cotesia flavipes adult (a), release cups (b), and cocoons
resulting from parasitization
(a (b) (c)
Integrated Pest Management of Sugarcane Froghopper (Homoptera:
Aenolamia postica and Prosapia simulans are the important species in
sugarcane plantations, with 96 and 4 percent abundance, respectively (Marquez
et al., 2002). These are insects with sucking mouthparts, feeding from xylem of
a wide variety of neotropical grasses. Sugarcane infestation is repeated every
year with diapausic eggs deposited on the ground the previous cycle. These
eggs give rise to the first nymph generation in the rainy season, and from there,
several adult generations arise with no diapausic eggs which hatch in 15 days,
increasing field population density (Figure12).
Figure 11. Froghopper spittle inside which a nymph can be found
Both nymphs and adults use their stylus to make feeding tunnels, ending in the
xylem (Byers and Wells, 1996). Due to low nutritional quality of xylem sap,
nymph state lasts for at least 30 days, forming a foam around its soft body and
remain in the adventitious roots of the crop. When they reach adult stage, these
insects migrate to the foliage and while feeding, they introduce a toxic
substance that destroys and interferes with the formation of chlorophyll (Figure
13), which is known as “scorch”, symptom that affects the plants normal
development and sucrose accumulation.
Based on the biology, it is clear that successful pest control relies in the
reduction of diapausic eggs and nymphs, reduce or delay the occurrence of the
critical period that produces high adult densities (Marquez et al., 2009) between
July and August. Due to accumulation of diapausic eggs through time and high
humidity conditions, there are fields that quickly reach the status of “high
infestation” where leaf damage is greater than 60 percent and since the critical
period of occurrence is 6 to 8 months crops age, the loss rates can achieve 8.21
TCH and 5.83 kg sugar/t, for every adult/cane (Marquez et al., 2001).
En la figura traducir: Biological cycle of froghopper
Figure 12. Life cycle sugarcane froghopper
Figure 13. Leaf damage caused by sugarcane froghopper (left) and scorch
symptom in a sugarcane field
Diapausic egg control after harvest
The Integrated Pest Management Committee (CAÑAMIP) and the Integrated
Pest Management Program of CENGICAÑA have documented a basic
reference sequence that includes information about timing for each activity,
how it is done, using criteria, equipment, operating efficiency, and special
conditions to ensure execution effectiveness (Marquez, 2010). Integrated
management success is based on egg population reduction, through a basic
sequence of mechanized work, which includes implements like the harrow
health, barber roll or Lilliston (Figure 15), hilling, taking away all the heaped
soil over the plant, crop-hilling and drainage improvements of fields that are
flooded during the rainy season. The purpose of cultural control is to reduce the
number of diapausic eggs, by means of sun and predator exposure. These tasks
are performed immediately after sugarcane harvest, to avoid damaging strain-
sprouting and ensure at least 60 percent egg reduction.
Figure 14. Use of harrow health
Figure 15. Use of barber roll or Lilliston
Nymphs and adults control: When rainy season starts, is necessary to initiate
monitoring of nymphs and adults, either by using yellow sticky traps around the
field edges, or visual sampling using the tiller as observation unit. The action
threshold for land applications of Metarhizium anisopliae varies between 0.05
and 0.10 insects/stem aimed at controlling nymphs’ first generation, which will
cause the epizootic in adult’s infield (Figure 16). Areas with a history of severe
damage in previous harvests, requires an analysis that considers the option of
applying preventive synthetic chemicals (Thiamethoxan, Imidacloprid),
changing the fields harvest time or the crops renewal.
Figure 16. Appearance of adults parasitized by Metarhizium anisopliae
Foliar damage should be measure by late September or early October and, based
on percentages, sort fields in categories of slight damage (0-40%), moderate
(41-60%) or severe , more than 60% foliar damage.
Sugarcane Lace Bug, Leptodyctia tabida (Hemiptera: Tingidae)
Lace bug is an insect with sucking mouthparts, which was first described by
Eric Schaeffer as Monanthia tabida in specimens collected in Mexico in 1839,
although later was named Leptodyctia tabida by Champion, in 1900. Adults
have flattened body, with oval, semitransparent, elongated wings, extending
beyond the abdomen with ribs that simulate a fine lace, hence their name “Lace
Bug” (Figure 17). The antennae are yellowish, long and thin; pronotum is
narrow in the front. Nymphs are flat, whitish with many spines branched,
straight and long. Nymphs molt five times and reach maturity in about 15 days.
Eggs are very small, deposited in the parenquima cells of leafs´ underside.
According to Chang, 1985, lace bug have been reported on corn (Zea mays);
Guinea grass (Panicum maximum Jacq); Johnson grass (Sorghum jalapense);
Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) Beauvois, Bamboo; Sugarcane (S. officinarum) and
Teosinte (Zea mexicana). There seems to be a relationship between levels of
stress in plantations caused both by excessive moisture and drought, which
favor the emergence of the pest and its eventual dispersal.
The presence of lace bugs in Guatemala (Figure 18) has been increasingly
evident infield, as reported in the Harvest Analysis 2007-2008, where at least
19,670 hectares had some degree of incidence. Heavy rains during July-
September period influence the reduction of lace bug infestation, because it
drops nymph colonies to the floor. For now, rain is a beneficial factor in
sugarcane fields and thereby reduces the risks of adverse effects in
development. Infestation preference was determined on variety CP88-1165,
which is widely distributed in the sugarcane region.
Figura 17. Detail of lace bug adult and colony formation in sugarcane
Figure 18. Appearance of sugarcane fields with lace bug infestation
West Indian Canefly or “Coludo”; Saccharosydne saccharivora
This is an insect with sucking mouthparts known as West Indian Canefly, or
Green Leaf-Hopper. It has been important in regions of the Caribbean and
Jamaica, although its distribution occurs from southern United States through
the Caribbean to Venezuela. The adult male (Figure 19) has transparent, well-
developed wings, while females and nymphs have white waxy filaments,
attached to the abdomen (Figure 20), from where derives its Spanish name
“Coludo”. Direct damage is a general weakening of the plant, but indirect
effects results from the rapid colony development, where both nymphs and
adults, produce large amounts of honeydew that falls on the lower leaves. This
secretion serves as a substrate for sooty mould development (Capnodium sp.),
which covers the leaves with a thick black crust that consists of sooty mould
spores. This layer blocks gas exchange through leaves, affecting severely
transpiration, photosynthesis and, consequently limits plant growth (Giraldo-
Vanegas et al., 2005). Systemic insecticide control is recommended in
sugarcane plantations less than three months old, especially in seedcane
condition, plus a nitrogen fertilizer to speed recovery.
Figure 19. Sugarcane Leafhopper adult
Figure 20. Sugarcane Leafhopper nymph colony (left) and presence of
sooty mould in lower leaves (right)
Sugarcane Delphacid: Perkinsiella saccharicida (Homoptera: Delphacidae)
Perkinsiella saccharicida (Figure 21) is native to Australia and its occurrence in
sugarcane produces yellowing, slow growth, shortened internodes, premature
leaf drying and in severe cases, death of young plants. Nymphs and adults
excrete a sugary liquid that covers the foliage and serves as a substrate for sooty
mold development. In general, both Cane Leafhopper and Sugarcane Delphacid
appear together in sugarcane fields. However, the real importance of this insect
lies in being the transmitter of Fiji disease virus, pathogen not reported in the
Figure 21. Perkinsiella saccharicida adult
Yellow Sugarcane Aphid: Sipha flava Forbes (Homoptera: Aphididae)
Aphids are manifested gregariously, forming colonies located on the underside
of leaves, and are characterized by their yellow color, which differentiates from
the gray aphid Melanaphis sacchari. Major infestations in Guatemala are
presented between February and April in a warm and dry environment, when
the crop reaches 3 to 4 months old (Figure 22). Aphid populations increase,
mainly by asexual reproduction (parthenogenesis), where females are not
fertilized because there are no males, thereby placing small adult aphids.
Damage symptoms are characterized by yellow color on the leaves of the edge
and apex, which consequently dry up, causing a delay in crop growth.
Figure 22. Aphid colony and symptoms in sugarcane
Sprinkler Irrigation: It is an effective measure when the initial focus of
infestation is detected and when feasible, efficiency is higher with the use of
vinasse in irrigation.
Crysoperla carnea larvae releases: This aphid predator known as “Aphid
Lion” (Figure 23) whose air or land release requires at least 23,000 larvae/ha.
Also recommended coccinelid larvae releases (Hippodamia convergens,
Cycloneda sanguinea). In Guatemala’s sugarcane region, Cycloneda sanguinea
larvae, is frequently found preying on aphids (Figure 24).
Figure 23. Crysoperla spp. larvae Figure 24. Cycloneda sanguinea adult
Integrated rat management; Sigmodon hispidus (Rodentia:Crecetidae)
Sigmodon hispidus (Figure 25) is the predominant rat species in Guatemala´s
sugarcane tropical region, with 93 percent of abundance, compared with other
genus occurrence, such as: Peromyscus, Heteromys, Liomys and Oryzomys.
Distribution is associated with large grassland areas, riverbanks, vacant areas
and crops such as corn, rice, sorghum, and sugarcane. Sygmodon hispidus
population increases due to the high reproductive capacity, expressed by
female’s continuous polyestrous cycles, bicornuate uterus and rapid sexual
maturity, 40 to 60 days old. The average gestation period is very short and
requires only 27 days for a litter that can be from 5 to 12 offspring. Longevity
is 3 to 5 years, but under cane’s natural condition, life expectancy is about 6
Figure 25. Sygmodon hispidus, the most abundant species in Guatemalan
For Guatemala, the largest rat population and damage increases is recorded in
the Pacific Ocean´s seashore stratum, where approximately 10, 949 monitored
hectares indicate levels above the five percent threshold of damaged crop stalks,
for 2010-2011 harvest. Damage is caused by rodents feeding activity and the
need to wear down the incisors, biting stems, which eventually lead to lodging
and further plant deterioration. Studies by IPM-CENGICAÑA claim that the
stem’s weight reduction is more significant than the juice quality, and the loss
factor is 0.5 TCH for every percent of damaged stems at pre-harvest time
(Marquez, 2002; Estrada et al., 1996).
Harvest as population reduction factor: Sugarcane harvest affects rat
population by destroying its habitat and reducing their primary food source,
which forces a dispersion process of survivors to the surrounding areas.
Machinery for lifting and transporting sugarcane is the main factor of mortality
and dispersal in high infestation areas, and it is the right time to start a healing
process within and outside the fields, for the purpose of reducing the shelter and
making the environment less favorable for rat survival. Mechanical control
when burning is a necessary activity for those areas located in low and coastal
stratum, wherein preharvest sampling presents a value greater than 30 percent
capture. It is an extreme measure for controlling high populations infield at
harvest, to avoid dispersion and further damage to adjacent fields.
Figure 26. Devices for mechanical control when cane burning; metal
structure designed by Pantaleon Sugarmill (left) and other,
rubber-based, designed by La Union Sugarmill (right)
Biological control in tillering: This is the appropriate stage to take advantage
of biological control by placing structures called “hangers” (Figure 27), that
facilitate the predatory action of owls Tyto alba (Figure 28) and hawks (Buteo
platypterus), that still occur in sugarcane fields. The preservation and
promotion of natural reserve areas in farms and the use of nesting boxes, placed
in leafy trees (Figure 29), are other important activities.
Figure 27. Bamboo hangers, properly designed to facilitate the predatory
action of owls and hawks in sugarcane fields (Palo Gordo
Figure 28. Owl Tyto alba (Pantaleon Sugarmill)
Figure 29. Wooden boxes for owl nesting (La Union Sugarmill)
Weed control is key in elongation phase: Generally, rainy season starts
(May) at this stage and is the factor that promotes vegetation abundance in cane
fields neighboring areas. These areas can easily become breeding grounds
called “source habitats”, where the rat population has ideal conditions for a
higher birth rate, driven by grass-weed seeds abundance, that provide
supplemental protein to females for continuous periods of gestation and
lactation. It is also a period in which, exploratory pulse increases, hence
expanding their range of action, thereby colonizing new areas of food and
shelter. These conditions significantly increase the probability of population
survival and with this abundance, begins the process of social organization,
ending with the formation of a hierarchical structure composed of the
“dominants” which are burly, aggressive and skillful, individual adults and the
rest, accept the “subordinate” role. Dominant individuals have preferential
access to water resources, food, space, and reproduction. To counteract this
phenomenon, weed control is recommended (Figure 30) in and out of
Figure 30. Weed control to eliminate “source habitats” as breeding
grounds for rats.
Another element that has been successful in most sugar mills is a program of
massive catches with “Victor traps” or “guillotine” and “cage-type” (Figure 31).
Figure 31. Mass capture with traps require specific maintenance and
The tiller overturning, due to strong winds, creates an excellent coverage and
protection for rat population, another favorable factor to population increase.
Monitoring and chemical control, by using first-generation anticoagulant baits,
is recommended as a rational choice at the end of this stage.
Colonization process in the maturation period: In sugarcane’s maturation
phase, rat populations find the right conditions for growth as the sugarcane
increases its energy value and thus becomes the most abundant food source. The
high population density leads to the emergence of strong competition between
rats, which force them to make further trips in search for food, mating or space,
favoring the uniform infestation of sugarcane fields. Also, in October,
sugarcane’s prostrate condition and residual moisture stimulate the emergence
of new shoots (suckers) that rats use as an alternate water source.
In the last months of that the maduration period (November-February), the rat
has additional energy expenditure due to lower night temperature, which forces
them to thermoregulate their body temperature. Rats are “homeothermic”
individuals, meaning that they maintain a constant body temperature and also
“endothermic” because what determines its internal temperature is metabolic
heat. Thus, rats are able to modify their metabolism to maintain constant body
temperature, being this process the core component of thermoregulation (Coto,
1977). Consequently, the energy deficit produced by thermoregulation is offset
by higher daily food consumption. But this process is also responsible for a
reduction in rat’s reproductive activity, since this power is now intended to
subsidize the search for food and space. Understanding these aspects of rat
ecology in sugarcane’s production system, justifies resources and preventive
plan implementation with unavoidable rationality and greater efficiency to
reduce losses infield (Figure 32).
Figure 32. Damaged stems by rats infield
Gophers; Orthogeomys hispidus (Rodentia: Geomydae)
Gophers are mammalian rodents, moderately small sized; without clear neck
differentiation; unremarkable ears and small eyes (Figure 33). Legs are short,
with well developed muscles; nails are long and strong, curved and sharp. Due
to their eating habits and underground life, these mammals have become a pest
of economic importance in areas of high and middle strata of Guatemala’s
sugarcane areas. They are responsible for tiller depopulation, by destroying the
root system until causing plant’s death (Figure 34).
Figure 33. Gopher specimen causing depopulation in Guatemala’s
Figure 34. Tiller destruction by gopher in sugarcane
Control strategy: Gopher’s integrated management depends mainly, on the
skill and cunning of gopher hunters in capture programs, either using bellow
traps or traps with rod and spear. Chemical control is not recommended as it
exposes people that use gopher as a food source. Habitat modifications by weed
and stubble control, deep fallow, live hedgerows with repellent shrubs, such as
Castor oil plant, are important cultural strategies.
ROOT PEST COMPLEX
The pest complex that inhabits the root system has variations, depending on the
region and altitude. Within this complex the following white grub species have
been identified: Phyllophaga dasypoda (Figure 35); Phyllophaga latipes;
Phyllophaga parvisetis and Phyllophaga anolaminata. Wireworm genus and
their relative abundance are: Dipropus spp (92%); Horistonotus spp (3.3%);
Agrypnus spp (2.6%) and Dilobitarsus spp (2%). Also other insects have
integrated like the Brown Burrowing Bug (Scaptocoris talpa), weevils
(Sphenophorus spp) and termites (Heterotermes convexinotatus).
The combined insect population that affects roots is expressed as the number of
individuals per square meter and the size of the sampling unit is a block of
0.90m X 0.60m X 0.40m deep, reviewing all insects that occupy the soil and
roots. Subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) are social insects that
commonly infest Guatemala’s sugarcane fields, and studies carried by
CENGICAÑA with the collaboration of Dr. Rudolf H. Scheffrahn from
University of Florida, show that at least four species have been identified:
Heterotermes convexinotatus, Microcerotermes nr. gracilis, Amitermes
beaumonti and Nasutitermes nigriceps (Marquez, 2006), however, the most
abundant is Heterotermes convexinotatus (Figure 37).
Figure 35. Phyllophaga dasypoda larvae, adult and male genitalia shape
Figure 36. Wireworm larvae and Brown Burrowing Bug nymph in
Figure 37. Soldier, colony and sugarcane stalk damage by Heterotermes
Control strategy: Sampling before soil turning and planting is the basis for
decision making either for cultural or chemical control. Good soil preparation
with deep plowing and the dredge use with long fallow at least for 15 days have
shown high efficiency, to reduce by 73 percent white grub larvae population,
and 40 percent of wireworm (Marquez, 2001). The largest possible debris-
crumbling of previous crop roots infested with Wireworm larvae, Termites or
Bidentate Scarabs (Euetheola bidentata) is necessary to increase mortality and
reduce reinfestation. The use of light traps (Figure 38), night tours with tractor
lights or personnel with flashlights during April-June period is effective for
massive capture of white grub adult. Another strategy is to plant “Flamboyan”
(Caesalpinia pulchemina) and “Caulote” or “Guacimo” (Guazuma ulmifolia)
due to the attraction exerted on adults, and then spray them with an insecticide
solution. Chemical control in ratoon cane is recommended when grub
populations exceed the action threshold of 10 larvae/m2
and applications must
be made between June and July. Currently biological control is promoted and
experiments are carried on with strains of Metarhizium anisopliae, Beauveria
bassiana and entomophatogenic nematodes of Heterorhabditis genus.
Native parasitoids of the genus Ptilodexia (Diptera: Tachinidae) have been
observed in white grub host, as shown in Figure 39. The use of
entomopathogenic nematode Heterrorhabditis spp. in a 60 million/ha dose, is a
suitable biological option in endemic areas.
