Sugarcane Crop in Punjab
Sugarcane is one of the most widely cultivated crops all over the world. In Pakistan Sugarcane is highly preferred and most valuable crop which is used by many farmers due to its high and satisfactory returns. It is ranked at 4th position in sugarcane acreage and 14th position on account of its contribution to the sugar industry in the world. It is a crop of tropical and sub-tropical regions growing in a range of climatic conditions which may be hot or dry conditions and can also be grown in coolest places like hilly areas of Murree. Production of sugarcane has increased in the past few years with the 759 million hectares of land being cultivated by this crop. In Pakistan’s agriculture, this crop has a share of 3.4% with annual cane yield of 36 tons/ha and has 0.7% share in Pakistan’s GDP. Presently the sugar recovery that we are getting from this crop is 9.2% and the annual sugar yield obtained is 4.63 tons/ha.
The yield has always been a problem in the case for this crop, due to low recovery and less turnout this crop was not much flourished in Pakistan. Major causes which lead to the low yield of this crop included; use of unsuitable land, poor soil conditions or low fertility, lack of researches related to sugarcane, most importantly the weed problem (common weed is Khabbal Grass), unsuitable land layout, improper fertilizer provision, use of exhaustive and less resistant varieties, poor ratoon crop management, unchecked borer invasion, early or late harvesting, late planting etc. Combining all these factors leads to the low yield and fewer turnouts which make this crop a risky agricultural practice for most farmers. Another major challenge faced is the loss of sucrose contents due to the breakdown of sucrose into glucose and fructose, such type of canes are rejected by sugar industries because the main requirement of sugar industries is sucrose for making table sugar, lack of available labor and less payment by sugar mills to farmers.
Solutions to all the above-mentioned problems are simple and easy, one has to be careful while carrying out field practices with this crop. Carrying out good cultural practices, with the proper spreading of agricultural knowledge among illiterate farmers by Agriculture Extension officers has to be made possible which could prove to be fruitful. For high sugar recovery, growers should have 2-3 varieties for managing to harvest, seed nurseries should be established to keep the growing stalks safe from diseases and insects, and sugar mills should provide some budget for seed propagation to get high sugar recovery, cane payment must be according to sugar contents; field trials must be conducted at sugar mill farms.
Different research departments in Pakistan and mostly in Punjab are working hard with untiring efforts to create a proper and long lasting solution for this crop by introducing different varieties of sugarcane. It must be kept in mind these research institutions have no breeding programs that are run by them. Among all provinces, Punjab is the leading province in variety development program. Varieties being cultivated in Punjab are SPSG26, HSF-240, CPF-242, CPF-213, CPF-237, SPF-234 and many others. In Punjab most of the research work on sugarcane is being carried out in Ayub Agriculture Research Institute Faisalabad, this institute has released many varieties since its establishment.
Jazib Ali, Ahtasham-ul-Hassan, Umer Nadeem, Saad Ullah, Ali Raza.