Where To Buy Sugar Cane Stalks In Florida?

The most widely farmed row crop in Florida, sugarcane is currently planted on over 440,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). The majority of the Lake Okeechobee’s southern half’s land is used for production.

Where can I find cuttings of sugar cane?

The United States Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 8 through 12 are where sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum), which worships the sun, thrives best when temperatures are consistently between 70 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This huge grass, which is intolerant of frost, can grow to a height of 10 to 15 feet and can last for years as an imposing perennial. Although these simple-to-grow plants produce seeds, vegetative propagation is the quickest and most effective way to increase your supply. A clipping from a young cane stalk is all that is required to start your own sugarcane plant. Despite the fact that sugarcane produces its highest and finest sugar content during the first five to seven years after maturation, a single mature planting can be cut and regrown every year indefinitely.

In late August or early September, buy a fresh sugarcane stalk from a nearby farmer’s market or health food store. The stalks are also sold in many Latin American and Asian markets for use in food. Cuttings from plants cultivated in your area will function best for you because they are well matched to the growing environment. A mature, bright green cane with a diameter of between 1 1/2 and 2 inches is what you want to look for. It should have a fresh, rot-free appearance and no signs of skin wrinkles.

Using clean, precise lopping shears, a machete, or a sturdy knife, cut the sugarcane stalk into parts that are 8 to 12 inches long. The stalk is surrounded by rings, or nodes, that are separated by about 6 inches. Each node will produce a new plant. Aim to cut the cane with at least two nodes in each segment. These pieces are also known as seed pieces, seed billets, and seed setts.

Planting sites should be prepared to a depth of about 8 inches, in full light and a fertile area. Choose a location distant from structures that can shade the plants and limit their growth. Sugarcane grows well in a pH range of 5.5 to 6.0. As sugarcane plants have stiff leaves with sharp, serrated edges that might cause painful wounds, make sure there won’t be considerable foot traffic close by. As a windbreak or a tall border around other gardening areas, you might want to consider growing your sugarcane plants in rows.

The seed pieces should be placed in the furrow horizontally, with their ends just touching. Add one or two inches of soil over top, then gently press it down with your hands. In one to three weeks, the sugarcane sprouts you planted will start to appear. It will take the mature plants around 14 months from planting to be ready for harvest.

To equally hydrate the soil, fully water the area. Throughout the entire growing season, keep the area consistently moist. The young shoots will start to fall dormant by the end of November and won’t need frequent watering once more until new growth starts up again in the spring.

While the seed fragments are germination, regularly hoe between rows to keep the area weed-free. Over the following few weeks, start gradually filling up the furrow with the extra dirt from hoeing. Continue filling the furrow as the sprouts get higher until it is slightly elevated to 2 or 3 inches above ground level. The accumulated soil encourages the growth of young shoots.

As soon as you see fresh growth in the sugarcane plants in the early spring, water them again. Moisten the soil uniformly. In the absence of rain, water once each week till harvest in November.

When fresh growth starts, feed the young plants a full 8-8-8 fertilizer. Until mid-July, when they won’t need fertilizing, repeat the applications every two months. Any later feeding could postpone plant maturity and reduce the sugar content of the stalks. Observe the directions on the packaging.

Can sugar cane be grown in Florida?

Sugar cane has become a significant part of farmer John Bitter’s business at Frog Song Organics in Hawthorne.

You might not consider the sweetener’s horticulture roots when you reach for the sugar bowl to go with your morning cup of coffee. You probably haven’t thought about growing sugar cane in your garden. Even though this plant is not frequently found in backyard gardens, Florida’s agriculture has long used it as an easy-to-grow, tasty crop.

A tropical perennial grass with Asian origins is sugar cane. It has been farmed and grown for more than 4000 years, and India has utilized it to make sugar since 400 BC. Florida Memory, a website maintained by the State Archives and Library of Florida, “The first significant sugar cane operations in Florida began in the 18th century, when the British controlled the region. British subjects who agreed to cultivate sugar cane and other crops along the St. Johns River received significant land concessions from the colonial government. Since that time, Florida’s sugar cane industry has grown significantly. According to recent data, 1.55 million tons of raw sugar were produced from 13.3 million tons of stalk.