Cambiar título en la figura 38: Light traps
Figure 38. Different types of light traps to capture white grub adults
Figure 39. Ptilodexia parasitoid larvae affecting white grub larvae
Scarab beetle; Podischnus agenor in sugarcane
The Scarab bettle, Podischnus agenor, Oliv (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae,
Dynastinae) is a potential pest in sugarcane that usually appears during the rainy
season, between June and August. It is known by other common names like
“Rhinoceros Beetle”, “Coco”, “Cucarron”, “Mayate Rinoceronte” and
“Escarabajo Cornudo”. Their life cycle is annual, females lay eggs in soils with
high organic matter content. Larvae complete their development in the soil, but
unlike other coleopteran larvae, these feed only on decaying plant material.
Larval stage may last 4-8 months, with a pupal stage of 2-3 months, and adults
can live for up to 2.5 months (Mendoça, 1996). Adults damage the stem when
they drill them in the middle and upper part of the plant (Figure 40), or by
introducing themselves beneath the floor to drill the base of young sprouts,
killing the leaf primordium giving the “deadheart” symptom (Figure 40). Adult
males emit a pungent odor that will attract other adults of both sexes, which can
be used to improve light trap catches infield. Because galleries serve as their
home for one or two weeks, every adult will damage several stems during his
lifetime, with greater activity at night. The areas with high adult infestations
may have a lot of holes in the ground, which can be an indicator to locate them.
Figure 40. Podischnus agenor and damage in sugarcane
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DISEASES IN SUGARCANE CROP
In general, crop diseases can affect processes such as photosynthesis,
respiration, and circulation of water and sap in the vascular system,
absorption of water and nutrients from the soil. Consequently, there are
decreases in the production of the plant component of interest, such as for
man, as grain, plant biomass or other, for example sucrose in the sugarcane
case. Therefore it is important to keep the crop free of diseases, which can
be achieved either by the application of chemicals or by the use of resistant
varieties. In sugarcane, in most countries of the world, the diseases control
in sugarcane is focused on the use of resistant varieties and Guatemala, is
not the exception.
More than 126 diseases have been reported for sugarcane in 109 different
countries (Chinea et al., 2000), and in Guatemala 24 have been identified
(unpublished data). Taking into account the incidence, severity, effect on
production, and discard of varieties with good production potential when are
free of disease, it has been determined that in Guatemala the most important
diseases are: ratoon stunting, smut, leaf scald, brown rust and orange rust.
The second largest group is composed by: mosaic, red stripe and yellow leaf
(leaf yellowing) and the third group: pokkah boeng, purple spot, yellow spot
and chlorotic tripe.
Studies on the disease effect on sugarcane production like ratoon stunting,
have been made in CENGICAÑA. It was found that production decreases
depending on the resistance of the varieties, but in average of nine varieties
losses were significant. In plant sugarcane the loss in cane yield was 7.88
percent, in first ratoon, 16.47, in the second, 21.38, in the third, 23.2, and in
the fourth, 20.9, (Ovalle and Garcia, 2008). These results are an illustration
of what diseases can mean in the production, and the importance of
maintaining disease-free sugarcane fields.
Below is a description of symptoms, transmission, the importance to our
country, and control methods for these and other common diseases in the
Guatemalan Pacific sugarcane zone.
Agr. Eng., M.Sc., Plant Pathologist at CENGICAÑA. www.cengicana.org
Causal agent: Sporisorium scitamineum (Syd.) M. Piepenbring = Ustilago
scitaminea H. Syd & P. Syd.
Symptoms: The main symptom of smut disease is a whip-like structure that
develops at the apex of infected stalks (Figure 1). The structure is formed by a
center with corky appearance, which is initially covered by millions of spores
(chlamydospores), which together present a black color. That is why the
common name of the disease, because it looks like coal dust (smut) (Martin et
al., 1961). The whip-like structure is covered by a thin silver-gray membrane,
which while breaking, releases spores (Ramallo and Ramallo Vázquez, 2004).
After the release of spores the structure can remain as a corked appendage. The
structure has no ramifications, and depending of the variety it is variable in
thickness and the length varies from a few centimeters to over a meter (Chinea
et al., 2000). It can also be straight or curved.
Before the whip emergence, the infected stems may show abnormalities and
can be thinner, flattened rather than cylindrical and the leaves of the infected
plant are reduced in size and width, taking a position in which the insertion
angle of the stem is reduced (more upright than normal) (Ovalle, 1997; Vázquez
de Ramallo and Ramallo, 2004).
In susceptible varieties, infections of the stalk pieces used as seed can produce
dozens or even hundreds of thin stalks that produce stools with “grassy”
appearance and eventually develop whips in their tops.
Secondary infections can cause the development of small lateral whips type
"lalas or side shoots" (called lalas to anticipated growth of lateral buds) on
stems with normal development (Martin et al., 1961).
Transmission and spread: The transmission and spread of the disease occurs
when wind or rain release the spores and carry them to the neighbor plants or
neighboring fields (Chinea et al., 2000). The spores germinate and infect the
buds, the infection can remain dormant until the next cycle when the pieces of
stalks are used as seed in other fields, or produce the appearance of side whips
in the same cycle (Ovalle, 1997) where infection occurred.
Importance: Smut disease is considered one of the most important diseases in
sugarcane, because of this potential to cause losses of production, which has
impacted various sugarcane producing countries. In Guatemala severe losses
occurred in the eighties in varieties like CP57-603 and B49-119, forcing the
substitution by resistant varieties.
Control: The recommended method for smut disease control is the use of
resistant varieties (Tokeshi, nd)
Figure 1. Typical whips of S. scitamineum on infected stem tops
Causal agent: Puccinia melanocephala H. Syd. & P. Syd.
Symptoms: The first symptom of this disease is the appearance of small
elongated yellow spots which are visible on both surfaces of the leaves. The
spots change to brown color with a thin yellowish-green halo (Hughes et al.,
1964). The size of the spots is variable and lesions have been observed from 2
millimeters to 30 or 40 millimeters. Later, when the development of the
pustules starts, slightly elongated bulges are observed beneath the epidermis
of the lower leaf surface. Generally, these bulges break up to release the
spores (urediospores) which, when ripe, are brown in color (Fig. 2). After a
period of active sporulation, lesions darken until reaching a blackish tone and
sporulation stops. Most lesions occur at the tips of the lower leaves. When the
variety is susceptible, and environmental conditions are favorable to the
pathogen, the lesions coalesce (come together) and large areas of dead tissue
are produced which can completely dry the leaves.
Transmission and spread: It happens in a very quickly form and when the
epidermis of pustules breaks, the spores are carried out to other plants and
other fields by wind and rain (Ovalle, 1997). The spores require a thin layer of
water on the leaf surface for at least six hours, for optimal germination
(usually on the underside of the leaf). Optimum temperature for germination is
21° C. (Magarey et al., 2004).
Importance: The importance assigned to brown rust, varies in different
countries. In Guatemala it is considered very important, because recently there
have been outbreaks of the disease on previously resistant varieties, such as
CG97-97, CP73-1547 and PR75-2002. This disease is the reason to discard
the highest amount of varieties in the selection program.
Control: The recommended method is the use of resistant varieties, however,
because sudden breaking of resistance is usual, then fungicide application is
recommended, while the susceptible variety is replaced by a resistant one.
Figure 2. Lesions caused by P. melanocephala on the underside of a leaf.
Uredospores in a microscope view
Causal agent: Puccinia kuehnii (Kruger) Butler
Symptoms: The first symptom of this disease is the appearance of yellow
lesions, small and elongated, developing a pale yellowish-green halo when
enlarged (NORTH AMERICAN PLANT PROTECTION ORGANIZATION
(NAPPO), 2007). After enlarged, the lesions turn from yellow to orange-brown
or orange when pustules open to release the spores (Figure 3). The pustules tend
to occur in clusters or spots on the underside of leaves and are most abundant in
the apical zone. One characteristic which distinguish orange rust from brown
rust, is its tendency to produce additional infections in the middle and basal
areas of the leaves in pustule patches. Another difference is the size and shape
of the lesions, which are larger and more elongated in brown rust that can be
distinguished only by the experience of repeated observations. The color of the
lesions does not allow differentiation, in old lesions. Adequate differentiation is
achieved only by observing the spores under the microscope. The behavior of
infections is different in both rusts, since forfor brown rust infection occurs in
young states of the plant (up to 5 or 6 months) and after the, symptoms of the
disease disappear. In orange rust, lesions have been observed with active and
abundant sporulation until maturity of the plant and even on necrotic tissue and
during dry seasons.
Transmission and spread: The transmission and spread, occurs when the
epidermis of the pustules breaks and spores are carried out to other plants and
other fields by wind and rain. The spores require Relative Humidity values
above 98 percent and the optimal temperature for germination is 21°C.
(Magarey et al., 2004).
Importance: In Guatemala, the disease is considered of high importance, since
its arrival to the country caused major changes in varieties composition. The
most important variety CP72-2086 decreased from 66 percent to 30 percent in
three years; and the variety CP88-1165 increased from 5 percent to 35 percent
in that period, with consequent expenses for these changes. In addition, the
disease caused discarding of many varieties in different stages of
CENGICAÑA´s selection program.
Control: The recommended method is the use of resistant varieties, however, in
countries like Australia and the United States, application of fungicides is
recommended while the susceptible variety is replaced by a resistant one.
Figure 3. Lesions caused by P. kuehnii on the underside of a leaf. Uredospores
in a microscope view
Causal agent: Gibberella moniliformis (Sheldon) Wineland
Fusarium moniliforme Sheld. Snyd et Hans
Symptoms: Initially symptoms of the disease are manifested in the stalk apex,
subsequently it can be seen on lower positioned leaves, when the stalk continues
growing. Symptoms ranging from discoloration (chlorosis) of unopened leaves ,
which are whitish or yellowish (Figure 4), until the death of the apical meristem
(this is not common). Other symptoms of intermediate intensity are
deformations of unopened leaves, wrinkled or entangled, therefore the opening
and expansion is difficult. In other cases, a whitish or yellowish discoloration in
the basal part of the young leaves is seen, and red stripes are projected that can
be confused with those caused by red stripe disease (Pseudomonas
rubrilineans). During periods of high relative humidity, the base of the apical
leaves may show areas of necrotic tissue, redish-brown in color and when, the
sporulation occurs (Ovalle, 1997) (Figure 4). Sometimes, the infection causes
malformations of the stalks, which vary in intensity and the stalks can show
superficial or deep horizontal cracks. When the variety is susceptible, the
disease can cause death of the apical meristem and side shoot development
Transmission and spread: The transmission of the disease takes place mainly
by the transfer of spores by wind (Martin et al., 1961).
Importance: Despite the above symptoms, the disease rarely causes effects on
production. It is common, in the varieties growing in Guatemala, sometimes
with alarming symptoms that then disappear, with minimal or no effect on the
The disease is more severe when the weather conditions are very hot and dry,
and after a rainy period that cause high environmental humidity ((Martin et al.
Control: The recommended control method is the use of resistant varieties.
Figure 4. Symptoms of F. moniliforme in stalk tops. Tissue necrosis where
sporulation of the fungus occurs
Causal agent: Dimeriella sacchari (B. de Haan) Hansford
Symptoms: Purple spot disease is characterized by the formation of irregular
leaf spots, light red in color at the beginning and then dark, from 2 to 10
millimeters in diameter (Figure 5). Symptoms begin in the lower leaves and
progress over time toward the younger leaves. This means that in later stages,
severity is higher in lower leaves. Sometimes the spot is not solid and is formed
by a series of very fine parallel red lines following the direction of the
secondary veins (Ovalle, 1997). When environmental conditions are favorable,
the fungus produces perithecia (globosely structures covering spores) on the
spots surface on the underside of leaves. These resemble small black balls that
can be seen with a magnifying glass. In dried lower leaves, spots can be clearly
seen but reddish-brown to black in color. The disease is favored by high
humidity and high temperature periods. InThis is the reason why in Guatemala
appears towards the end of August and develops its maximum level in
September (Ovalle, 1997).
Transmission and spread: Like most fungal diseases, transmission and spread
take place through spores produced in the lesions. The spores are carried out by
wind and rain.
Importance: The disease is considered non-significant despite being a disease
observed in all varieties grown in Guatemala. However, it can become
important since variety CP88-1165, which is rapidly expanding, shows more
severe purple spot infections than other varieties and has shown effects on plant
growth in slow drainage areas.
Control: The recommended method is the use of resistant varieties
Figure 5. Lesions caused by D. sacchari on the leaf surface
Causal agent: Mycovellosiella koepkei (Krüger) Deighton
Symptoms: The disease can be seen as yellow spots on the leaves, from 2 to 10
mm in diameter, irregularly shaped, which can show reddish colors at maturity
(Ovalle, 1997) (Figure 6). If there are suitable conditions (high humidity
mainly) the fungus sporulates mainly on the underside of the leaf, developing a
woolly, whitish or greyish growth (Martin et al., 196). When spots become
reddish, the woolly growth differences the spots from those caused by purple
spot. In susceptible varieties and suitable conditions for infection, the spots can
come together and cover large areas of the leaf. In these cases the leaves may
distort and become prematurely detached from the plant. Yellow spot could be
confused with the expression of genetic spots, which are usually yellow. Both
can be distinguished because those of genetic origin are smaller (as freckles)
and show no sporulation, regardless of the moisture and temperature conditions.
Transmission and spread: The transmission from plant to plant and spread
from one field to another occurs in periods of high relative humidity, when high
sporulation occurs and spores are splashed by rain and carried out by wind
(Martin et al ., 1961).
Importance: The disease is considered of minor importance in Guatemala, as
in the currently used varieties, it appears in advanced stages of plant
Control: The recommended method is the use of resistant varieties (Ramallo
and Ramallo Vázquez, 2004).
Figure 6. M. koepkei lesions on the leaf surface
Rot of basal stem, sheath and root
Causal agents: Marasmius sacchari Wakker y M. stenospilus Montagne
Symptoms: The distinctive symptom of this disease is the mycelium
development in the basal leaf sheaths and in basal portion of the stalk (Tokeshi,
sf, Hughes et al., 1964). Mycelial growth is noticed more easily by separating,
the sheaths of lower leaves from the stalks which exposed show a whitish
growth on both surfaces. It seems that sheaths are glued or attached to the stalk;
this is due to mycelial growth between the two surfaces. If humidity and
temperature conditions are high, development of reproduction structure occurs,
which is characterized by an umbrella-shaped structure, white in color with a
yellow to light-brown center, from 2 to 4 cm in diameter, with long bases of 2-7
cm (estipites) (Tokeshi, nd), (Figure 7). Usually the reproduction structure
grows very close to or on the soil surface (Hughes et al., 1964). These structures
produce and release large amounts of spores from the underside. In severe
infections the stalks and attached leaves die, and a brown rot is shown at their
basis. Sometimes it may occur in complete stools.
Transmission and spread: The fungus is maintained as saprophyte in crop
residues (Hughes et al., 1964) and it is transmitted through the mycelium and
spores developed near the ground level. The spread from one field to another
occurs by the use of contaminated tools infected seed.
Importance: This is a minor importance disease. In Guatemala, infections
have been observed in areas with slow drainage and mainly in flooded areas.
Control: It is a weak pathogen that causes infections under abnormal plant
development conditions. If good conditions to the plant growth are maintained,
especially in terms of adequate soil drainage in areas of high humidity, the
fungus will not be able to cause damage.
Figure 7. M. sacchari reproduction structures. Cogumelos (umbrellas) abundant
in the basis of stools. Detail showing stipites (the long base of
Causal agents: Capnodium sp. and Cladosporium sp.
Symptoms: The condition known as Sooty mold is presented in plants infested
with pests such as West Indian Canefly or “Coludo” (Saccharosydne
saccharivora), Leafhoppers (Perkinsiella saccharicida) and Ribbed scale
(Orthezia sp.) and sometimes Yellow aphid (Sipha flava), which exude sweet
substances that serve as substrates for the fungus growth. The symptom can
occur on leaves, sheaths and stalks; and is visible by blackening of those organs
(Figure 8). The identifiable feature is that such blackening is removed when it is
rubbed with the nail, because the structures of the fungus cannot penetrate the
plant tissue and only form a superficial, thin black crust. Although fungi
Capnodium sp. and Cladosporium sp. are not plant parasites, they can cause
developmental disorders, as they interfere with the photosynthesis process,
blocking sunlight penetration and gas exchange by blocking the stomata
(Chinea et al., 2000).
Transmission and spread: These occur through spores (ascospores or conidia
depending on the causing fungi) that are carried out by the wind and rain.
Spores can also be carried out by pests of insects when they move from
affected to healthy areas.
Importance: In recent years sooty mold importance increased because of
infestations by West Indian Canefly or “Coludo”(Saccharosydne saccharivora)
and Ribbed scale (Orthezia sp.) .
Control: Control is obtained by eliminating pests that secrete sweet
compounds. Farmers are recommended to use products with the lowest impact
on the environment.
Figure 8. Blackening of the leaf surface by superficial development of Capnodium
and / or Cladosporium, causing agents of Sooty mold
Dry top rot
Causal agent: Ligniera vasculorum (Matz.) Cook
Symptoms: The disease called dry top rot begins with the drying of tips on
top leaves. After the entire surface of these leaves dry, the top internodes
are shortened and wrinkled, and the whole stalk dries dried (Comstock et
al., 1994) (Figure 9). When the stalk has not yet dried,, longitudinal cuts
show a color change in some of the vascular bundles, a salmon tone
(Comstock et al., 1994). Infections usually occur on developed stems
which the losses can be severe. Infections with the symptoms described were
seen in Guatemala, but no signs were found (spores) to allow confirmation
of the causal agent.
Transmission and spread: Transmission is by infected soil and spread by
infected seed pieces.
Importance: Considered of little importance due to its low incidence in
commercial varieties at the present time.
Control: Use of healthy nurseries is recommended.
Figure 9. L. vasculorum infection symptoms in sugarcane stalks
Causal agent: Xanthomonas albilineans (Ashby) Dowson
Symptoms: The characteristic symptom that gives the disease its name is death
of leaf tissue with burning appearance at the tips, which are curved up or down.
The disease presents different symptoms depending on the form of the disease.
