Arundo saccharifera Garsault
Saccharifera officinalis Stokes
Saccharum atrorubens Cuzent & Pancher ex Drake
Saccharum fragile Cuzent & Pancher ex Drake
Saccharum glabrum Cuzent & Pancher ex Drake
Saccharum hybridum R.M.Grey
Saccharum infirmum Steud.
Saccharum luzonicum Cuzent & Pancher ex Drake
Saccharum monandrum Rottb.
Saccharum occidentale Sw.
Saccharum officinale Salisb.
Saccharum rubicundum Cuzent & Pancher ex Drake
Saccharum spontaneum luzonicum Hack
Saccharum violaceum Tussac
Common Name: Sugarcane
Flowering thick-stemmed sugar cane
Photograph by: Ton Rulkens
Sugarcane is a large, perennial, grass. It produces thick culms that may grow up to 2 - 3 meters tall, but with extended growing periods the plant can become much taller[
A major crop in the tropics, where it is grown mainly for the sap in the stems which is used for making sugar, alcohol for fuel etc. The plant is also a major source of biomass and a useful wax. It has been cultivated since ancient times[
Leaves and sheaths of some varieties are covered with a large number of siliceous hairs. These hairs penetrate the skin of cane cutters and are most unpleasant; hence cane cutters prefer varieties with few hairs or burnt cane[
Originated in cultivation.
Not known as a wild plant.
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Most commercial sugarcane is grown at latitudes between 35°N and S in the tropics, usually at elevations from sea level to 1,600 metres[
]. The plant grows best in areas where the mean annual rainfall is in the range 1,500 - 2,000mm, tolerating 1,000 - 5,000mm[
]. It prefers a mean annual temperature within the range 24 - 37°c, though can tolerate 15 - 41°c[
]. There are large differences between different cultivars in their tolerance to cold and susceptibility to frost[
]. Generally, long-term exposure to temperatures below 10°c can be lethal, whilst even short periods at 0°c causes the leaves to become chlorotic, at about -3°c young plants turn brown and the terminal buds and leaves of mature cane die, when the temperature reaches -11.5°c the whole plant dies[
Grows best in a sunny position. A very greedy plant, soon exhausting the soil of nutrients[
]. The plant is considered to be moderately tolerant to saline soil conditions and relatively tolerant of acid soils[
]. Grows best in a position sheltered from strong winds[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 8, but can tolerate 4.5 - 9[
Well-grown plants can become invasive[
When irrigated, yields of 100 - 150 tons of cane can be obtained from mature plants[
]. Young plants can yield 60 - 90 tons[
There are many named varieties[
The roots develop from the growth ring on the original planting piece and also from the new shoots that develop. The majority of the roots are thin and superficial with four fifths of the roots commonly found in the top 25 - 50cm of the soil. Thicker roots will penetrate to depths of 4 metres or more[
The stems contain a very sweet sap[
]. They are crushed to extract this sap, which is then used in a variety of ways. It can be used as a sweet, refreshing drink, though it is more commonly concentrated to make syrups or dried to make sugar, molasses etc[
The core of fresh stems is chewed as a sweet refreshment[
The leaf ash is used to treat sore eyes[
The stem juice is used to treat sore throats[
]. The sweet juice in the stem is used to treat snakebite and wounds from poison arrows[
]. Mixed with an infusion of 'wallaba' (Eperua sp.) it is used to treat curare poisoning[
A decoction of the young leaves is used to treat urinary conditions[
Sugar cane is a very greedy crop that soon exhausts the soil. In some countries the plant is intercropped with indigo or other leguminous plants between the rows when the canes are first planted. These legumes are turned into the soil while they are still green and succulent. This process has a very beneficial effect[
A wax obtained from the stems resembles carnauba wax[
]. It is used in the production of furniture, shoe, and leather polishes, electrical insulating material, and waxed paper[
The sweet sap from the stems can be manufactured into alcohol for used as a fuel in infernal combustion engines[
The stems are a source of fibre used for making paper[
Bagasse is the residue of the cane after the sugar is extracted. It is used as a fuel and for the manufacture of fibreboard, paper pulp, plastic, furfural, and cellulose[
Cuttings, consisting of 2 - 3 joints of the upper part of a stem that has been selected from a vigorous, healthy plant. They are placed in the ground with only 2 - 5cm of the cutting projecting above the surface. In about two weeks from planting the 'eyes' at each node will send forth shoots, and roots will grow from the nodes themselves. As the shoots develop, the parent stem decays and the young plants produce roots of their own[
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