New types have been produced specifically for the generation of biofuel from the sugar cane biomass byproduct, which is used in feed and biofuel. In Florida sugar mills, the majority of the fibrous stalk (bagasse) is burned as fuel, saving the industry 113 million gallons of fuel oil. Although sugar cane can be cultivated in every county in Florida, the majority of the state’s commercial output is focused near Lake Okeechobee’s southern end. Red tides to the deterioration of the Everglades are just a few of the pollution issues that have arisen as a result of the increase in output over time.

Due to its importance both in the field and after harvest, Gainesville-area farmer John Bitter has made sugar cane a significant part of his enterprise at Frog Song Organics. He grows cane between the rows to shade and act as a windbreak for other crops, and he feeds his hogs with the stalks. The cane is squeezed and cooked down to create traditional syrup once it has been gathered. The farm began producing hand sanitizer, a high-proof ethanol produced from sugar cane juice, during the pandemic. The most recent project involves collaborating with a nearby distillery to create private label spirits.

“On the farm, sugar cane is incredibly adaptable. Most individuals are also unaware that the juice is good for the digestive system and contains critical elements like iron, magnesium, and phosphorus, according to Bitter.

Sugar cane is entertaining and simple for backyard farmers. Green, yellow, and purple are just a few of the kinds you can try in your own backyard garden. Because the fibers cling together better when chewed, certain types are cultivated for chewing, while others are grown for syrup. Cut stalks into 1-foot-long sections before planting, and do it in the spring to take advantage of the harvest in the early winter. Cut the canes off at the ground after harvesting so that the crop will reappear from the root cluster the following year.

Watch for the Fall Farm and Cane Festival at Dudley Farm Historic State Park in Newberry to catch a sight of an authentic cane grinding. A demonstration of cane grinding via rollers that are rotated either originally by horses or more recently by motors is part of the farm day. The juice drips into a collection container, which is then filled with cooking liquid and cooked to reduce it. Impurities are skimmed out during this procedure, and before bottling, the thickness and quality are regularly tested.

Even if you are unable to cultivate enough sugar cane to make syrup, you can still eat the stalks as a tasty treat. To consume, either chop the cane into bits or just chew on the peeled stick after removing the husk to reveal the fiber center. Additionally, if you buy a bottle of Frog Song’s cane syrup, be sure to bake some biscuits or molasses cookies using the syrup as a substitute and enjoy the flavors of a classic sweetener.

Where are Florida’s sugar crops located?

NASA satellites frequently spot smoke plumes emerging from Florida farmland south of Lake Okeechobee between the months of October and April each year. The majority of the plumes seem to be the result of burns on sugarcane estates. The sweeter cane material is left intact while the leaves and tips of the plant are burned off by sugar growers. This approach lowers the cost of harvesting and shipping sugar cane. But in other surrounding villages, the smoke has sparked health worries.

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured a natural-color image of many sugarcane fires raging close to Belle Glade, Florida, on January 5, 2021. The second image (right) is false-colored and combines blue light, near-infrared light, and shortwave infrared light (OLI bands 7, 5, 2). With this combination, it is simpler to discern between freshly harvested (yellow), freshly burned (black), and unburned (green) fields (brown).

The frequency of these fires, the path of the smoke, and the potential health effects of the smoke have all been investigated by atmospheric scientists. According to research, just a part of the annual sugarcane fires are probably detected by satellites. However, scientists are figuring out ways to investigate the potential health effects of the smoke with the use of information from ground-based sensors and atmospheric dispersion models.

“We are aware that smoke from the burning of sugarcane is a source of particles with a diameter of no more than 2.5 microns (PM2.5). According to Holly Nowell, a Florida State University researcher who has been examining the effects of the fires, we also know that PM2.5 can enter the lungs and increase risks of cardiovascular disease and lung cancer while exacerbating chronic lung conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “We can calculate how frequently smoke flows towards rural areas where sugarcane is being burned as well as toward the major coastal cities to the east using satellite photographs like these.