Two possible phases or forms are:
Chronic Phase: The characteristic symptom of the chronic phase is the presence
of fine lines about 0.5 mm wide and well-defined edges, that develop in
secondary veins of leaves forming sharp angles with the midrib (called pencil
lines) (Martin et al., 1961; Ovalle, 1997). In most cases, lines are long and
initially white to yellowish (Figure 10). Later, the pencil lines can present red
sections intercalated with yellowish sections (Martin et al., 1961). Such
infections come from the stalk and through the leaf midribs. Most resistant
varieties show only this symptom when inoculated, without effects on
Sometimes the lines arise from infections which start at the leaf edges through
the hydathodes. In these cases the lines tend to be wider and with irregular
Another symptom of the chronic phase is the growth of side shoots (lalas),
which develop from the base or from the middle part of the stalk. In most cases
the lalas decrease in size from the bottom to the top of the stem (Martin et al.,
1961; Tokeshi, nd; Vázquez de Ramallo, and Ramallo, 2004) (Figure 10),
unlike the lines developed as a result of chemical ripening, such as fluazifop
butyl and Glyphosate or by any damage to the apical meristem. In these cases
the side shoots develop first from the superior buds and then the upper lalas are
larger, and the size of the rest decreases along the stem. The lateral shoots
induced by leaf scald may or may not display "pencil lines", chlorosis or
burning of leaves. Finally, there may also be young shoots (suckers) with
etiolated leaves (white to cream in color due to the lack of chlorophyll and
chloroplasts) (Martin et al., 1961).
In the internal part of the stalks a change in color of the vascular bundles, may
occur which are presented light-red at the beginning and dark red (almost
black) at the end (Figure 10). The development of the color change is initiated
at the nodes and extends to the internodes (Martin et al., 1961).
Acute phase: When this phase is presented, the stems may suddenly wilt and
change from the normal color to a dark red, causing sudden deathwithout other
symptoms (Martin et al., 1961)
Transmission and spread: Transmission occurs primarily through the use of
infected “seed” pieces and contaminated tool during field works or at harvest
(Martin et al., 1961). However, the transmission and spread may also occur by
the combination of strong wind and strong rain, which can break the infected
tissue of stalks allowing exposure of the bacterium, which is dragged by water
and wind. (Autrey et al., 1991). This type of transmission has also been linked
to infections that occur through the hydathodes in the guttation process.
Importance: In Guatemala, this is an important disease due to environmental
conditions (severe rainy periods and severe dry periods) that favor its spread
In addition, leaf scald has caused the elimination of some commercial varieties
of high potential of production.
Control: Use of resistant varieties is recommended. Some varieties with high
potential of production (as CP73-1547 and CP72-1312) that have shown soft
leaf scald infections (less than five percent) are still used successfully by
applying appropriate hot water treatment to eliminate the infections (immersion
of seed pieces in stream water at room temperature for 48 hours, followed by
immersion in water at 50°C for three hours) (Steindl, D., 1971; Frison and
Figure 10. Side shoots on a stalk, induced by X. albilineans infection. “Young”
pencil line on a leave. Color changes of vascular bundles in an
Causal agent: Acidovorax avenae subsp. avenae (Manns) Willems et al. =
Pseudomonas rubrilineans (Lee et al.) Stapp
Symptoms: The Red Stripe of sugarcane can produce symptoms on leaves and
at the apex of the stalks. Infections in the leaf-blades cause the symptom that
gives the disease its name. Infections appear as red lines of different intensity,
depending on whether they are recent or old, with well-defined edges and with a
width from less than one millimeter to two millimeters (Figure 11). The lines
may be short or long in size, but generally, they are long, sometimes occupy the
entire length of the blade; and may occasionally fuse to form bands of red
tissue. In high humidity and high temperature periods, the causing bacterium
exudes on the underside of leaves and on the site of the bands or stripes. When
dry, these exudates leave dry rubber flakes. Sometimes when strong winds
occur, the leaves are broken and divided into strips.
Infection of the tips of the stalks kills the growing point and cause drying of
young leaves. In these cases, a wet, soft rot, with disagreeable and
characteristic odor occurs (Figure 11). The death of the growing point induces
budbreak of lateral buds and growth of "lalas" (Martin et al., 1961).
Transmission and spread: They occur when bacterium exudes on the
underside of the leaves, which coincides with high humidity periods. If strong
rains and winds occur, the bacterium is spread by splashing and drag, and
penetrates through leave wounds (Martin et al., 1961). The bacterium does not
circulate through the vascular bundles of stalks; and therefore it does not spread
through the seed.
Importance: Currently, the red stripe is of relative importance in Guatemala,
because among the major varieties only CP72-2086 is severely attacked during
the growing phase in low slow drainage and ponding areas.
Control: The recommended method is the use of resistant varieties. It has been
observed that some varieties show susceptibility and resistance in young states from
7 or 8 months of age, lost stem infection recovery, issuing new stems.
Figure 11. Symptom of red stripe on a leaf and on the growing point of a stalk
Ratoon Stunting Disease
Causal agent: Leifsonia xyli subsp. xyli (Davis et al.) Evtushenko
Symptoms: This is one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose with certainty
in the field, because its symptoms are vague and can be confused with those
produced by other abiotic agents (CENICAÑA, 1995). When plants are
infected, there occurs a progressive reduction in sugarcane production through
the harvests; this effect gave the name to the disease. Such reduction is due to
the obstructions of xylem vessels caused by the bacterium, resulting in lower
growth (shortening of internodes and decrease of diameter –notice in Figure 12,
ten healthy stalks and ten infected stalks–). Besides, diseased stools may
produce fewer stems (CENICAÑA, 1995; Ovalle and Garcia, 2008). In some
varieties, there are reddish small lines (1-2 mm), at the base of the internodes in
longitudinal sections of diseased stalks (CENICAÑA, 1995) (Figure 12).
Transmission and spread: It mainly occurs through infected seed pieces and
infected cutting tools and tillage.
Importance: It is considered one of the most important diseases worldwide. It
has been found infecting all varieties growing in Guatemala, and it has been
demonstrated that it causes significant effect on production. (Bailey and Bechet,
1995; Ovalle and Garcia, 2008).
Control: Hot water treatment of seed pieces is the most used control method. In
Guatemala, five hydrothermal treatments were evaluated (Ovalle et al., 2001),
and the best results were found by dipping seed pieces in hot water at 51o
10 minutes, followed by reposing at room temperature for 12 hours, and finally
immersion in hot water at 51°C for one hour. However, good results were also
obtained by direct immersion of the seed pieces in water at 52o
C for 30 minutes,
which is a simple treatment. Besides the use of healthy seed, control of ratoon
stunting, should include cleaning of the cutting and field work tools. This is
done with chemicals and good results have been achieved with Vanodine 1%
(Victoria, et al., 1985; CENICAÑA, 1995).
Figure 12. L. xyli infection effect on stems. Reddish lines at the basis of an
Causal agent: Sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV), Sorghum mosaic virus
Symptoms: This disease is characterized for causing decrease in the number
and size of chloroplasts in certain areas of the leaves, leaving other areas
without apparent damage. This causes the characteristic symptom of mosaic
with normal green areas on a background of lighter green to yellowish (Figure
13), with patterns that vary depending on the virus strain (Martin et al., 1961),
the variety (Koike and Guillaspie cited by CENICAÑA, 1995), and sometimes,
temperature and other growing conditions. Sometimes only limited chlorotic
stripes on normal green are observed. In common cases, chlorotic areas on the
normal green predominate, with varying intensities and patterns. The mosaic
symptom may or may not be associated with a decrease in normal growth
(Brandes, cited by Martin et al., 1961). The mosaic is most evident in young
shoots (1-3 months) and in the apical leaf basis (Cook, cited by Martin et al.,
1961). In some varieties changes in color of the stem bark can be seen
(Tokeshi, nd) similar to those seen on leaves.
Transmission and spread: The virus is transmitted in the seed pieces and also
through the aphids Rhopalosiphum maidis and Hysteroneura setariae
(CENICAÑA, 1995) and Toxoptera graminum.
Importance: Currently, it is considered without commercial importance in
Guatemala, even though one of most planted variety (CP72-2086) usually
shows high infection by this virus, without effects on production.
Control: The use of resistant varieties is the recommended method (Vázquez de
Ramallo, and Ramallo, 2004). It has been observed that some varieties have
symptoms in the seedling stages but without development effect, thus, they are
considered tolerant to the disease.
Figure 13. Mosaic virus effect on growth. Leaf infection symptoms
Causal agent: Sugarcane yellow leaf virus (SCYLV)
Symptoms: Symptoms of this disease begin with yellowing of the leaf midrib,
in leaves +3 to +5, evident on the underside (+1 leave is the first leave with
fully visible neck at the apex. Count down to name the following leaves). At the
beginning it appears pale yellowish and after it turns like egg yolk color
(Figure 14). In some varieties, the upper face of the midrib takes a pinkish or
reddish color. Following, the leaves tips dry, and on susceptible varieties the
dry area advances on the entire leave. Plants may or may not show, an effect
on growth (stunting), depending on the susceptibility of the variety. In severe
cases, which rarely occurs, death of the apical meristem is observed; and
adventitious roots emission at the apex of the stem (which was described by
Witteveen, P., in 1969 in Tanzania, in what he called "yellow wilt" but it has
many similarities in symptoms, so it is probably the first description of the
yellow leaf disease). Any type of stress is associated with the manifestation of
the symptoms of the disease, mainly by drought and it is commonly more
severe, at the edges of the fields. Some association between low temperatures
and more severity, thus, certain varieties show problems with yellow leaf at
high altitude and none in the low altitude. Although nine years ago SCYLV had
been confirmed by serological methods in Guatemala (Ovalle and Nelson,
2003), recently, using molecular methods, sugarcane yellowing phytoplasma
(SCYP) was also detected and this patogen pathogen can cause the same
symptoms than SCYLV (Maldonado et al., 2009).
Transmission and spread: The transmission of the disease caused by the virus
is through seed pieces and by the aphids Melanaphis sacchari, and
Rophalosiphum maidis (Chinea, 2000; Vázquez de Ramallo, and Ramallo,
2004). The phytoplasma is transmitted by West Indian Canefly or “Coludo”
(Saccharosydne saccharivora) reported as the insect vector (Arocha et al.,
Importance: Although nearly one hundred percent of varieties analyzed by
laboratory methods in Guatemala have been infected with the virus, none of the
major varieties or the promising ones show effects on production.
Control: In countries where the disease is causing production losses, the
recommended method of control is the use of resistant varieties.
Figure 14. SCYLV infection symptoms. On the right photograph, a healthy leaf
(top) and two different symptom intensity
Causal agent: Despite research conducted over 80 years in various countries, it
has not been possible to identify the causal agent of chlorotic streak. The
disease has several characteristics that suggest it could be a virus, but nobody
has been able to confirm its cause of the disease (CENICAÑA, 1995).
Symptoms: The main symptom of this disease is the presence of light green
bands on the leaves, variable in length, with defined edges that later become
yellowish bands with irregular edges. Eventually, necrosis can occur sometimes
along the entire length of the band (Figure 15). The bands are wide (from 3 to
10 mm), with irregular edges, sometimes, they are also wavy (CENICAÑA,
1995). Diseased plants show decreased development, which is evident at the
lower height and lower tillering. Pieces of seed from infected stools have
problems in germination and symptoms are frequently present in adult plants
that grow in heavy and wet soils (Tokeshi, nd; CENICAÑA, 1995).
Transmission and spread: The disease is transmitted through the roots, seed
pieces (Victoria et al., 1984) and runoff from rain or irrigation. An infested field
can be kept for long periods of time (several months) even in the absence of
sugarcane plants. The chlorotic streak can not be spread by cutting tools or
Importance: Variety CG96-135 has been susceptible near the sea, when
planting seeds without heat treatment, in slow drain fields or waterlogged.
Control: Seed heat treatment by immersion in hot water at 50o
C for 30 minutes
is effective (Chinea et al., 2000) therefore, the treatment for ratoon stunting
disease is enough to control also chlorotic streak. (Victoria et al., cited by
Figure 15. Chlorotic streak symptoms on leaves
1. Arocha, Y.; López, M.; Fernández, M.; Piñol, B.; Horta, D.; Peralta, E.;
Almeida, R.; Carvajal, O.; Picornell, S.; Wilson, M.; Jones, P. 2005.
Transmission of a sugarcane yellow leaf phytoplasma by the delphacid
planthopper Saccharosydne saccharivora, a new vector of sugarcane
yellow leaf syndrome. Plant Pathology 54. 634-642. (on line),
2. Autrey, L. J. C.; Saumtally, S.; Dookun, A.; Sullivan, S.; Dhayan, S.
1991. Aerial transmission of the leaf scald pathogen, Xanthomonas
albilineans (Ashby) Dowson. In: ISSCT Third Sugarcane Pathology
Workshop. (Abstr. p. 4.)
3. Bailey, R. A.; Bechet, G. R. 1995. The effect of ratoon stunting disease
on the yield of some south african sugarcane varieties under irrigated and
rainfed conditions. Proceedings. South African Sugar Technologists
Association. pp. 74-78.
4. Barrera, W. 2010. Effect of environmental variables and crop growth on
development of Brown rust epidemics in Sugarcane. Master of Science
Thesis. Lousiana State University. 78 p.
5. BSESQCANES-Varieties for your future. Chlorotic streak. Information
sheet IS10013. (on line).
6. CENICAÑA (Centro de Investigación de la Caña de Azúcar de
Colombia). 1995. El cultivo de la caña en la zona azucarera de Colombia.
Cassalett, C.; Torres, J. e Isaacs, C. (eds.). Cali, Colombia. 412 p.
7. Chinea, A.; Nass, H.; Daboin, C.; Díez, M.D. 2000. Enfermedades y
daños de la caña de azúcar en Latinoamérica. FONAIAP, INICA,
FUNDAZUCAR, Universidad de los Andes. Barquisimeto, Venezuela.
8. Comstock, J. C.; Miller, J.D.; Farr, D. F. 1994. First report of dry top rot
of sugarcane in Florida: symptomatology, cultivar reactions and effect on
stalk water flow rate. Plant Disease 78 (4):428-431.
9. Frison, E. A.; Putter, C.A.J. (eds.) 1993. FAO/IBPGR Technical
guidelines for the safe movement of sugarcane germplasm. Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome/International Board
for Plant Genetic Resources, Rome. 44 p.
10. Hughes, C. G.; Abbott, E.V.; Wismer, C. A. 1964. Sugar-cane diseases of
the world. Vol. II. New York, Elsevier. 354 p.
11. INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR PLANT PATHOLOGY. Committee
on common names and plant diseases. List of pathogens, diseases and
references (on line).
12. Maldonado, A. P.; Ovalle, W.; García, S. 2009. Metodología para la
detección molecular de enfermedades en caña de azúcar. Centro
Guatemalteco de Investigación y Capacitación de la Caña de Azúcar.
CENGICAÑA. pp. 106-115. .
13. Martin J. P.; Abbott, E. V.; Hughes, C. G. 1961. Sugar-cane diseases of
the world. Vol. I. New York, Elsevier. 542 p.
14. Magarey, R. C.; Neilsen, W. A.; Magnani, A. J. 2004. Environmental
requirements for spore germination in three sugarcane leaf pathogens.
Proc. Aust. Soc. Sugar Cane Technol. Vol. 26.
15. NORTH AMERICAN PLANT PROTECTION ORGANIZATION
(NAPPO). 2007. Detections of Orange Rust of Sugarcane, Puccinia
kuehnii, in Palm Beach County, Florida – United States. (on line).
16. Ovalle Sáenz, W. R. 1997. Manual para identificación de enfermedades
de la caña de azúcar. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. 83 p.
17. Ovalle, W.; López, E.; Oliva, E. 2001. Evaluación de cinco tratamientos
hidrotérmicos para el control de Raquitismo de las socas. In: Memoria.
Presentación de resultados de investigación. Zafra 2000-2001. Guatemala,
CENGICAÑA. pp. 63-65.
18. Ovalle, W.; Nelson, A. 2003. Detección de patógenos con pruebas
serológicas en caña de azúcar. In: Memoria. Presentación de resultados
de investigación. Zafra 2002-2003. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. pp. 67-69
19. Ovalle, W.; García, S. 2008. Efecto de la enfermedad del Raquitismo de
las socas (Leifsonia xyli subs. xyli) en el rendimiento de caña de nueve
variedades en cinco cortes. 2004-2008. In: Memoria. Presentación de
resultados de investigación. Zafra 2007-2008. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA.
20. Steindl, D.R.L. 1971. The elimination of leaf scald from infected planting
material. Proc. Int. Soc. Cane Technol. 14:925-929.
21. Tokeshi, H. s.f. Doenças da cana-de-açúcar. Programa Nacional de
Melhoramento da cana-de-açúcar. Instituto do Açúcar e do Álcool.
Piracicaba, São Paulo. 70 p.
22. Vázquez de Ramallo, N. E.; Ramallo, J. 2004. Enfermedades de la caña
de azúcar en Argentina. Guía para su reconocimiento y manejo.
Tucumán. Estación Experimental Agroindustrial “Obispo Colombres”.
23. Victoria, J. I.; Ochoa, O.; Cassalett, C. 1984. Enfermedades de la Caña
de Azúcar en Colombia. Centro de Investigación de la Caña de Azúcar de
Colombia. 27 p. Serie Técnica No. 2.
24. Victoria, J. L.; Guzmán, M. L.; Ochoa, B. 1985. Chemicals used to
disinfect tools in order to limit the spread of ratoon disease of sugarcane.
Centro de Investigación de la Caña de azúcar de Colombia CENICAÑA.
Documento Técnico No. 69. s.p.
XI. SUGARCANE RIPENING AND
SUGARCANE FLOWERING AND
Sugarcane cultivation shows during its development four stages: Initiation,
tillering, elongation or great growing and ripening (Castro y Montúfar, 2004;
Bezuidenhout, et al., 2003). The initiation stage ranges from the emergency
until 45 days after planting. Tillering stage has an average duration of three
months. On the other hand, elongation stage takes six months; this stage is the
most important in terms of the sugarcane growth. Ripening is the last stage and
its average length is 45 days.
