Research Department

Nitrogen Rate Trial

The Belize Sugar Industry is currently heading in a direction of maximizing production in the same area. Plant nutrition turns into a key factor to increase productivity. Plant nutrition requires an investment from the farmer. Maximizing this investment by utilizing correct quantities of fertilizer applications start to become a key issue of the farmer as the farmers being to lower the cost of production.

It is known that low leaf Nitrogen concentrations limit leaf photosynthesis. In addition to this, lessening fertilizer application to the minimal amount possible for maximum return reduces the impact on soil chemistry as most nitrogen applications are urea based; this will increase the soil pH value.

A Sugarcane field will be established using B79474 with randomized complete block design in triplicate. The treatments (0-30-60-90-120) lbs/acre will be assigned to the each treatment block within the block. The N fertilizer will applied at planting and monitored for growth, yield and quality.

The experiment will quantify the optimum amount of nitrogen needed to obtain the highest quality, highest yielding sugarcane. The experiment will also compare the breakeven point of optimal nitrogen fertilization versus cost return.

Phosphorous and Potassium Rate Trial

Sugarcane farming is an integration of various factors such as weather, water, soil, biotic and economic factors. Of all the factors, weather is the only factor uncontrollable by man. The primary concern for cane farmers is to achieve higher Sugarcane productivity and increased sugar recovery while maximizing their economic return. To accomplish the maximum productivity, soil fertility needs to be augmented. There is usually an imbalance between crop nutrient demand and soil nutrient supply.

Phosphorous plays a key role in early establishment of the root system and potassium is vital for the translocation of sugar molecules from the leaf, where manufactured, to the stalk, where stored. Nutrient depletion of consistent sugarcane farming has depleted soil nutrients and needs to be replaced yearly. The right balance needs to struck between nutrient availability and crop demand.

A Sugarcane field will be established using B79474 using randomized complete block design in triplicate.  The treatments will be potassium applications of (60-90-120) lbs/acre in combination with phosphorous applications of (0-25-50-75) lbs/acre. The field will be monitored for quality and yield.

The results will aid in making in informed conclusion of which concentration of potassium and phosphorous combination improves yield and quality the most. The study will determine the potassium and phosphorous combination concentrations to apply to reap the maximum return.

Kalfa + Trial

The soils in the Belizean sugar industry have high incidence of calcium levels. Calcium is required for sugarcane growth but only in minute quantities. Calcium applications to soils regulate acidic soils by raising soil pH. This contrasts to the soils of northern Belize whom are more basic soils. High calcium levels coupled with basic soils make phosphorous unavailable to the plant for absorption because calcium phosphate is produced in these conditions.

Kalfa + is a chelating agent that alleviates this problem. A chelate is a molecule that traps metal ions ie Calcium. The premise of Kalfa + then is the chelating properties of it trap calcium ions thereby releasing the phosphate ions. The phosphate (phosphorous) is then available for absorption by the plant.

Tools for Research

  • Refractometer
    • Measures the Brix (Bxo) of the cane juice. The Bxo is a measure of the total dissolved solids (TDS) in the cane juice, the majority of which is sucrose (useful sugar). The Brix is a good indicator of the amount of sucrose available in the cane juice
  • Yard Stick
    • The yard stick measures the cane height. It used to measure response of the cane growth to experimental treatments.
  • Polarimeter
    • Measures the sucrose content in the cane juice through refractive lenses. The polarimeter reading (pol) will always be lower than the Brix.
  • Soil Analysis
    • Provides the amount of nutrients in the soil. Cultivation management decisions can be made based on the soil analysis for example, the blend of fertilizer to be added.
  • Tissue Analysis
    • Provides a snapshot of the nutrients in the plant at that time. It is used for nutrimental management decision ie, the application of more nitrogen.
  • Clicker
    • Used to count items such as millable stalks per 150 feet. It is a good tool for rapid counting of tangible items without having to use a pen and paper or rely on memory.

Clean Seed Program

The Belize sugar industry has been undergoing a transformation of renewed partnerships, refocusing on goals and overall growth in the industry. The goal is to produce 1.5M tons of sugarcane by 2015 and 1.8M tons by 2018. Currently, there is approximately 60,000 acres in production. The sugarcane production has hovered around 1,000,000 tons for the past 20 years giving an average productivity of 18 tons per acre.

The current level of production is unsustainable considering the increased costs of inputs. Increased production levels can be accomplished utilizing with the same acreage. Borne from this idea, the industry has taken a policy of replanting. Increasing average productivity to 25 tons/acre yields 1.5M tons.

This policy has created a demand for seed for vegetative propagation. The majority of seed material available is of inferior quality and not conducive to longevity.

In agriculture, success depends on multiple facets. It requires good husbandry from the inception, beginning with proper land preparation, selection of appropriate varieties given the circumstances, uniform variety and also the use of seed free of pests and diseases.

The Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI) has recognized this and has taken the initiative to produce clean seed. The objective is to produce quality seed stock for commercial production ultimately improving sugarcane productivity and quality.

Clean Seed is high quality seed free of disease and pests. It requires a system of multiplication that meets standards that will ensure the final product, commercial seed, is of the quality necessary for the producer. It requires different management practices. The practices are more costly compared to cultivation of commercial cane but will guarantee success of producing higher quality seed.

Quality starting material will ensure good productivity and ultimately success especially in plantations that require multiple harvests with replanting.

This new concept of cane seed requires interested cane farmers to gradually but steadily move from traditional “seed” concept to the clean seed concept.