It is known that the fires release a variety of gases and particles, some of which may be harmful to human health. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) levels in the air were found to be up to 15 times higher after sugarcane fires in Belle Glade, according to a study by a Florida International University researcher. There is speculation that some PAHs cause cancer.

The largest sugar-producing region in the US is located around Lake Okeechobee. Florida produces almost all of the nation’s sugar crop, which accounts for almost half of the total. The sixth-largest cane sugar producer in the world is the United States.

Utilizing Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey, Lauren Dauphin created photos for NASA Earth Observatory. Author: Adam Voiland

GROWING & HARVESTING

Cuttings from commercial sugarcane stalks are planted in five-foot-diameter furrows. The ripe sugarcane is ready for harvesting after about a year. From a single planting, farmers receive four harvests on average. The harvesting campaign lasts roughly 150 days, from the middle of October through the middle of March.

During the day, the Cooperative harvests an average of 600 acres. The cane is chopped at the base of the stalk with a single-row combine harvester, placed into in-field wagons, and driven to the processing facility in semi-trailers. Three or four harvesters, six to eight tractors, plus a line of in-field wagons make up the majority of harvesting units.

Each season, about 70,000 acres are harvested, yielding over three million tons of sugarcane.

PROCESSING

One of the biggest mills in the entire globe belongs to The Cooperative. Glades Sugar House grinds up to 26,000 tons of sugarcane per day while operating around-the-clock during harvest. In modern processing, the natural sugar liquid is separated from the stalk and concentrated to create raw sugar crystals and blackstrap molasses.

The entire sugarcane stalk is utilized. Over 31 million gallons of fuel oil are saved each year by using the fibrous part of the stalk, known as bagasse, as a fuel source. The annual fuel savings are comparable to 79,000 homes being powered.

Animal feed is the main use for which molasses is marketed. About 220 pounds of raw sugar are produced from one ton of sugarcane.

Can you root sugar cane in water?

The majority of the sugar consumed worldwide is produced by a 3-5 m long tropical plant called sugar cane. Outdoors, Saccharum officinarum can be found in warm to tropical Mediterranean regions. Canes can be peeled and consumed at any time, but they taste best after they have bloomed. In the scorching summer months, with plenty of water and fertilizer, sugar cane grows quite quickly.

Cuttings are the most effective method of sugar cane plant reproduction because they root readily and create plants that are identical to the mother plant. Because it is so much slower, reproduction from seed is only occasionally employed to create novel cultivars.

20 to 30 C is the ideal temperature for rooting. Cuttings can either be rooted in water or planted straight in the ground. The nodes, which are the dull-colored rings found on each stem and are generated when old leaves fall off, will produce new roots and new shoots. Roots often appear initially, and after that the buds awaken and produce new primary shoots.

  • Use a fluffy, sandy, draining soil for the foundation. There are two ways to do it: stick the cuttings upright and bury about two-thirds of them in the soil mixture, or bury the cuttings horizontally for a few millimeters. Don’t dry them out.
  • The cuttings should be placed upright in a large glass of water. In one to two weeks, roots will start to appear. After the procedure has been going on for about a month, transfer the rooted cuttings to soil.

In the sun or the shade, cuttings can take root. It makes no difference because the rooted plants will survive for roughly a month on the stem sugar instead. After this period, the rooted plants should be relocated to full light as soon as possible so that their own photosynthesis can cause the canes to begin thickening.

Does sugar cane regrowth occur annually?

Fields of sugarcane are replaced every two to four years. The second round of stalks, known as a ratoon, start to sprout from the old after the first year’s harvest. The field is burned off following each sugarcane harvest until production levels start to fall. The land will next be plowed, and the soil will be ready for a fresh crop of sugarcane plants.

Herbicides are used in the plantation to keep weeds under control while cultivating sugarcane. For the sugarcane plants to thrive as best they can, additional fertilization is frequently required. After particularly strong downpours, water may occasionally be pumped out of the field and then pumped back in during the dry seasons.