In the ripening stage the sugarcane plant decreases its growth rate and starts
sucrose accumulation in the stalks. In general, the ripening process is gradual
until reaching the maximum point, after which, the sucrose content in stalks starts
to decline. According to Buenaventura (1986) the sucrose concentration in juices
depends onseveral factors such as: the temperature variation along the entire day
(15°C), the soil moisture or rainfall (30-100 mm/month) and luminosity from four
to six weeks before harvest (11.5-12.5 light hours). This stage is very important
since is directly related to the final product of: Sugar. In most sugarcane-
producing countries, weather conditions drive the harvest season. In Guatemala,
the best conditions for harvest are found from November to April.
In many sugarcane-producing countries the use of artificial ripeners is common.
This lies in: to deliver crop certain conditions to induce ripening; especially if
needed conditions are not given naturally, such as proper soil moisture and
temperature oscillation during the day (Deuber, 1998; Caputo et al., 2008;
Alexander, 1973 y Legendre, 1975). In Guatemala, the sugarcane that is
harvested in the very beginning of the harvest season, has low levels of sucrose
since the ripening stage is just started and the stalks still retains high humidity
quantities. The ripeners applications allow increase the sucrose accumulation in
such initial harvest period. As it progresses the harvest period, higher sucrose
accumulation values are reached, especially in February when the best sucrose
accumulation is achieved due to the better weather conditions.
In general terms, the ripeners application is part of a bigger harvest strategy,
dedicated to increase the sugar production. The results indicate that the ripeners
Agr. Eng., M.Sc. Specialist in weeds and ripeners at CENGICAÑA. www.cengicana.org
application contribute to the maturing, and then improving the sucrose
concentration (Villegas, 2003; Caputo et al., 2008 and Leite, 2005).
NATURAL RIPENING IN SUGARCANE
The natural ripening in sugarcane starts when the stalks growth rate decreases,
there is less moisture in soil and low temperatures are recorded (Almeida, et al.,
2003). In Guatemala such conditions are not given at the very beginning of the
harvest season, since the wet season is just ending.
The sucrose content in sugarcane is the result of the balance between the total
synthetized sucrose and the amount of hydrolyzed sucrose, mediated by acid
and neutral invertases activity. The acid enzyme is soluble and has its main
activity in the apoplast and in the the vacuole cellular level (Hatch et al.,
1963). The main function of this enzyme is to hydrolyze and to transport the
sucrose from the leaves to the stalks during the growing stage. The higher
activity of this enzyme is during the growing period and decreases in the
ripening stage, operates between pH values from 5.0 to 5.5.
The neutral invertase is a soluble enzyme which works at pH 7 and is located in
the cytoplasm of cells in mature tissues; consequently it is related with the
sucrose accumulation into the stalks. Its higher activity is noted in the ripening
stage (Hatch et al., 1963; Batta y Singh, 1986). The more advanced the ripening
in the sugarcane stem, the more sucrose accumulation is reached, meanwhile the
reducing sugar (glucose and fructose) decrease into the internodes (Azevedo,
In the productive process, , the juice quality is defined according to the high
sugar content (sucrose) and at the same time, for low reducing sugar content
(Chen, 1991). Fernandes (1985); Salgado (1995), and De Stefano (1985)
indicate that at the beginning of sugarcane ripening and during this process,
the minimum values of the technical parameters must be, between 80 to 85
percent for juice purity; 14.4 to 15.3 for Pol% and the reducing sugars
concentration must be less than one percent.
USE OF RIPENERS FOR SUGARCANE MANAGEMENT
In Guatemala, before the use of the ripeners, the sugar yield was 72 Kg of sugar
per cane ton (Buenaventura, et al., 1992, Buenaventura, 2000). It is important to
take in account that at the time, different sugarcane cultivars were grown, the
harvest season period was different (December to March). The harvest,
transportation, and the sugar extraction processes, have been modified since
then. Besides, all these factors have caused productivity improvement.
Nevertheless, while the actual contribution value of ripeners is not well
estimated, the use of them is, indeed, an important key in the sugar yield
From 1980 to 1990, the very first isolated tests on ripeners isolated tests began
in different Mills in Guatemala. Different products were using, including
Glyphosate. These tests were based on the application of the ripener in early
maturation sugarcane varieties, harvested in the middle of December and
January. Doses between 0.75 to 1.25 l Ha-1
were used. In the harvest season
1990-1991, ripeners were applied ripeners in 13,000 Ha. In the harvest season
2010-2011 the applied area was 148,000 Ha, which means the 82 percent of the
total cultivated area (Figure 1). In that harvest season, Glyphosate was the most
used ripener and it was applied in 80 percent of the total area where ripeners
were utilized. Currently, different products have been tested, trying to find
advantages over Glyphosate such as, the herbicide effect, (especially in those
sugarcane cultivars that are susceptible to the product) or with less negative
effect on the environment.
Figure 1. Trend of the use of ripeners, considering the cultivated area from 1986
to 2011 in the sugar agroindustry in Guatemala
Most chemical ripeners are compounds with herbicide properties which,
if applied in low doses, inhibit, modify or promote, in some way,
physiological processes in the sugarcane plant (Lavanholi et al., 2002 y
Almeida et al., 2003).
Ripener applications have as an objective, to modify or alter the
morphological and physiological conditions in the sugarcane plant. These
modifications could be qualitative or quantitative, for instance: early ripening,
inhibition or delaying of the vegetative development, promotion of the sugar
increase into the stalks, especially in the internodes near to the plant apex.
Also, ripeners allow for cutting larger stalks, diminish trash, induce early
foliage drying, and they also improve harvest efficiency, and therefore, raw
material (Villegas, 2003; Lavanholi et al., 2002 y Almeida et al., 2003).
Chemical ripeners modify plant development at enzymes level, which
catalyze the sucrose accumulation; this promotes the higher sugar
concentration into the stalks. In general, ripening is a physiological process
that comes from the photosynthesis (sugar producing process) and respiration
(process that releases energy through concumption of sugar). The ripeners
can practically stop the vegetative development through the translocation and
sugars storage, mainly sucrose, and lately, it can promote qualitative and
quantitative modifications in the final production (Castro, 1999).
The most utilized ripeners in Guatemala are non-selective herbicides, which
contains Glyphosate molecule as an active ingredient. Also some selective
herbicides applied to control grasses, have been evaluated. CENGICAÑA
jointly with Guatemala’s Sugar Mills, have tested several options, , among
these non-herbicide ripeners; such as those based on nutrients like Potassium
and Boron; among other growth regulators (plant-hormones-like compounds)
have been evaluated. At this time it is being investigated options that include
blends of herbicides with fertilizer elements such as Boron (B) and Potassium
(K) (Espinoza y Corado, 2011).
The ripeners based in elements such as Boron, Potassium, and Phosphorous,
are new options due to the physiological functions of each nutrient, which
have an additive effect on the final sucrose accumulation. In the case of
Boron, its function is to accelerate the transportation of the sucrose through
the phloem from the leaves to stalks; through the sucrose-borate complex.
Other functions of Boron are: Synthesis of the cell wall, lignification of the
cell wall, part of the structure of the wall cell; also Boron participates in the
carbohydrates metabolism, RNA metabolism and Indol Acetic Acid (IAA)
metabolism. Also, Boron is part of the respiration process, phenolic
metabolism, ascorbate metabolism and is an integral part of the plasma
membrane. Among those functions, two are well defined in the plant´s
physiological process: synthesis of the cell wall and integral part of the
plasma membrane (Cakmak & Römheld, 1997).
For Potassium, the main function is to act as a catalyzer in plant metabolism and
is found mainly where energy transference occurs (Taiz and Zeiger, 2006).
Potassium participates in the formation and neutralization of organic acids.
Besides it plays an important role in the sugars accumulation and their use into
the plant through the vegetative growth (Lazcano-Ferrat, 2000 e IPNI, 2007).
The role of potassium in the sugars transport is essential, since the deficiency
of this element restricts sugar movement from leaves (Supply organ: source)
to storage places (sinks), i.e. the stalks. In sugarcane sugar movement,
from leaves to stalks, happens in a speed of 2.5 cm per minute.
The lack of Phosphorous has not showed a significant effect in sugar
transportation. On the other hand, Nitrogen has showed a moderate effect, while
the lack of Potassium can reduce sugar transportation down to half of its
original potential (Lazcano-Ferrat, 2000; IPNI, 2007).
In the present, in Guatemala, as well as in other countries (USA, Brazil,
Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Australia), a higher trend in the use of ripeners based
on fertilizers is bigger, using products such as: (Potassium nitrate, Potassium
nitrate + Boron, Potassium carbonate, carboxylic radical compounds) and plant-
hormone-like compounds such as Trinexapac Ethyl, Ethephon. Also some
mixtures are being used such as, herbicides plus fertilizers (K, P, Si, B) or
herbicides plus plant-hormone-like compounds (CENICAÑA, 2011; Legendre,
1975; Almeida, 2003; Leite, et al., 2008; Leite y Crusciol, 2008; Leite, et al.,
2010; Crusciol, et al., 2010, Leite, 2010; Toro y Jara, 2011).
Chemicals utilized as ripeners and their mechanisms of action.
The chemical ripeners are divided in two groups: growth delayers and growth
inhibitors. Among the growth delayers Ethephon and Trinexapac Ethyl can be
found. These are growth regulators (plant-hormone-like compounds) applied in
sugarcane producer countries. Amongst growth inhibitors Glyphosate,
Fluazifop-buthyl and Cletodim can be found, the latest two are used in a lower
rate in Guatemala.
Next, some chemical characteristics and structural differences are depicted for
several riperners used in Guatemala, as well as their mechanism and mode of
Glyphosate: Glyphosate is the active molecule in several herbicide brands.
There are structural differences in the Glyphosate molecule based in the acid
form. The molecule can contain an isopropylamine salt (IPA) displacing the
OH; such is the case of “Round up”(Hartzler, 2000). The molecule Glyphosate
N (phosphonomethyl) glycine is the active ingredient of “Round up”; it is
related toglycine, the simplest essential aminoacid. Another case is when the
salt of the molecule is replaced by the sulfonate, which contains
trimethylsulfonium salt (TMS), this is the “Touchdown” case; therefore both
have different molecular weight (Hartzler, 2000).
Glyphosate penetrates foliage, it is transported by phloem jointly with
photosynthesis products and is accumulated in meristems tip (Yamada y
Castro, 2007). The most accepted hypothesis about the Glyphosate action
mechanism as herbicide, states the inhibition of the enzymes chorismate
mutase and the prephenic dehydrogenase, which participate in the synthesis of
chorismate acid, which is, in turn, a precursor of aminoacids that are
synthetized only in plants: tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylalanine (Jaworski,
1972; Zablotowicz and Reddy, 2004). On the other hand, it seems that
Glyphosate reduces the acid invertase levels in treated plants, which, in turn,
reduce glucose and fructose breakdown (Hatch et al., 1963).
Fluazifop-butyl and Clethodim: Fluazifop-butyl is a graminicide based in 2-
(4-(trifluoromethyl-2 -iloiloxipiridine)-phenoxi)-N-butyl propionate. This
ripener inhibits the growth by restricting the dry parenchyma volume and
promotes the sucrose accumulation in 30 days, approximately (Crusciol et al.,
2010). The action mode of this herbicide is the same to Clethodim. These
products are capable to inhibit lipids biosynthesis specific for grasses. These
compounds act in the enzyme levels by inhibiting the carboxyltransferase
action, which belongs to the enzymatic complex of the Acetyl-
CoACarboxylase, which, in turn, stops the triglycerides formation, which are
part of the cell membranes (Crusciol et al., 2010).
Fluazifop-butyl or Clethodim is accumulated in growth zones, damaging the
meristematic tissues in the stalk’s nodes and buds; this stops the growth in a
lapse of 48 hours. Young tissues and meristems are the most sensible organs
(Crusciol et al., 2010).
These products are being applied in areas where neighbor Glyphosate-
sensitive-crops are found. The dose is the same as the used for a ripener
product, especially when a short period between application and harvest, is
In Guatemala, when the previously mentioned products are used, the harvest
is planned between 30 to 40 days after the application, mostly because higher
periods can damage the sugarcane plants. This is mainly due to that the
chemical destroys the growth points, therefore the apical dominance is lost
and the lateral buds sprouting start, this process inducts the glucose and
fructose breakdown. Besides, a progressive necrosis occurs in the growth
rings in the apical region (Crusciol et al., 2010).
USE OF RIPENERS IN SUGARCANE
General effect of ripeners application
The final result of the ripener applications is sucrose concentration increase in
juice, if it is develop within the proper period, which should be established for
each ripener. Figure 2 shows the ripening curve for Glyphosate in the cultivar
CP88-1508. In this figure the higher sucrose accumulation period can be
observed, which is the ideal harvest interval.
Figure 2. Ripening curve in the CP88-1508 cultivar with Glyphosate application
as ripener vs. no application control. (Espinoza et al., 2011b) DAA=
Days after application
Other effects driven by ripeners
Early foliage drying: The visual effect of drying after the application of
herbicides based ripeners, are observed within 15 days after such application
(Figure 3). This drying or “burning” effect is important due since it makes the
crop burning practice more efficient at the harvest, besides it reduces the trash
volume transported to factory. Due to the wet conditions at the end of the rainy
season, this practice is useful especially because it matches with the beginning
of the harvest season.
Figure 3. Ripeners Comparison with and without “burning” effect. Photo by
Manuel Corado, “Madre Tierra” Mill, 2011
Higher sucrose content: As it was mentioned before, the main objective of
applying ripeners is to increase the sucrose concentration into the sugarcane
stalks. In the internodes at the apex zone the sucrose concentration tends to be
low and the glucose and fructose concentrations tend to be higher, as compared
with the lower internodes (basal and intermediates) (Barreto, 1991). The
glucose and fructose tend to reduce juice purity. The efficiency about using
ripeners is directly related to the efficiency in the final sucrose recovery at
factory (Barreto, 1991).
Higher cut height: If a ripener is used, the height cut, at harvest moment, is
defined by the ripener effect. Since the ripener increase the sugar concentration
into the internodes in the apex region, the cut in the apix region is taller,
consequently, higher amounts of raw matter go to the factory (Villegas, 2003).
Herbicide effect on the sugarcane plant: The Glyphosate application
diminishes the internodes length without a necrotic effect; this can be observed
between 15 and 30 days after the application. In the Fluazifop-butyl and
Clethodim cases, necrotic rings can be seen; these rings start at the growth rings
in the young internodes, normally until the natural-break-point in the stalk; this
allows a chemical prune in a period of four or six weeks.
In Figure 4, the different effects for different ripeners are shown. It can be
appreciated the internodes shortening, yellowish foliage, and the “burning or
drying” feature (4A). Likewise, the figure shows the base of the apical
internodes (4B), also similar effects of Fluazifop-butyl, can be seen (4C).
Figure 4. A) Glyphosate used in CP72-2086 cultivar 27 days after the application
(daa). B) Graminicide effect of the Fluazifop-butyl 12.5 EC in the
Mex82-114 cultivar, 31 daa. C) Clethodim 12 EC effect in the cultivar
Mex82-114, 9 daa
Ripeners application effect over the regrowth: In Figure 5 the results from
one study related to the sugarcane regrowth (CENGICAÑA, 2010), are shown.
The figure displays that an overdose (similar to those that use to happen in
overlapping throughout air applications) to susceptible Glyphosate cultivars,
such as CP88-1165, especially in its first production season, provokes several
negative effects in the normal plant development; such as the reduction of the
plant height. The difference in plant height between the plants with ripeners
applied and the plant with no-ripeners application could mean a notable
difference in its age of 30 days along the entire crop life cycle; this implies a
negative effect in the final cane production (CENGICAÑA, 2009).
A B C
Figure 5. Effect of the overdose of Glyphosate over sugarcane cultivar CP88-
11565, first crop. Pantaleon Mill, 2009
Another negative effect from ripeners that can be observed, is the growth
inhibition on to the applications strips; this can be attributed to the fly height of
the airplane used for the application, which can induce an overdose. This effect
can be also due to the phyusiological crop condition during the application
moment (Figure 6).
Figure 6. Strips with growth inhibition on the regrowth after the harvest on an
area applied with ripener
Figure 7. Leaf Chlorosis on regrowth after the first harvest, attributable to the
Glyphosate transportation to the roots on the susceptible cultivar
Although the regrowths often emerge within 20 to 30 days after the harvest,
these can reveal leaf chlorosis (lose of chlorophyll); at the same time, they can
show hyponasty (up-leaf-roll) or epinasty (down-leaf-roll); plants with this
problems frequently die.
Benefits in the sugarcane production
The use of ripeners technology is an important feature in the sugar production
costs, since the sugar content, based in the fresh weight, is an important aspect
to take into consideration, in order to determine the industrial expenses and
profitability. All the variable costs included in the harvest, transportation and
milling, are directly related with the cane amount required to produce each
sugar ton (Morgan et al., 2007). The use of chemical ripeners to accelerate the
process of sucrose increase is a relatively low cost technology; and at the
present time, it is still profitable. The potential is to gain up to 450 extra Kg of
sugar per hectare, attributable to the ripener application. With current prices
(2012), it is necessary to increase, approximately 83 Kg of sugar per hectare,
attributable to the ripener application, in order to pay for the application
Figure 8 showsthat ripeners application induces an increase in sugar production
per cane weight unit (Kg of sugar per cane ton) when compared with sugarcane
produced without ripener application (Espinoza, 2011a). The general production
average in both years goes from 270 to 493 extra Kg of sugar per ton of cane,
due to the ripener application as compared with the control without ripener
application. According to this study, ripener use is profitable regarding to
application costs, cutting, loading, and transportation.
Figure 8. Cane Yield per area unit in the CP88-1165 cultivar. Three
ripeners vs. a no-application control
From the same experiment mentioned above, Figure 9 shows sugarcane
production trend in tons per hectare, which reveals that there was no reduction
in the sugarcane weight forthose treatments using Trinexapacetil (“Moddus”)
and Glyphosate (“Round up”) when they are compared with the results showed
by a non-applied control (Espinoza, 2011a).
Figure 9. Sugarcane Yield per unit weight, in the CP88-1165 cultivar.
