Sugarcane is an exhaustive crop like wheat, rice, maize etc, that uptake huge amount of nutrients. It requires macro as well as micro nutrients.
Fertilizers are use in Pakistan is imbalanced, inadequate and improper. Most of the cane growers in the country use only nitrogenous fertilizers while others use an imbalanced combination of N and P. Use of K is almost neglected in cane crop. It is very important to use proper doses of balanced fertilizers to exploit the maximum yield potential of cane crop.
All phosphorus and potash should be applied at the time of planting. It is preferable that P and K may be applied in furrows where seed sets are to be placed. Rest of the nitrogenous fertilizer may be applied in 4 – 5 equal splits by fertigation system, during April, May and by mid June to February-March planted crop. In September – October cultivated crop, it will be beneficial if N is applied in 5 – 6 equal splits. In this case it may be applied during December, February, March, April, May and June. September planted crop may be given an additional dose of 20 to 40 kg N (one to two bags of urea) per acre.
Sugarcane being a giant crop producing huge quantity of biomass generally demands higher amounts of nutrient elements. At the same time the cost of chemical fertilizers has increased and there is a need to improve fertilizer use efficiency for more benefits. The best way of fertilizer application is “Fertigation”, where both water and fertilizers are delivered to crop simultaneously through center pivot irrigation system.
- Fertigation is a way of uniform application of fertilizers by combining with irrigation water.
- Fertigation is achieved through fertilizer tank and Injector Pump.
- Ensures a regular flow of water as well as nutrients resulting in increased growth rates for higher yields
- Offers greater versatility in the timing of the nutrient application to meet specific crop demands
- Improves availability of nutrients and their uptake by the roots
- Safer application method which eliminates the danger of burning the plant root system
- Improves fertilizer use efficiency
- Reduction of soil compaction and mechanical damage to the crops
- Convenient use of compound and ready-mix nutrient solutions containing also small concentration of micronutrients
EARTHING UP AND LODGING
Earthing up is a practice followed to prevent lodging. Sugarcane usually lodges in August – September. It may even lodge in July if the cane crop is much healthier. Lodged cane caused losses e.g. reduction in yield, damage of mice, buds start germination, reduction in sugar recovery and hurdle in loading etc. lodged crop also become victim of frost and cannot be used as seed for next crop. Crop lodging might be due to many reason, i.e., cane variety, sowing time, sowing method, fertilizer application time, irrigation, rain, and storm are common. Earthing up is done at maximum tillering stage.
Reasons of sugarcane lodging
- If September sown crop have massive growth, it tend to lodge more
- If fertilizer application is delayed, the plants become soft and tender.
- If crop is massive, it will lodge quickly
- If there is hardpan and land is not prepared deeply and well, the root establishment is obstructed and it will lodge in storm
- If trenches have less R x R distance, the cane will be long and slim and will lodge.
- Cane sown in trenches 4ft apart will have less chances of lodging due to healthy and strong cane plants. Earthing up, if practiced properly, will prevent lodging and reduces water wastage.
Sugarcane is a perennial crop and remains 3-4 years in the same field. Therefore, all types of weeds, seasonal, annual and perennial or broad leaves or narrow leaves grow in the field. These compete with crop for nutrients, space and light. Weed creates a favorable environment for disease and insect development.
Common Weeds of Sugarcane
Euphorbia granulata (Hazardani), Rumex obtusifolius (Jangli palik), Tribulus terrestris (Bakhra), Scirpus maritimus (Deela), Cynodon dactylon (Chabbar), Dactyloctenium aegyptium (Madhana), Cyperus rotundus (Morak – Kabah), Trianthema portulacastrum (Itsit), Digitaria sanguinalis (Moti khabal), Chenopodium album, Convolvulus arvensis L (Lehli/naro), Melilotus (Sinjhi) and Portulaca oleracea (Qulfa, Loonak).
Mechanical Weed Control
Fields are given a hoeing with help of khurpi (hand tool) or spade, after a month of sowing and the process is repeated frequently. Use the cultivator or local plough to destroy the weeds when the germination has been completed. After germination and tillering, (About 90 days after sowing) destroy the trenches by using cultivator or local plough. This method not only removes the weeds but also increases the sprouting and tillers and destroys insects and enhances aeration in the soil. Some growers make best use of this laborious operation by cultivation of second crop in between the sugarcane crop as a mixed crop.
Center Pivot irrigation system is most common in all over the world but in Pakistan it is introduced from few years. Center pivot irrigation systems are now introduced on large farms of country.
Sugar cane is a perennial crop and water requirements on an average varies from 47 – 63 inches for the spring crop and 80 – 98 inches for the autumn crop depending upon season, the fertility of soil, and the variety of cane. Autumn planting requires a higher quantity of water than spring planting. During the dry period, sufficient water should be applied at relatively short intervals to avoid moisture stress. When crop shows wilting it means big loss has been occurred for this to avoid from water stress.
The goal of an efficient irrigation scheduling program is to “provide knowledge on correct time and optimum quantity of water application to optimize crop yields with maximum water use efficiency and at the same time ensure minimum damage to the soil”. Thus,
- Irrigation scheduling is the decision of when and how much water to apply to a cropped field.
- Its purpose is to maximize irrigation efficiencies by applying the exact amount of water needed to replenish the soil moisture to the desired level.
- Make efficient use of water and energy.
Sugar cane crop should not be over irrigated because it leads to wastage of water, loss of Nitrogen by deep percolation serious deterioration of soil from water logging and salinity.
It is very important to take care of the irrigation requirements of sugarcane, particularly in summer months. Farmers must plan their acreage to be planted under cane crop according to the available water at their farm. The aim of sugar cane grower should be to get high yields year after without imparting soil productivity.
INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT FOR SUGARCANE
Insect pests play an important role in reducing the sugarcane yield. The most serious insect pests are sugarcane top borer, stem borer, Gurdaspur borer, army worm, white ant (feeding inside the cane and causes less germination). Pyrilla (Pyrilla is the most destructive foliage- sucking pest); whitefly, mealy bug and black bugs are also causing damage. These all can cause of yield reduction from 10 – 35% according the pest attack. In some cases maximum 80 – 85 percent reduction in crop yield can be due to high attack of insects.
These losses in sugarcane can only be minimized by proper protection of the cane crop from insect pests with scientifically designed IPM Program throughout the year. Pesticides are applied as and when needed in combination with cultural practices, resistant varieties and introduction and conservation of natural enemies. Pesticides will continue to play an important role in the IPM Program. The primary difference, however, is that these products will be used selectively and judiciously.
Farmyard manure should always be used when it is fully rotten. This will reduce termite attack. Trash in the field should not be kept for longer time and it may be burnt. Dry shoots attacked by the bores must be pulled out and burnt. Always cut the crop as close to the ground as possible. Use of light traps will help controlling the spread of borers killing their adults. Earthing up during May-June will help in controlling Gurdaspur borer as the adults will not be able to come out of the ridges of the soil. In case of severe attack of any insect, do not keep the crop as ratoon.
Besides using pesticides/insecticides, insects could also be controlled by biological measures. Cotesia flavips is an important larval parasitoid of sugarcane bores. Its female lays eggs inside the borer larva and after hatching; its larvae feed inside the borer larva. Adult parasitoid attack more borer larvae in the field. Trichogramma chilonis destroys the eggs of sugarcane borers. Its female lays eggs inside the eggs of borers. Parasitoid larvae feed in the host eggs, destroying them. Epi-pyropes destroy sugarcane Pyrilla. These parasitoids are mass multiplied in the laboratory and then released in the cane fields.