Three ripeners in comparison with a no-application control
Ripener application season
115.0 118.8 118.6 117.9
127.8 131.6 129.0 129.1
Control Moddus 25
AZ/Plu + Brix
sugar kg /cane ton
135.0 138.0 134.3
94.0 96.6 94.1 90.3
Control Moddus 25
AZ/Plu + Brix
In Guatemala, the harvest is divided into three periods (thirds): First one is from
November to middle of January; the second one from January to February, and the
third one from March to April. The ripener applications for the first-third start
between September and October. For the second-third, the applications are done
between November and December, and for the last third, the applications are made
between January and February.
The period between Glyphosate application and the harvest, is within 45 to 65 days,
according to the harvest third. As the harvest take place, it is needed to diminish
such period and also is necessary to diminish the doses, due that the natural ripening
conditions are occurring progressively. It is important to have an adequate
coordination betweenthe ripener application and the harvest in charge, in order to
have a continuous cutting in the appropriate moment for each applied area.
Selected Areas for ripener application
For the selection of the ripener application areas, it is required to have a good
knowledge of the conditions in these areas. The conditions for the selected areas
with sugarcane, which is not for renewal use, are more extensive, in comparison
with the areas that will be renewed.
Among the conditions required forripener application are the following:
Sugarcane cultivars with good response to the ripener.
Sugarcane cultivars with high yield potential (up to 100 TCH)
Plantationswithout stress for humidity, plagues, and diseases.
Topography that allows for flying safety.
Areas without neighboring crops sensitive to the produc (ripeners).
Uniform plantations regarding to the plant height feature.
Big areas; for better efficiency in the application.
Areas with non-flattened sugarcane.
Issues to take into consideration to the ripeners application
Productivity: In Guatemala, the ripener use is planned according to the estimated
productivity, type of soil, dose in each application, and the selected areas,
according to the conditions mentioned above. With respect to productivity,
production estimation is done in tons of sugarcane per hectare, before the
application (the estimation period ranges from 50 days before the application to 1
day before). The estimation is done taking in to account stalk population, plant
height and stalk diameter in five samples for every 20 hectares, besides the
production history in the area is considered. Sometimes the weight of thesample is
Soils: In sandy soils, the employed doses are usuallylower than the average, which
is 1.4 l Ha-1
. Clay soils foster natural ripening and for that reason, lower doses are
utilized instead of the normal doses used at thebeginning of the harvest.
The soils dedicated to the sugarcane crop in Guatemala, have variable
characteristics. Mollisol, Andisol, Inceptisol and Vertisol can be found (Pérez,
2008). The Vertisol soils enable natural ripening in some sugarcane cultivars. This
soil is found mainly in the area of influence of the Tululá Mill south-westof the
production area in Guatemala, thus in these areas, use of ripeners is lower,
especially in the third-third of the harvest season.
Soil Moisture: In some sugar mills, it is suggested to limite the irrigation in field
from 30 to 45 days before harvest, with the objective to facilitate sugarcane
planting and transportation of sugar toward the stalks. When this recommendation
is not followed, “a signal” may be received by the plant, to use sugar in order to
continue with its growth: and, therefore, to decrease sugar yield in the stalks.
Regarding this, higher ripener doses can be useful when high humidity conditions
are present in the soil (Villegas, 2003).
Commercially, the Glyphosate doses used in Guatemala can vary according
to the harvest month and sugarcane cultivar. For example, in the harvest´s
beginning, doses can vary between 0.8 to 1.5 l Ha-1
. Also, the dose can
vary regarding to the expected yield. When the ripener is applied in an
area to be renewed, the ripener dose can vary within 1.25 and 1.75 l Ha-1
The average of Glyphosate applications fluctuate between 1 and 1.4 l Ha-1
For the graminicides case, the dose fluctuates between 0.5 to 0.8 l Ha-1
To get the expected results, using ripeners, the next must be taken into
account: the agro-ecological traits in the production area, the kind of
ripener to use, doses, and the harvest season. This last feature is important
because in Guatemala the ripeners use, starts with high doses, and as the
harvest progresses the ripener doses are lower than the beginning. This is
in partly, due to a gradual reduction in moisture excess , which allows a
better natural ripening.
The sugarcane variety and number of cutting (planting or ratoon):
These two features are important to define the dose. Among the used
sugarcane cultivars and most susceptible to the ripeners are CP88-1165
and CP72-1312. Both varieties suffer important damages, especially in the
/planting (first cut). These damages can be observed from doses of 0.8 l
, which is a low dose. It is important to point that the CP72-1312
cultivar is not grown in large areas. In ratooning, these cultivars do not
present important damages, maybe, due to their higher biomass amount.
The varieties CP72-2086 and CP73-1547, among others, do not present
negative responses to the Glyphosate treatment in the /planting in doses
between 1.0 and 1.2 liters per hectare for a production of 100 and 120 of
cane tons per hectare, respectively.
AIR APPLICATION GENERALITIES
In Guatemala, the ripeners are applied by using airplanes or helicopters,
the latter are the most frequently used, since they allow air application in
areas with irregular topography. The airplanes are used mainly in large and
uniform areas (more than 100 Ha), where they are more efficient.
(Global Positioning System) receptors are used during air application, in order to
get an accurate location where to apply the product; this avoids unwanted
application in not targeted crops.
Also a flow-meter is utilized (Flow-control), the main function of this device is to
fix the download of the ripener calibrated volume, which automatically
compensates the download when the airship’s speed varies.
Another device is the Thermo-anemometer, used to measure the weather conditions
through course of application, of such as wind speed, temperature, and relative
humidity. All this information serves to change ripener application volume, and
thus, avoid environmental damage. Occasionally, all these weather records are used
to explain variations in the final applied ripener effect.
To measure ripeners application quality, a special “Scanner” is used, jointly with
the DepositScan (USDA) software, determine variables such as: Number of
Droplets per square centimeter, size of the droplet (µm), and application volume.
With all this information a Variation Coefficient (CV %) can be calculated related
to the covered area (Figure 10). These parameters have the objective to determine
the application quality.
Some sugarcane mills still use the “magnifying glass” system for counting the
droplets in a square centimeter, however, with this method, it is not possible to
determine the droplet size, and this is a very important variable, as it will be seen
Figure 10. Equipment used to determine application quality variables. a) Water-
sensitive Card. b) Scanner to establish quality application parameters.
Other important equipment used are the application nozzles. In Guatemalan
sugar agroindustry, the next nozzles are utilized: DG80-02, DG80-03, DG80-04
DG80-06, and CP11TT, for various airships. These nozzles have the attribute of
diminish the drift of the applied product and manage the drop sizes, thus to
reduce the drop sizes to less than150 µm, so to avoid drifting.
Rules and control for air applications
During the application planning, the personnel in charge must coordinate all
work with the people responsible for the crop area to be applied. The personnel
verify that there are no complications such as: neighboring crops susceptible to
the ripener, electrical wires, trees, etc. When an obstacle is found, a strip from
300 to 500 meters must be left.
In order to assure a good application, airships are gaged with anticipation, with
the objective to fulfill rules and standars in a good application. The following
aspects must be taken into account:
a. Application strip width. For helicopters this is in between of 16 to 20 m
and for aircraft between 15 to 22 m.
b. Size uniformity, distribution and number of drops per square
centimeter. For some sugarcane mills in Guatemala, the ideal number of
drops per cm2
, for Glyphosate as ripener, fluctuates on 15 to 30 drops/cm2
According to the type of airship, the Variation Coefficient must be less than
c. Variation rate in the application flow volume. The water volume in the
application is in the middle of 18 to 30 liters of water per hectare. The
water volume defines the amount of droplets that finally reach the sugarcane
canopy. To measure the droplets amount and the application quality, the
monitoring equipment is employed, which is mainly composed of water-
sensitive cards, which are placed, at least, in the equivalent width of three
passes of the airship. This measure is merely a reference of the application
d. On the other hand, to achieve a good application, certain weather conditions
should be present such as: a temperature lower than 30° C; relative humidity
over 60%; and wind speed below10 km hr-1
. Application with inversion must
be avoided, since this condition is propitious to drift. The inversion occurs
mainly from December to February. This event arises when in clear nights,
soil cools quickly. The soil, in turn, cools nearest air; due this, the air
becomes more dense and heavier as compared with the air in superior layers.
If this event coincides with wind absence, then no thermal convection
happens, also the speed of vertical mixture between two air layers
diminishes, and therefore drift occurs to neighbor areas which are not
POST-RIPENER APPLICATION MONITORING AND
Usually, after ripener application, pre-harvest samplings are made, in order to
know the ripener effect in the sugar accumulation into the stalks. This
monitoring allows planning the harvest in its maximum sucrose accumulation
point. Pre-harvest samplings are developed in five different points in a 20
hectare area. . In each station (sampling point) five milling potential stalks are
collected in at least one linear metre or, it can be collected instead, a complete
tiller. Each stalk is cut in setts of 40 to 50 cm length. In lab, the juices are
analyzed to determine Brix (%), Pol%cane and the reducing sugars content.
Also juice purity(%) is determined; and finally the commercial and potential
yield is calculated (kg of sugar per cane ton).
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SUGARCANE FLOWERING AND THEIR
Gerardo Espinoza y José Luis Quemé
The growth of angiosperm plants is divided in two stages a) vegetative and
b) reproductive. The vegetative stage is related to root, stalks, and leaves
development; while reproductive stage is concerning with formation of
flowers, fruits, and seeds. The reproductive stage is divided as well in two
stages: flowering and fructification, which are morphological and
physiological distinct from each other. The vegetative growth and the
fructification are determinded by the plant nutritive conditions while
flowering seems to be mainly affected by hormones (Meyer et al., 1970).
Flowering in sugarcane plant is produced when under specific conditions,
the growth apical point stops foliar primodia formation; and it consecuently
begins the production of flower primordia. This is the way the vegetative
stage turns on to the reproductive stage. The change result in stopping
internode stalk formation and then young stalks are expanded in their normal
diameter thus growth is stopped. That is the reason why sugarcane
flowering varieties concentrate more fiber in the top internodes which can
result in pith development (Bakker, 1999). The corklike pith prescense is
expanded from the top to the bottom and when stalks are processed, there
is a higher fiber production and low sucrose yield (Larrahondo y Villegas,
The flowering effect on sugarcane yield and sucrose content depends mainly
on the following factors: a) flowering intensity, b) Age of crop. In this
case, flowering effect is higher in young plants rather than in mature plant
stage. Flowering in mature stage effect is minimum on sugarcane yield, but
sugar content can increase; and c) Length of time between flowering and
harvesting. In late harvesting cork content formation increases (stalk
weigth decreases) the apical dominance stops and lateral bud shoots appear.
Gerardo Espinoza is Agr. Eng., M.Sc. Specialist in Weed and Ripeners, José Luis Quemé is Agr. Eng.,
Ph.D., Plant Breeder at CENGICANA www.cengicana.org
This fact reduces the sucrose content in the stalks (Bakker, 1999;
Larrahondo and Villegas, 2009).
In Guatemala as well as in other sugarcane producing countries, in order to
minimize the negative effect of the flowering, some factorsthat influence
flowering are managed. . In this chapter, factors that affect flowering on
sugarcane are briefly described, and also several methodologies used to
reduce its negative effect on yield.
SOME FACTORS AFFECTING SUGARCANE
Flowering in sugarcane is affected by both, external and internal factors
such as: length of photoperiod, temperature, insolation or sunshine, latitude,
altitude, nutrients, and soil humidity, physiological age of the plant, variety
sensibility to flowering, hormones, phytocroms, and others (Araldi et al.,
2010; Alexander, 1973; Castro, 1998; James and Miller, 1972; Morales,
1996; Soto, 1999; Viveros, 1990).
Photoperiod is among the other factors the most important affecting the
flowering process (Alexander, 1973). Sugarcane plant related to
photoperiod behaves in flowering, as a short day plant. (Araldi et al., 2010;
Arrivillaga, 1988). The above fact implies that flowering induction is
favored when night length (Nyctoperiod) lasts longer than daylength
reaching up to a critical value. Concerning this ciritical value Alexander
(1973) reports 12 h 28 min (Nyctoperiod of 11 h 32 min) as the closest to
flowering induction. Nuss and Berding (1999) agreed on this result and
indicate that flowering induction is best achieved by diminishing the
daylength beginning from 12 h 30 min. There is also mentioned that
flowering induction is even best achieved in those areas where daylength
declines 30 to 60 seconds as a rate per day beginning from 12 h 45 min.
Quemé et al. (2011), based on daylength data from the Guatemalan Instituto
Nacional de Sismología, Vulcanología, Meteorología e Hidrología
(INSIVUMEH) reports that a photoperiod of 12 h 30 min ocurrs during the
dates 23 and 25 of August as shown in Figure 1 meanwhile during the first
six days of August a photoperiod of 12 h and 45 min, ocurrs.
Figure 1. Photoperiod curve at 14º 30´ North Latitude in Guatemala
In a study carried out in the Medium stratum of Sugarcane in Guatemala
plantation area with CP72-2086 commercial variety data recording on
inflorecence development was initiated the day (23 of August) when 12 h 30
min of photoperiod took place. From this study the first flowering primordia
was observed under the microscope until the first week of September. This
result suggest that flowering induction would take place during the last two
weeks of August (Quemé et al., 2008).
Flowering is affected by minimun, maximum and oscilation temperatures which
iscalled termic amplitude. It has been determined that inductive night
temperatures are between 21°C and 24°C (James and Miller, 1972; Viveros,
1990). According to information from sugarcane comercial fields in Zimbabwe,
flowering prevention or reduction was obtained when night temperature
declined under 18°C four or ten times during flowering initiation. Quemé et
al. (2008) in a study carried out in the midzone of Guatemala, in the Camantulul
Experiment Station of CENGICAÑA by using the variety CP72-2086, found
that during the flowering induction period (the third and fourth week of August)
there was a frequency of seven days recorded with temperatures that were under
18°C. This result and the observed sunshine resulted in the decrease of
flowering down to 32% in 2006,, while frequencies with minimum
temperatures between 21-24°C favoured the increase of the flowering in 2007,
(73%). On the other hand, in tropical regions flowering inhibition was observed
when temperatures were higher than 32°C during flowering initiation. (Nuss y
Sunshine or Sunstroke
Sunshine is also a wheather factor related with sugarcane flowering. Sunshine is
also known as heliophany and it is meassured by using the heliograph. The
heliophany is the number of sun hours over a certain place and can be recorded
by the heliograph. When cloudy the heliograph intercepts diffuse light
interrupting sunshine recording. (Castro, 1998; Guijarro, 2007; Wright, 2003).
In a study carried out in Guatemala in the mid zone it was found a higher
flowering incidente rather than in the litoral zone, due to insolation increment
(Castro, 2000). Particularly, in the mid zone it has been observed an opposite
relationship between number of sunshine hours in August and flowering
percentage, this means that with greater number of sunshine hours, flowering
tends to diminish (Quemé et al., 2008; Quemé et al., 2011).
The latitude has a strong effect on flowering incidence for example in the
tropical environments in Sudan (13° 05' N) and Malawi (12° 30' S) flowering
values reported ranged between 80 and 100 percent, however; in the
subtropical regions like South Africa (25° 22' to 30° 30' S) flowering is scarce
and incidence is low (Singels and Donaldson, 2004, reported by Araldi et al.,
2010). The sugarcane growing area of Guatemala is located in the tropical
region near 14º 30´ N, with a photoperiod that allows high flowering incidence
and intensity (Figure 1).
The Guatemalan sugarcane growing area is divided into four different altitude
stratum: litoral (0-40 masl), low (40-100 masl), medium (100-300 masl), and
high (>300 masl). At a higher altitude, temperature diminishes and this can
result in a flowering decrease; even though, in the sugarcane area, flowering
intensity is greater while altitude increases, where the higher flowering intensity
and incidence is obtained in the high strata (Figure 2). This situation is mainly
due to, the fact that in medium and high stratum, there is less sunshine (more
cloudy) at the induction time; and the night minimum temperatures, in most of
the years, are not less than 18°C (Quemé et al., 2003; Quemé et al., 2008).
Figure 2. Flowering behavior according to altitude zones in the Sugarcane
Agroindustry of Guatemala (CENGICAÑA, 2010)
Nutrients and soil humidity
High levels of nitrogen, especially during flowering induction, decrease flowering
due to the increasing carbon/nitrogen relationship. According to Berding et al.
(2004) and Gosnell (1973) double nitrogen rate causes a reduction of tassols
emergency resulting on a negative effect over flowering. In South Africa
flowering was delayed in 25 days by using high nitrogen rate in the soil (Nuss
and Berding, 1999). On the other hand, Brunkhorst (2003, 2001) reports that a
constant regime of nutrition through the initiation and development process of the
tassol, give better results.
Concerning soil humidity flowering decreases uner water stree condition.
Focus of management to prevent flowering can only be achieved in certain
environments mainly those with low precipitation (Humbert, 1974; Moore and
Nuss, 1987 cited by Araldi et al., 2010). However, Moore (1987); Moore and
Nuss (1987) report that irrigations can make environment conditions more
favorable for flowering; although Gosnell (1973) reports that flowering
response can vary according to water amount in the irrigation. A research by
Panje and Srinivasan (1960) showed a delaying of 14 days in flowering
development in clones of Saccharum spontaneum when precipitation was 74
mm in the inductive period.
Physiological maturity refers to the plant condition that allows to flowering
independiently from its age. Before sugarcane plant reaches its physiololigical
maturity it must pass through a physiological immaturity called “young phase”.
As general rule, stalks with three or four visible nodes are mature enough for
flowering. However, exact physiological conditions to distinguish between
potencial flowering stalks and young stalks, are still not determined (Alexander,
1973). During physiological maturity phase, sugarcane plant shows awide
capacity for responding to the flowering induction as shown in reports from
Colombia and Guatemala. Viveros et al., 1991 determined that sugarcane plants
between three and six months of age are able to respond to photoinductive
treatments in a similar way. In Guatemala based on the assumption that the
inductive period is in August, it has been confirmed that floweing induction has
been performed in plants between three and nine months of age. (Quemé et al.,
Variety sensibility to flowering
The genotype sensibility to floral stimulation is consider among the factors that
affect sugarcane flowering and its management. Under the Guatemalan climate
conditions, sugarcane agroindustry counts with specific varieties despite of the
fact that wheater conditions favor natural flowering and they can vary in the
flowering incidence. Examples of varieties with high percentage of flowers
are: CP73-1547, CP72-1312, and CP88-1508, intermediate flowering are:
CP88-1165 and CP72-2086; and non flowering PR75-2002 (Quemé et al.,
At commercial level, varietal sensibility for flowering has been proved in
Guatemala. In Palo Gordo mill harvest season 2010-2011 it was recorded that
the variety CP72-2086 showed on the average 46 percent of flowering, while
CP88-1165 variety showed 23 percent (Guzmán, 2011).
Phytocroms and hormones
Photoperiod response is detected on the leaf through the phytocroms while
flowering response is located at the stalk appice. The transportation of the
stimulus inductor from the leaf to shoot apical meristem requires the presence
of some hormones. Since decades ago, researchers have postulated the
existence of the florigen and have dedicated time to isolate and characterize this
hormone, trying to understand its interaction with phytocroms with no success
so far. Recently, based on genetic analyisis it has been demonstrated that
ARNm (florigen signal) has the capacity to translocate in phloem and alterate
the apex stalk. . This experiment has the hypotesis that the called florigen would
be a stimulant to ARNm gene of the flowering process (Araldi et al., 2010).
In Guatemala, the negative effect of flowering, has been managed, in order to
diminish it, through the regulation of some factors mentioned above. Varietal
management and the use of flowering inhibitors chemical compounds are the
main factors under control.
Guatemalan sugarcane agroindustry has categorized its varieties according to
planting and harvesting periods in thirds. The first third is in November and
December, the second third, in January and February; and the thirst third, during
March and April. Each of those harvest periods apply for each of the four
altitudinal zones or strata. Varieties classification, for both commercial and
semicommercial, is based on the following criteria: a)To identify varieties with
high incidence of flower (>50%) during the first third, b) Varieties with
intermediate flowering incidence (10 – 50%) for the second third; and c)
Varieties with low or null incidence of flowering (<20%) for the third third.
Based on these criteria, Guatemalan sugarcane agroindustry has a matrix called:
Variety Directory, which is described in the chapter concerning sugarcane
breeding and selection program.
Flowering chemical inhibitors
In Guatemala flowering control technology, is focused on the use of the growth
regulator Ethephon. However in countries like Brazil and Australia they apply
products like Sulfumeturon methyl and Trinexapac ethyl as flowering
inhibitors. Sulfometuron methyl belongs to the Sulfonylureas group, which
does not affect growth promoters, neither cell elongation nor the protein
syntesis and ARN, however; it is a strong ethilen production promoter due to its
stress action. (Castro et al., 1996). Concerning Trinexapac ethil it belongs to
the cyclohexanedione group, which is a new growth regulator that inhibits the
giberelina (AG1) formation. The AG1 is responsable for plant growth, after
application of Trinexapac ethyl giberelinas formation still exist which are
biologically active (Rixón et al., 2007).
Action mode of Ethephon: Ethephon is a growth regulator with special
sistemic characteristics. Ethephon penetrates into tissue and is traslocated. It
descomposes to ethilene which is the active metabolite. Ethephon is separated in
ethylene, phosphate, and chloride ion in an aqueous solution with pH 4-5. This
reaction dominates compounds destiny in the biological systems. Concerning to
Ethephon chemical degradation it is stable in aqueous solution under a pH 4.
However, if pH increases, the compound is desintegrated in ethilen, phosfate
and, chloro ion (Figure 3, chart 1). The reaction is catalysed by the hidroxyl ion
and the reaction rate increases depending on pH value. The Ethephon plant
metabolism, absorption and its movement has been described for many plant
species, which show a wide range of uses, however; the sugarcane crop
information on methabolic means is very scarce. In Figure 3, chart 2, a
Ethephon conjugate product is observed as well as the major methabolite: the
Figure 3. Charts 1 and 2. Ethephon pathway in soil, plants and animals.
Methabolite 2 has been found only in plants
In practice, care must be taken when mixing Ethephon and water. Water pH
must be between 3.5 and 4 to avoid hydrolisis reaction problems, in order to
assure product efficacy when it gets in contact with leaf pH (pH 7) and this may
allow product release of ethilene gas, which is the compound that finally
produces the physiological effect (PGR, 2010).
Ethephon effect on flowering inhibition: Ethephon (2-chloroethyl
phosphonic acid) acts as a bioregulator that positively promote stalk tisular
growth, specially, on parenchyma stalk cells. This action is a histological
parameter that affect in a favorable way in the fresh biomass increase.
Furthermore, as growth bioregulator, it promotes a marked effect on the phloem
development (Marrero et al., 2004). The growth regulators act on sugarcane
plant, modifying or delaying any growth aspect (Alexander, 1973). Ethephon
is a vegetal growth regulator that acts by releasing ethilen in the interior of
plants. In sugarcane crop Ethephon is used as flowering inhibitor (Coletti et al.,
1986). The seassonal effect of ethilen is turning leaves yellow three to four
days after application and the effect remains seven to 10 days depending on
the variety, and it promptly dissapears. The forming enternude, reduces in
length but get thicker resulting in a “Barril type” enternude. This result is
observed three to four weeks after application which is similar to a strong
drougth effect. Also, an alteration on bud high is observed, and at the final
stage, leaves tend to fall down. After plant is recuperated from stress produced
by Ethephon application (15 days after aplication), the normal plant growth will
continue, as well as internodes normal growth (Figure 4). Ethephon must be
applied one to two weeks before flowering induction. Flowering mostly
depends on sugarcane plant age, variety, duration of the day, and
environmental conditions (humidity availability, and temperature) before and at
induction date. Favorable conditions for flowering induction are when
daylength becomes less than 12 hours and 30 minutes, under adequate soil
humidity, and the average temperature is above 18 centigrates (Bocanegra,
Figure 4. Ethephon application effect on CP88-1165 variety in plant cane, Santa
Marta farm, Madre Tierra Mill, 2009
Aplication methodology: The ethephon methodology of application by using
helicopters and light aircrafts is similar to what is described in the chapter
concerning ripeners. The water volume in the application can vary between 18-
30 l/ha. The application is developed by using GPS, and in some cases, flags
and signals are used as tools for air application.
Application doses: Based on researchs carried out in Guatemala, the necessary
dose of Ethephon (Ethrel 480 SL), for flowering control is 1.5 l/ha. This dose
can vary according to the planted variety and its biomass (Xia, 2000). Other
researchers do not recommend high doses of the product to avoid unadequate
results (Nájera, 2005). According to Xia (2000) the use of a dose between 1.5
and 2.0 l/ha, showed a negative effect, demonstrating emergency of lateral
shoots in stalks. From the economic point of view, the application of flowering
inhibitor with a dose of (1.5 l/ha) is profitable when sugarcane yield is higher
than two metric tones per hectare.
Flowering inductive period:
In Guatemala, the definition of this period is a little difficult, due to crop
location in different altitudinal strata; and it is even more difficult to identify the
most adequate moment for flowering inhibitor application. Some sugar mills
start the application from the last week of July to August 15.
Application dates: According to Nájera (2005) in a study of six application
dates, less flowering incidence was found when application was done in August
in the low stratum conditions in Madre Tierra mill. Commercial applications of
flowering inhibitors, start the last week of July. According to climate
conditions, some mills initiate applications in the high stratum, based on
previous year experiences, where more flowering occur. Most mills start
applications from the first to the last week in August, depending on aircrafts
availability. It is important to mention that if dry seasson is present,
applications must not be done since lateral shoots formation (lalas) can be
Ethephon plus Silicio Dioxid 55% study (surfactants)
There is a study being conducted to find more options for improving Ethephon
use. Important synergic effects by adding Silicon dioxide (55%) to the product ,
have been obtained. In a study carried out in Santa Marta farm, Madre Tierra
mill, it was found that flowering incidence of 30 per cent (without application),
23 per cent (with Ethrel 1.43 l/ha) and 16 per cent (with Ethrel 1.43 l/ha plus 1.4
kg/ha of Silicon dioxide (55%), which confirms the synergy of both products
on flowering control.
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19. Marrero, P.; Peralta, H.; Pérez, S.; Borroto, J.; Blanco, M. A. 2004. Efecto
de aplicaciones exógenas del ethrel-480 sobre la anatomía del tallo, en
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20. Meyer, B. S.; Anderson, D. B.; Bohning, R. H. 1970. Introducción a la
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22. Moore, P. H. 1987. Physiology and control of flowering. In: Copersucar
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Centre, Piracicaba, SP, Brazil, May–June, 1987, pp.101–127.
23. Moore, P. H.; Nuss, K. J. 1987. Flowering and flower synchronization. In:
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24. Nájera E. B. G. 2005. Experiencias en la aplicación del ácido 2-cloroetilo
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25. Nuss, K. J.; Berding, N. 1999. Planned recombination in sugarcane
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floración de la caña de azúcar (Saccharum spp.) y sus efectos en otras
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Efecto del brillo solar y la temperatura en la floración de la caña de azúcar
(Saccharum spp.) con fines de establecer programas de cruzamientos en
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2002-2003. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. pp. 60-66.
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Wood, A.W. 20 MODDUS® A SUGAR ENHANCER. Proc. Aust. Soc.
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relación con rendimientos. Revista Agricultura (Guatemala) 17:21-25.
33. Viveros, V.; Cassalett, C.; López, F. 1991. Efecto de la edad de la planta y
diferentes tratamientos fotoinductivos en la floración de la caña de azúcar
(Saccharum sp.). Acta Agronómica. pp. 37-45
34. Viveros Valens, C. A. 1990. Efecto de la edad de la planta y de varios
tratamientos fotoinductivos en la inducción de la floración de la caña de
azúcar. CENICAÑA, Colombia. 63p.
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heliofanía relativa en Costa Rica. Top. Meteoro. Oceanog. 10(1) 20-30.
36. Xia, U. M.U. 2000. Evaluación de tres dosis y seis épocas de aplicación de
Ethrel, utilizado como inhibidor en la floración de caña de azúcar
(Saccharum spp.) en el estrato alto del ingenio El Baúl, S.A. Tesis
Ingeniero Agrónomo, Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de San Carlos
de Guatemala. 71 p.
In Guatemala, sugarcane harvesting represents about 33 per cent of all crop
production costs; so any variation during this operation will significantly affect
crop profitability compared to any other crop management activity.
During the 2010-2011 harvesting season, 231,000 hectares of sugarcane were
harvested, and 19,219,653 tones of cane were produced in the South Coast of
Guatemala. Today 12 sugar mills add up to an installed milling capacity of
135,000 tones per day administering 82 per cent of all the cropland.
Harvesting periods (“zafra”)
Sugarcane is harvested during the dry season, from November to April, and in
some cases, it is extended to mid May, according to the production volume.
There are four altitudinal strata in the crop production area, and season length
varies among them. Summer duration is presented in Table 1 for all the strata.
It can go from five months, in the higher stratum, to seven months in the area
close to the coast line.
Table 1. Summer lenght in different altitudinal strata (masl)
Stratum Dry Season
High (>300 masl) 15 November - 15 April
Medium (100-300 masl) 10 November - 20 April
Low (40 - 100 masl) 31 October - 15 May
Coast line (littoral) (0 - 40 masl) 25 October - 25 May
Source: Castro, O. 2001.
Due to differences noticed in productivity along the harvesting season, it has
been divided in thirds. First third covers the first two months (November and
December); second third includes January and February, and last third includes
March and April (and mid May in some occasions).
Agr. Eng., M.Sc. Training and Technology Transfer Program Leader at CENGICAÑA. www.cengicana.org
The highest productivity in tones of sugar per hectare “TSH” are obtained
during the first third, due to the higher yield in tones of cane per hectare “TCH”,
which raises up to 9 per cent when compared to the mean (data from the first
third in the harvesting seasons from 2007/2008 to 2010/2011), and to a high
sucrose content, as shown in Figure 1.
Analyzing data from the same harvesting seasons, it can be seen that second
third has the characteristic of having the highest sucrose concentration even
when productivity in TSH goes down 4 per cent compared to the mean. Yield
in TCH goes down to 12 per cent below the first third; productivity in TSH is
intermediate (Figure 1).
During the third period, the lowest productivity in TSH is obtained; with a 28
per cent less compared to the mean, and 44 per cent below the first third; for the
data under study, this was concluded by analyzing yield in TCH and sugar
content (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Productivity in tones of sugar per hectare for each third of the season.
Periods 2007/2008 to 2010/2011
Percentage of sugarcane processed in each third varies. The mean for the last
five seasons was 29 per cent in the first third, 39 per cent in the second, and 32
per cent in the last third.
In general, the crop is harvested at 11.9 months, with some variations depending
on the altitudinal stratum as shown in Figure 2, where the sugarcane crop age
goes from 11.74 to 11.99 months. Harvesting age is slightly higher in the high
Figure 2. Harvesting Age in months by stratum. Periods 2008/2009 to 2010/2011
Sugarcane harvesting system in Guatemala was transformed in 1981 with the
introduction of the Australian machete for cutting and mechanical lifting of
the harvested crop, displacing the previous system called Maleteado.
Previous system was done manually with efficiencies of 1 to 1.5 tones of
cane/man per day “tcmd”. The new system made labor simpler including
cutting, arranging, cutting edges, carrying and arranging steps to the
mechanical raising machine. These changes consistently raised efficiency of
the workers during the following harvesting seasons (2.4 tcmd in season
1981/1982; 4.2 tcmd in season 1983/1984 and up to 5.35 tcmd in season
The benefits of the new system were: to provide the mills with sufficient
material (sugarcane) for 24 hours and raise the income of the laborers
(Cabarrús and Madrid, 1983; Méndez, 1990). This system is still in use.
In Figure 3, a general representation of the organizational structure used in a
sugar mill for harvesting is presented. They have a Management of Cutting,
Lifting and Transportation Department (CLT)
Figure 3. General organization structure of the CLT Department in a
Guatemalan sugar mill
During harvesting season 2010/2011, 88 per cent of the crop was manually
harvested (16.9 million tones of cane) and 12 per cent, mechanical harvesters.
Most of the cane harvested manually (87.77 per cent) was previously burned;
the remaining 12.23 per cent was green cane mechanically harvested.
Yields obtained when harvesting manually, both green and burnt cane, are
shown in Figure 4, for the harvesting seasons between 2004/2005 and
The relationship of performance between cutting burnt and green cane, went
from 1.61:1 in 2004/2005 to 2.47:1 in 2009/2010, with intermediate values in
Figure 4. Laborer yield when harvesting burnt and green cane. Period from
2004/2005 to 2010/2011
During the 2010/2011 harvesting season, 89 per cent of cane was cut manually,
similar to the previous years. Laborers come from two groups: camping labor
force (not local) that come from different departments such as Quiché, Baja
Verapaz, and Chiquimula. They stay in apartment complexes where they are
provided with accommodation, meals, and other services. The other are called
“volunteers” (local people) come from towns, nearby. They are provided with
transportation and hydrating solutions. The proportion of these groups goes
from 50 to 70 per cent of camping labor force and the rest are “volunteers”,
changing according to the different mills.
In the last seven harvesting seasons, mean yield for a laborer cutting burnt cane,
has gone from 5.49 up to 6.31 tcmd and for green cane, from 2.53 up to 3.62
tones of cane, per men, per day (Figure 4).
Manual cutting can be done in two different ways; the first is called continuous
Chorra (piling up) (Figure 5), which was used for 85 per cent of harvested burnt
cane in 2010/2011 season.
Figure 5. Continuous piling.
According to Pappa, 2003, manual cutting using this modality has several
advantages: laborer higher efficiency, in tcmd; higher efficiency when lifting up
the crop, in lifted tones per hour; higher transportation efficiency, in transported
tones per truck; and lower cost per harvested tone for the whole operation
(cutting, lifting, and transportation).
The second way is called Discontinued Chorra (Figure 6), and was used for 15
per cent of burnt cane during zafra 2010/2011. This modality has many mini
piles of cut cane, which are separated and are 1.2 to 1.5 m long.
Figura 5. Discontinuos piling (small piles)
According to Pappa, 2003, manual cutting using this modality has the following
advantages: lesser amount of trash, specially the mineral component (earth and
stone), which contributes to higher sucrose recovery; lower wearing and
deterioration of the mill machinery; lower time losses in the factory. Peralta
(2011) (personal communication) mentioned other advantages such as lower
damage to the cane plant, resulting in higher number of cuts and lower
investment in re cropping the plantation (ratoon).
Trash percentages obtained for both harvesting modalities, are presented in
Figure 7. Even though values are similar, differences could be identified when
analyzing individual components.
Figure 7. Trash contents per season third with the different manual harvesting
systems (continous and discontinuous “chorra” piling)
This modality was used in 30,080 hectares, which represented 14 per cent of
harvested cane, during the season 2010/2011. Most of this cane (90 %) was
green cane. Mechanical harvesting is used by most sugar mills to support the
operations when there is a lack of laborers for manual cut. The percent of
mechanical harvesting varies among sugar mills going from 5 to 33 per cent.
Efficiencies obtained per machine during the season 2010/2011 were 35.36
tones of harvested cane/hour, and 478 tones of cane harvested per day.
Figure 8 shows percent area harvested mechanically from 2000/2001 to
Figure 8. Area harvested using mechanical harvesters (in percent). Period from
2000/2001 to 2011/2012
In general, when planning harvesting operations, the following steps are
- Establish optimum period of harvesting, depending on the age and
maturity of the cane variety, location, and soil type
- Program harvesting of plots under similar management, this allows the
optimization of sugar production.
- Program use of ripeners: determine harvesting week of applied plots,
procuring to do it between 7 to 8 weeks after ripener application (for
- Determine the amount of cane needed for daily milling according to the
- Sugar concentration before harvesting: it is determined with the sampling
program previous to harvesting.
- Time between burning the cane and its delivery to the mill reception area
(called bascule). The objective is to bring the biggest amount of cane
before it reaches 24 hours after being harvested, making fresh cane
available for the mill.
- Cane Quality: it is determined by measuring per cent and type of trash
and delivery time of cane (between burning and delivery to the bascule).
- Sugar losses between burning and milling time: in terms of the quality of
the cane delivered to the mill.
Harvesting planning should be focused in the conservation of the highest
amount of sugar when transported from the field to the factory. The cane
should be of high quality in order to make the extraction of the highest amount
of sugar possible and easy (Romero et al., 2009). During the 2010/2011
harvesting season, sugar content in cane ready to be harvested in the different
sugar mills, was between 15 and 16.5 per cent (300 and 330 pounds of sugar
per short tone); in the bascule (core sampler) sugar content was between 13.30
and 13.80 per cent (266 and 276 pounds of sugar per short tone). At the end
of the season, the industrial extraction average for the Guatemalan Agro
Industry was 10.65 per cent (213 pounds of sugar per short tone). Figure 9
includes these values for one sugar mill during harvesting season 2010/2011.
It can be concluded, from these values, that only 70 per cent of the sugar
synthesized in the field is recovered at the end of the industrial process,
representing a valuable opportunity to make improvements.
Figure 9. Sugar content in different stages: before harvesting, when delivered to
the bascule and after processing
To Engineers Emilio Catalán and Danilo Peralta, Harvesting Managers of the
Sugar Mills Magdalena and Madre Tierra, respectively, for revising and
contributing to the contents presented in this chapter.
1. Pappa, J. 2003. Cosecha. En: Diplomado de Ingeniería Cañera, Módulo
cosecha. Presentación en Power Point.
2. Giraldo, F. 1995. Cosecha, alce y transporte. En: El cultivo de la caña en la
zona azucarera de Colombia. Colombia, CENICAÑA. pp. 357-362.
3. Méndez, G. 1990. Corte de la caña de azúcar. ATAGUA (Gua) 4:(9) pp.
4. Gil, A.; Álvarez, C. 2010. Pol % Caña, ingenio La Unión, S. A. En:
Análisis de resultados Zafra 2009/2010, del área de Fábrica. Presentación
en Power Point.
5. Cabarrús, P.; Madrid, G. 1983. Diseño y evaluación de un sistema de corte
y alce manual de caña de azúcar. ATAGUA, Boletín No. 8. pp. 1-17.
6. Meneses, A. 2011. Cosecha. In: Memoria XVI Simposio de análisis de la
zafra 2010/2011 Área de Campo. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. Disco
7. Meneses, A. 2011. Productividad. In: Memoria XVI Simposio de análisis
de la zafra 2010/2011, Área de Campo. Guatemala, CENGICAÑA. Disco
8. Castro, O.; Monterroso, H. 2011. La Planificación del uso de la tecnología
del riego con base a procesos, zona cañera de Guatemala. In: Memoria.
Presentación de resultados de investigación. Zafra 2010-2011. Guatemala,
CENGICAÑA. pp. 215-221.
9. Romero, E.; Scandaliaris, J.; Digonzelli, P.; Tonatto, J.; de Ullivarri, J.;
Giardina, J.; Alonso, L.; Casen, S.; Leggio, F. 2009. Cosecha de la caña de
azúcar. En: Manual del Cañero. Argentina, EEAOC. pp. 131-143.
THE SUGAR PRODUCTION PROCESS
José Luis Alfaro, Enrique Velásquez, Luis Monterroso and Rodolfo Espinosa
The sugar crop in Guatemala has evolved considerably during the last
decades, and its course was marked by predominant agricultural indicators.
Some market requirements joined this course along the way as did the need
to satisfy the energy as well as the biofuel sectors. From an industrial
perspective, it is important to mention that some of the results sought in the
field brought about effects in the sugar mills ( Ingenios ) that explain much
of the final results and that are worth highlighting. Changes that oriented
the vivid operation during the last 30 years in the industrial areas were
observed. The main processes in which these changes took place were:
Preparation, milling, sucrose recovery, and energy co-generation
The theoretical and descriptive fundamentals of the process and
subprocesses that intervene in the production of sugar are approached in this
chapter; the production of the different sugar qualities found in the local
and the international market is covered: raw sugar, sulphite-whited or white
sugar and refined sugar. Statistical data on the sugar production and sales of
the Guatemalan Agribusiness are also described in this chapter.
A short chronology over a period of 40 years of the main impacts of the raw
materials on the industrial process is presented. Further on, a chronology of
the changes made in the sugar factories geared towards energy savings, to
support the consistent increase of milling quantities, as well as the
contribution to the Guatemalan power industry, is also presented
Some aspects of the preparation and milling are also described, as the first
stages of the sugar production process; in which the harvested sugarcane is
transformed into smaller pieces, so as to expose the fibers, making the
extraction of the juice as efficient as possible. These processes have
evolved technologically, therefore time losses have been reduced, milling
José Luis Alfaro is an Electronics Engineer and is the Head of the Electrical and Automatization
Department for the La Union sugar mill; Enrique Velásquez is a Mechanical Engineer and Head of
Machinery for the La Union sugar mill. www.launion.com.gt; Luis Monterroso has a major in Chemistry, and
is a former specialist in standardization and normalization for CENGICAÑA.; Rodolfo Espinosa, Ph.D., is a
Chemical Engineer and Industrial Research Program Leader at CENGICAÑA. www.cengicana.org
capacity has been increased, and the extraction of sucrose has improved.
Regarding the preparation and milling of the sugarcane, a brief timeline of
the main changes that have left a mark in the development of the
Guatemalan Sugar Agribusiness, is also presented.
SUGAR PRODUCTION AND COMMERCIALIZATION
It can be observed a 175 percent increase from the 1984-1985 zafra to the
1996-1997 zafra in Figure 1, that is, from 0.55 million metric tons to 1.5
million metric tons, in a 12 year period. Until the 1995-1996 harvest, all the
sugar refineries in Guatemala had only a single milling tandem, each. Back
then, the sugar mill with the largest daily milling capacity was at 12,000
T/day. From the 1997 to 2009, the sugar production had a 45 percent
increase, from 1.5 million Ton to 2.2 million Ton.
Figure 1. Sugar production per harvest in Guatemala
Source: ASAZGUA annual report [Acronym in Spanish for the Guatemalan Sugar
Figure 2 shows the local sugar sales and the export sales in the Guatemalan
Agribusiness, during the period between the 1993 and 2009; an increase in
sales from one million metric tons to a figure higher than two million metric
tons (a 100% increase in a 15 year period). In the total sales period, on
average, 30 percent corresponds to the local market and 70%, to exports.
Figure 2. Sugar sales in the internal and export markets of the Guatemalan
Source: ASAZGUA [Acronym in Spanish for the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association]
The increase in sales and production of sugar is a consequence of the increase in
the cultivated area, as well as an increase in the installed capacity of the mills..
For the first time in Guatemala, during the 1996-1997 zafra, a sugar mill began
working with a double milling tandem, increasing its sugarcane milling up to
18,000 ton per day. By the year 2011, four sugar mills in Guatemala were
operating with a double milling tandem and one was working with a triple
tandem, the latter surpassed over 30,000 tons of milled sugarcane per day. This
is comparable to the sizes of sugar mills in Brazil and other top sugar
It is important to know the main components of sugarcane, even if only on
general terms. For some cases, the characteristics, properties, and interactions
of those components are also known which have a significant effect during
development of the process and the quality of the final products.
The ranges of the percent content for the main components of sugar are
presented in Table 1.
Table 1. Chemical composition average (%) of the stalks and juices of sugarcane
Chemical constituents in the stalks Percentage*
Water 73 – 76
Solids 24 – 27
- Soluble solids (brix) 10 – 16
- Fibre (dry) 11 – 16
In the soluble solids of the juice
Sugars 75 – 92
- Saccharose 70 – 88
- Glucose 2 – 4
- Fructose 2 – 4
- Inorganic 3.0 -3.4
- Organic 1.5 -4.5
Organic acids 1.0 - 3.0
Other non-sugar organics
- Proteins 0.5 - 0.6
- Starches 0.001 - 0.050
- Gums 0.3 - 0.6
- Fats, waxes, etc. 0.15 - 0.50
- Phenolic compounds 0.10 - 0.80
*In the stalks, the percentage refers to the sugarcane plant, whereas in the juice it
refers to the soluble solids.
Source: Chen, C. P. (1991),
Chemistry of Saccharose (inversion, pol, purity, and reducing sugars)
The main component of interest in sugarcane is sucrose. It is a disaccharide that
results from the chemical bond between two monosaccharides: glucose and
fructose (both hexose or sugars with six carbon atoms). The schematic
chemical structures from the monosaccharides involved in the chemical reaction
and the disaccharide formed, are shown in Figure 3. This reaction constitutes a
biosynthesis performed by the sugarcane’s own metabolism during its growth
and maturity process.
Figure 3. Schematic structures and chemical reaction between glucose and
fructose for the formation of saccharose
Sugars have optical activity, its acquous solutions divert (they rotate) the
polarized monochromatic light due to the asymmetry of several of its carbon
atoms (quiral carbons). Saccharose has an accentuated dextrorotary optical
activity (it diverts or rotates polarized light to the right). When the units of
glucose and fructose separate due to acid hydrolysis or enzymatic hydrolysis,
the resulting mixture is notoriously levorotatory (diverts or rotates polarized
light to the left). Therefore, when saccharose hydrolyses, the optical activity of
the solution tends to reverse its rotation, from dextrorotatory at the beginning of
the hydrolysis to levorotatory toward the end of they hydrolysis. It is due to this
fact that in the sugar argot, the separation of saccharose into fructose and
glucose is known as saccharose “inversion”; thus, the separated
monosaccharides are known as inverted sugars, even though from a strictly
chemical standpoint, it is an erroneous statement.
Taking advantage of the optical activity of saccharose, its approximate
percentual concentration is measured through the analytical technique known as
polarimetry. The saccharose concentration in sugary materials (juices, syrups,
mascuites, bagasse, etc.) determined by polarimetry is called polarization or
“pol”. Another important property for sugary materials is the percentual
concentration of soluble solids. This concentration is determined with a certain
approximation from the measurement of brix degrees ( °Brix ) and is simply
called “brix”. The brix can be determined by using brix hydrometers
(hydrometric brix) or by using refractometers (refractometric brix). From the
percentual relation between pol and brix (pol x 100/brix), another important
property of sugary materials is obtained. It is known as apparent purity,
polarimetric purity or simply “purity”. Throughout this chapter, reference will
be made to the brix, pol and purity terms as has been explained in this section.
Glucose and fructose are also classified as reducing sugars, due to the fact that
its carbon group is available (be it in its open structure and/or that in its cycled
structure its carbon group is free or forming a hemiacetal) this availability refers
to the fact that it can react and reduce the copper cation (Cu 2+
) to copper in an
oxidation state +I forming copper oxide (Cu2O); on the other hand, with
saccharose the carbon groups are blocked (the carbon groups are in acetal
form), and are not available to react with the copper ion (Cu2+
). The reaction
between reducing sugars and the copper ion is called the Fehling reaction (see
Figure 4). There are very low concentrations of other reducing sugars in sugary
materials (which also react with the Fehling reactor) but its content is
insignificant compared to the glucose and fructose content. To determine the
glucose and fructose content (to a specific degree) in sugary materials, the
Fehling method is applied by titration . From here on, and in accordance to the
sugar industry argot, when mentioning reducing sugars or RS, it will be in
reference to glucose and fructose.
Figure 4. Fehling reaction
Reducing sugars, “RS” do not cristalize, therefore if the purity of the juice
(pol/brix relationship) going into the mill is low, then this will be a preliminary
indicator of a major presence of RS in the material. This will also mean a
higher volume of syrups to be handled, more recirculation, and in consequence,
more difficulty saccharose recovery.
Pigments and Color Precursors
The pigments present in sugarcane are attributed to phenols and polyphenols
(among them, flavonoids). Proteins also act as color precursors. Their primary
amino groups (RNH2) react with the glucose (non-enzymatic glication) to
develop a series of complex reactions (Maillard reaction). These, in turn,
generate a brownish appearance in the crystal and in the third massecuites.
Polymerized sugars are more or less long chains generated by the bonding of
many units of monosaccharides. Starch is a polymer made up of straight chains
of glucose joined together consecutively in positions 1-4; it is synthesized by
the plant itself and its content will depend on various agricultural aspects of the
crop; starch can appear in the finished product and is troublesome for industrial
applications, especially in beverage factories, because it gives products an
Dextrans are polymers that negatively affect the process. They are made up of
straight chains of glucose joined together in positions 1-6 that ramify into
eventual bonds at 1-3. In considerable concentrations, they add viscosity to the
material and this, in turn, causes problems during crystallization, centrifuging
and in the quality of the finished product. Dextrans are not synthesized within
the sugarcane in the field; they are brought about by the microbian action after
the plant is cut and throughout all of the agroindustrial process. The generation
of dextrans can be prevented with a series of good practices such as: a
reduction in the time between the burning of the crop and its entry to the mill,
and adequate handling of the sugarcane in the receiving yard, sanitizing of the
grinding mills and at critical points throughout the process.
RECEPTION AND HANDLING OF THE SUGARCANE IN
THE RECEIVING YARD
The industrial process begins when the sugarcane is received in the yard. We
can identify two sub-processes that intervene here:
a) Weighing: The gross weight of the transportation unit is determined here
(weight of the truck and of the hauling bins that contain the sugarcane) to
which the tare weight of the truck and the empty bin is subtracted.
b) Sampling and analysis: The frequency and the units that must go to the
sampling area of the sugarcane laboratory are determined and set in the scale
program according to the size of the “pante” from which it comes (pante or
plot of land: Area of reference into which sugarcane plantations are
subdivided; it varies in size, generally between 10 and 20 hectares). Samples
are taken from the selected units with a device called Core Sampler (Figure
7). These devices are supplied with a revolving probe with a crown tip. The
probe is located in a horizontal-transversal or oblique-longitudinal position
with respect to the haul. The laboratory does the required analysis on the
sample so as to determine the quality of the entering sugarcane.
Figure 5. Core Sampler diagram with oblique-longitudinal probe
Source: Chen, J. C. P. 1991. Sugarcane manual.
A report is then issued with weight at quality data collected on the sugarcane
samples, as well as the industrial yield data (pounds of sugar produced / tons of
milled sugarcane). The sugarcane suppliers (producers) are payed based on this
report. Provisions are made in the form of rewards and/or penalties for each of the
After the weighing and sampling of the sugarcane in the transportation units, the
handling of the cane in the receiving yard begins. Improvement in harvesting,
lifting and transportation logistics, as well as in the industrial process (less time
losses and more continuity in the milling and sugar producing process) have made
the handling of the sugarcane in the receiving yard evolve. This has also
contributed to a decrease in the deterioration of the sugarcane (less hydrolisis of
saccharose) due to the significant decrease in the time between the burning/crop
and the milling of the sugarcane.
With the implementation of special beds designed to unload the sugarcane directly
from the transportation units onto them, the operation pertaining the accumulation
of the sugarcane dispersed in the yard, as well as the use of bulldozers at ground
level has been drastically reduced. The now efficient handling of the receiving
yard uses modern transportation units that pull two bins full of sugarcane in bulk.
The bins are provided with chains manifolds upon which the sugarcane is put
during the harvesting and loading process; this manifold is then lifted with a
device that then turns the bins so as to unload the sugarcane onto the set of feeder
beds or conveyors (Figure 6). The feeder conveyors have leveling rods that
homogenize the height of the sugarcane mat. The sugarcane is transferred from
the beds to the conveyors that carry it to the preparation system (pre-blades and
crushers). A typical sugar mill receiving yard is illustrated in Figure 5. In it, a
radial crane, sugarcane spread on the floor and a feeding bed can be seen.
Figure 6. Diagram of the sugarcane unloading on to feeding tables, crusher and
depither preparation system, and extraction through a five mill
tandem provided with a fourth crushing rod
Figure 7 View of a receiving yard with unloading operation to feeding tables and
ground unloading operation, with a radial crane towards the center
As the unloading process has become more efficient (the amount of unloaded
and discharged transportation units, per unit of time) the waiting lines of
transportation units to be unloaded and the number of units needed to transport,
a given quantity of sugarcane from a given distance have significantly
The sugarcane tables have a manifold through which a hot water curtain is
applied to the sugarcane to wash it, mainly to eliminate unwanted debris, soil
and sand, which lead to unwanted wear of the equipment due to abrasion.
Elimination of this debris is also crucial for the efficiency of both, the juice
clarification and syrup depletion processes. These impurities can also affect
the finished product; they can be the cause of microbial activity and the
subsequent generation of viscosity (formation of dextranes); they can cause
problems in the purging of the centrifuges; and they may affect the color of
the final product, as well as the appearance of foreign particles in it.
Despite the benefits achieved by using water to clean the sugarcane, the
contact between the cleaning water and exposed surfaces of the sugarcane
results in sucrose losses. This procedure also has a significant environmental
impact, since it produces a considerable flow of water full of suspended and
soluble solids. This, in turn, requires a system to eliminate such solids at a
high cost. As a result, during the recent years the tendency has been to
eliminate the use of water as a means of cleaning the sugarcane, and instead,
alternative methods have been used (vibrating screens, air curtains, conveyors,
returning the debris to the plantation fields, etc.)
PREPARATION OF THE SUGARCANE
General Description of the Preparation Process
The preparation process comes after unloading the sugarcane. This is where
the sugarcane is transformed into a more homogeneous material, with a higher
density, so as to benefit the uniform and continuous feeding into the mills,
improve the imbibition action, ease juice extraction and reduce saccharose
losses in the bagasse. This process includes defibring, which is needed to
increase the surface area exposed for the adequate extraction of the juice from
the sugarcane fibers.
Preparation of the sugarcane is done by combining two processes: a)
Reducing the length of the sugarcane into billets by means of revolving blades
(pre-cutter blades and shredders); b) The disintegration of the cane tissue by
means of depithers. These have dull oscilating cane knives (or hammers)
which hit the reduced pieces of cane. Analysis and measurements are carried
out to determine the preparation index or the open cell percentage, thus
evaluating the cane preparation process.
In order to adequately prepare the sugarcane, pre-cutters and cutters are
arranged in several different ways; generally one pre-cutter is installed,
followed by two or three shredders. The rotational velocity of the shredder
components (rpm) increases as the cane moves along the preparation line; the
number of blades also increases, and the height between the axis and the cane
Preparing the Sugarcane
During the 90’s, significant changes were made to the preparation of the cane.
One of the most important was substituting the fixed-blade cutters for swing-
back cutters. This allowed an improvement in the Preparation Indexes up to
81%. In some cases, fixed-blade shredders were placed at the end of the main
feeder into the cane conveyor; this allowed a homogenization of the
sugarcane in a pre-preparation process, reducing air filled spaces and
increasing its density. This equipment brought about uniformity in the milling
and less pulsating loads in the main shredders.
The first electrification projects in sugarcane preparation also came about in
the 90’s. The sugar mills that joined the co-generation business saw an
opportunity in improving the process by substituting the high-steam-
consuming turbines of the shredders for medium-tension electric motors or for
more efficient turbines. Thus, the steam oscilating demand from the shredder
turbines decreased. The boilers were unable to meet the high peak pressure
demands and the consequence was frequent stops.
The introduction of sugarcane croppers and lifters in the fields allowed the
transportation of cane at night, and with it the “zero cane in the receiving
yard” concept. The idea behind this was to avoid the prolongued storage of
sugarcane in the receiving yard and, as a consequence, losses in sugar yield
due to saccharose inversion. This originated the use of huge hydraulic
systems to unload the bulk sugarcane onto the carrier beds; the cane was no
longer being unloaded in “packets” but in bulk. These operations brought
about a new problem: Mineral trash in the sugar mills. The solution to this
problem brought with it huge water circuits used specifically for washing the
cane on the carriers; they became more and more important for the operation
in the mills. Large pumping stations were installed, energy consumption
increased, and sugar losses were being questioned.
As sugar mills grew so did the amount of sugarcane being processed, and so, in
some cases, another sugarcane preparation line became necessary.
Improvements made during the previous decades are taken into account when
implementing expansions. One of the main implementations to take place
during the first decade of the new millennium was the introduction of the
horizontal depither manufactured by Copersucar. It consists of a rotor feeder,
oscilating hammer depither, which makes the cane go through a screening wall,
decreasing the exiting area and therefore separating the fibers. Preparation
indexes of up to 91% have been obtained with this type of depither. An
oscilating shredder is installed before the depither in this arrangement in order
to level out the cane. The output of prepared sugarcane from this system falls as
a shallow mat onto a conveyor belt with enough speed to allow the removal of
metals in the shredded cane with a magnet. There are high-horsepower
depithers dedicated solely to substituting shredders arranged in sequence.
Equipment such as this requires horsepower of up to 6,000 HP and 850 rpm.
Currently, some mills have begun using dry cleaning. A system like this
eliminates the use of water as a means of washing the cane altogether. It
consists of a kicker at the end of the first carrier; its function is to shake the cane
and make it fall onto a roller bed with discs separated in such a way as to form a
sieve. A system like this is able to collect between 1.6 and 3% in trash (both
vegetable and mineral) of the cane milled per day.
General Description of the Milling Process
The prepared sucarcane is fed to the milling tandem, where the juice extraction
is verified by the mechanical action of the mills, and by the physical-chemical
action of the compound imbibition process.
The milling tandem is positioned in four roll arrangements: Cane roll, top roll,
bagasse roll and fourth roll. Including the fourth roll in the milling arrangement
(Figure 8) integrates the Donnelly feeders (“chute”) into the system. These
feeders allow the bypass of any mill component that might need maintenance.
With a vertical feeder a mat of depithed cane is formed (in the first mill) or
milled cane (from the second to the last mill) in the box that feeds it to the
opening between the top and the fourth roll. The height of this mat (known as
just height or chute level) is used to control the feed into the mill and the
flotation of the top roll. (Flotation: Height to which the top roll rises in
counterflow to the 3000-3500 psig exerted by the hydraulic heads.) Flotation
should be between 5/8” and 3/4”. The feeder control, the chute level and the
flotation of the top roll is attained by varying the rotational speed of said roll.
Figure 8. Roll disposition in a mill with vertical feed.
Co-generating sugar mills have substituted steam powered turbines with electric
and/or hydraulic motors because they are much more efficient at converting
high pressure steam into an electric current in the turbogenerator that will be
transmitted through conductors to the electric motors, as opposed to the
transmission of steam from the boiler to the steam turbine in the mill.
The compound imbibition process (the most widely used in Guatemala) consists
of applying 70°C - 75°C hot water to the bagasse which feeds the last mill. The
juice extracted in the last mill is applied to the bagasse that feeds the next to last
mill and so on, until reaching the second mill. A diagram of the compound
imbibitions process is illustrated in Figure 9.
Figure 9. Compound imbibition diagram
Source: Chen, J. C. P. 1991. “Manual del azúcar de caña” [Sugarcane manual].
Imbibition is not applied to the prepared defibered sugarcane that feeds the first
mill. The juice extracted from the first mill (first extraction juice) together with
the juice from the second mill (also called second extraction juice, where
retroextractions from the last mill are added) is called mixed juice. The latter
constitutes the raw material for the factory itself (also known as the cooking
An important process that takes place in the mill tandem is the removal of the
coarser “bagacillo” particles and of suspended solids generally found in the mixed
juice. One of the equipments used for this purpose is a bagacillo separator (Fives-
Lille) also known as a “cush-cush”, “pachaquil” or bagacillo strainer. It consists
of rectangular deposits covered with a sieve screen, over which passess a series of
brushes passes that scrape and unclog the filtering holes. The particles are
removed and returned to the extraction system. DSM strainers with a 45°
inclination or rotating strainers may also be used. These are cleaned with steam,
so in this way, keep the filtrating holes unobstructed.
The bagasse that comes out of the last mill, which should contain the least amount
of saccharose (pol less than 2%) and of humidity possible (less than 50%), is
transported to feed the furnaces of the boilers and to be stored away to meet the
sugar mill’s requirements according to its dimensions. The amount of bagasse
stored should be enough to cover the demand of the boilers for non-programmed
stops, programmed maintenance stops, production line liquidations (mass balance
accounts ), partial or final, and start-ups.
Process of the Sugarcane Milling
The 90’s represented an awakening for the Guatemalan sugar agroindustry to a
series of events that marked the development of the milling. One of the most
relevant technological updates was the implementation of the fourth roll to the
cane mills. For decades the industry had evolved around three roll mills. Thus,
this change allowed for an increase in the milling, an improvement in juice
extraction in the mill tandem, and a reduction in time losses, due to mill
malfunction because of the substitution of the middle conductors with the
Donnelly chute. This improvement allowed the development of a bypass in the
malfunctioning mill and it still continues with the milling. With this change also
came the elimination of chevrons and messchaert grooves which were used
before in the rolls. Grooving 3” was introduced in the first mills, as well as the
perforated Lotus roll, which brought about a considerable increase in the juice
extraction of the first mill, thanks to the elimination of reabsorption and an
increase in the capacity.
Figure 10. Average % time losses in the sugar mills consulted by CIASA
Source: CIASA annual reports [Sugar Mill Consultants, from their acronym in Spanish]
Figure 10 shows the behavior of average time loss in the mills of all the sugar
mills consulted by CIASA [Sugar Mill Consultants, for their acronym in
Spanish]. The introduction of secondary milling lines and the consolidation of
substituting technologies may be observed in the learning curves marked by the
As a result of the improvements made in the preparation and mills, sugar mills
were able to increase their milling times to higher levels. In some cases, they did
run into horsepower limitations in the low-speed motoreducers. This permitted
the beginning of the use of high-torque hydrostatic motors in the rolls, which goal
was to lower the load on the motorgear and allow an increase in the milling.
Various advantages were obtained: Independent speeds between the cane mills
and all the rest, an increase in energy efficiency in this operation and the busting
of the myth involving the sole use of turbines to move the mills. The use of
hydraulic power was the first option when the sugar mills evaluated the
elimination of steam powered turbines, completely. However, after much
consideration, variable speed motors, both with direct (DC) and alternating (AC)
current, were the most efficient, setting a milestone in the Guatemalan and
international sugarcane industry.
Because of the increase in the volume of sugarcane to be processed, some sugar
mills found it necessary to split the bagacillo sieve in two sections, and the use of
centrifugal pumps for maceration. This changed radically afterwards when the
pumps were changed for non-clogging pumps, thus making only one sieve
necessary. Thanks to this improvement, the amount of imbibition water increased
to values close to 35 percent of its weight in cane, and the pol percent of bagasse
decreased to values close to 1.6. In some cases, this system was changed to a
rotary sieve which has some advantages, mostly operational, sanitary, and of
Imbibition water was applied with much stability. It was controlled
automatically, and priorities were taken into account when it came to the water
supply. Both, temperature and flow were controlled. The maximum milling rate
during the 90’s was between 8,500 and 15,000 tons of sugarcane per day.
During the current decade, some facilities have placed six roll mills in order to
increase their milling capacity. In other cases, they opted for a second or third
mill tandem. Thanks to the introduction of electric motor power to the mills, to
more efficient turbines and to hydrostatic transmissions, monitoring and
controlling have become an integral part of the distributed control system; in
which visualizing the operation and monitoring the energy items has become a
new tool in the continuous improvement of the processes.
Figure 11 shows the improvement in sucrose recovery in the mills, reflected in the
Pol % index in the bagasse. It shows how consistent the improvement in the
Guatemalan Sugar Agroindustry has been over time.
Figure 11. Average Pol% in the bagasse of the sugar mills under CIASA
Source: CIASA annual reports [Sugar Mill Consultants, from their acronym in Spanish]
Interest for systems powered by hydraulic motors has diminished and all new
projects are being powered by AC electric motors and MV (medium voltage)
variable speed systems. Usage of steam powered turbines is no longer considered
in new projects, nowadays.
Usage of flexible couplings or torque converters substituting bar couplings began.
This technology helps to correct misalignment. Its major benefits are: Low
maintenance, less energy losses and they offer protection to the motoreducers.
There is an advanced regulatory control that may directly influence the milling
speed; it has the capacity to adapt to the previous and posterior processes to
minimize losses. Donnelly chute´s levels, milling speeds, flow, and temperatures of
the imbibition water and energy consumption of the whole operation are indicated
with better accuracy.
The milling rates for this decade reported were between 15,000 and 30,000 tons of
cane per day.
STEAM POWER AND ELECTRIC POWER GENERATION
Bagasse (a sub-product of the process) is used as fuel. It feeds the furnaces of
water-tube boilers for the generation of high pressure superheated steam. This
steam is utilized to move the steam powered turbines in mills and in electric power
turbogenerators. Depending on the design of the turbines and turbogenerators, the
generated high pressure steam may be between 200 and 1500 psig.
After the high pressure steam has given its energy to the turbines (either from the
mills and/or from the turbogenerators) the exhausted steam, which has a pressure of
20-25 psig, is used for the processes involved in the production of sugar and
Ethanol in adjacent distilleries. Figure 12 shows a diagram illustrating the steam
cycle at counterpressure, applied to a sugar mill.
Figure 12. Diagram of the steam generation cycle at counter pressure
The consumption and production of steam at high pressure depends upon the
amount of sugarcane processed per day, the amount and quality of sugar
produced, the electrical power demand, the electrical power co-generation, and
the efficiency at which the sugar mill works. After making an analysis of
certain implied variables, Hugot gives a generic value to the capacity of the
required boilers; such capacity is around 637 kg of steam to be produced per ton
of processed sugarcane.
Sugarcane varieties and their industrial impact: During the beginning of the
90’s, the predominant cane variety was CP57603, with an average fibre
percentage of 11%. This variety of cane completely changed the outlook, by
offering better quantities in fuel. Levels of yield reached 10%, similar to the
ones obtained the previous decade: 200lb sugar/ton of milled cane. The energy
balance of the factory became the daily operative strategy. The sugar mills
suggested a variety of equipment and procedure combinations to achieve the
coveted balance. Most of the mills obtained the benefit with technological
support, operative excellence and technical skill from a whole new generation
of technologists. All this, boosted the race to reach the highest yields in milling
and sugar production. Elements worth highlighting: Energy balance, milling
increase, identifying periods with bagasse surplus, the beginning of
technification, and the opening of the electric power market.
At the beginning of the new millennium, the predominant variety of sugarcane
was CP72-2086 . In some cases, it was already the predominant variety
cultivated by the end of the 20th
century. Yields were around 11-11.5 per cent
(230 lb sugar/ ton of milled cane). More and better information was available
regarding its fiber’s performance. Yields were around 10 percent during the
beginning of the season, 12 percent around the middle, and up to 13.5 towards
the end of the season. During that decade, bagasse surpluses became more and
more predictable and the performace of the “tercios” ( thirds of crop season or
zafra ) became better known.
Figure 13 shows the tendency of the average shown by the mills consulted by
CIASA [Sugar Mill Consultants, for their acronym in Spanish] in the
percentage of industrial fiber in sugarcane over time. Oscillations and impacts
of the previously described operations in sugar mills are easily noticed.
Figure 13. Average perfomance of the idustrial cane fiber percentage in the sugar
mills with CIASA consulting
Source: CIASA annual reports [Sugar Mill Consultants, for their acronym in Spanish]
Energy Evolution in Sugar Mills with co-generation: As previously
discussed, the raw material used, is decisive in obtaining a satisfactory
operation at the plant. Saccharose recovery and the energy balance are
predicted as soon as the sugarcane is received in the yard.
The correct usage of either thermal or electrical energy is vital for obtaining
good results in a sugar mill. Steam is necessary for cooking the sugarcane juice,
since at least 85% of the water contained in it, must be evaporated before it
leaves the mill. Each sugar mill operates by keeping an energy balance that
allows it to mill and process a specific quantity of solids going into the process,
evaporating the water, and having enough fuel available to use in the production
The use of steam in the sugar producing process marked, during the last 30
years, an evolutionary line in technology development. It is defined as an
essential element for sugarcane processing, and for that reason, the industry
was forced to redesign and improve efficiency and competitiveness. Boilers
and power generators marked the evolution of the business from the energy
point of view. Through history, we can observe how steam pressures and
temperatures have slowly increased. This moved the industry from burning fuel
in the traditional locomotive-type boilers, with extremely low pressures (100 to
200 psig) together with very inefficient turbines; to the use of high pressure,
high capacity, and high efficiency boilers (1500 psig or more).
The power generating systems used during the nineties were formed by many
small turbines with capacities ranging from 350 kW to some 850 kW, with
specific consumptions of 35 to 45 lb/kW. As the slowly growth was happening,
it was necessary for them to work in synchronization in order to withstand the
electric load required by the factories. Even though some of the machinery used
was in good operating condition, much of the ancilliary equipment dated back to
the first half of the 20th
century (1935-1950). The energy usage of these machines
was very high, though they were extremely versatile in their operation. Many of
the interconnections from the sugar mills to the Guatemalan Electric Company
[EEGSA, from the acronym in Spanish] were done in 13.8 kV lines, mainly to
help in their start-ups and to maintain the operations keep going during the off-
In the factory, steam consumption concentrated mainly on the triple and
quadruple-effect evaporators. The direct usage of steam within the factory was
commonplace. Outlet steam was the main source of energy for all the unit
operations in the factory. Steam consumption per ton of sugarcane exceeded
1,500 to 1,800 lb/TC.
From the energy standpoint, a new era began with the new millennium. A new
market opened up with the first private contracts between the Guatemalan Electric
Company (EEGSA) and the sugar mills. Finally, the existing monopoly in the
power generating business brokedown with the new “Law of Electricity” (Decree
Number 93-96), which allowed the introduction of private power generators into
the national network. With this new horizon on line, sugar mills had to adapt
their factories to change the existing operation philosophies to the most important
one from that moment on: Work all throughout harvest time linked to the
national electric power network.
During this stage, sugar mills looked after energy efficiency within the sugar
mills. Its main goals were: To assure the bagasse surplus all throughout harvest
time, and to sell electric energy by means of a new concept called Co-generation.
This new definition linked the sale of electric energy with sugar production. The
main improvements in many of the sugar mills were: a) changing the steam-
powered turbines to electric motors to drive the cane shredders, pumps, and large
sized fans; b) arrangements of triple and quadruple effect evaporators to quintuple
effect evaporators; c) use of pre-heaters for the alkalized and clarified cane juice;
d) usage of low pressure steam for the massecuite, as well as other particular to
each sugar mill.
All of these improvements, together with the arrangements that permitted energy
savings within the sugar mills, allowed sustainable bagasse surpluses. These
surpluses appeared to be consistently higher every harvest. Even though, the
management of bagasse became more complex, its value as potential fuel
commodity became increasingly evident. As a result of this apparent problem,
there was an “awakening” of a secondary bagasse market. Sugar mills which had
improved their steam consuming efficiency and had no capacity to burn it for co-
generation began to sell their surpluses of bagasse to other sugar mills that did
have the capacity to do it. From this period on, bagasse obtained an economic
value per ton. Its heat value was the reference for its price in an emerging market.
Some of the sugar mills that visualized the newly created country’s incentive, by
promoting cheaper electric power generation, they proceeded to install redesigned
or modified boilers. Most of the equipment was modified to work at higher
pressures in revamped preexisting equipment or in completely renewed facilities.
This broke the old myth created by the sugar mill idiosincracy: Sugar mills
cannot work at a pressure above 200 psig. The learning curve was complex, and
the experience attained was varied, yet it brought the guild together; they decided
to share their experiences and advance as a group. A large part of this growth was
supported with generating equipment with higher efficiency and capacity than the
one used in the previous decade. Typically, the capacities found in these projects
were: 400 psig (635°F) or 600 psig (750°F) boilers, with steam production
around 125,000 to 150,000 lb/hr; generators were around 1.5 to 7.5 MW, with
consumptions in the range of 20 to 30 lb/kWh.
By the end of the decade, the concept of a thermal plant began to emerge. These
types of facilities brought about a combination between generation and co-
generation, and they broke another paradigm: Operating during the off-season to
sell electrical energy. They began to install and operate condensing-type thermal
plants, all of them generating between 20 and 35 MW. The combined burning of
bagasse-petroleum fuel (Bunker C or Fuel Oil No.6) in their boilers is
emphasized. Efficiencies within the thermal plants were forced to improve since
the new business demanded strict control of operative costs. Usage of petroleum
fuel and its financial impact made management focus its attention toward a new
form of administrat