From an agronomical point of view, there is a lot that the grower can do to maximize sugarcane yield. Proper crop nutrition is an important factor to achieve this.
In a large number of cases, nutrients that drive sugarcane yield forward, will also improve the sugar content and quality of the harvested sugarcane crop.
Most required nutrients have specific roles to play in improving yield:
- Nitrogen is important for high yields. It fuels crop growth and development, leading to strong tillering.
- Phosphorus is particularly important for root development, early shoot growth and tillering, maximizing early productivity and increasing internode length.
- Potassium, like nitrogen, also boosts strong cane development, long internode growth, wider cane girths and yield. Supplies need to be balanced alongside those of N.
- Magnesium, sulfur and iron increase photosynthetic activity maintaining good growth for high yields.
- Calcium ensures good plant strength, protecting root, leaf and stalk production, thereby maintaining early crop architecture and yield.
- Unavailability of any micronutrient will also restrict growth processes and subsequent yield. However, boron and zinc are increasingly seen as key micronutrients in the cane crop helping produce strong rooting and early shoot development.
- High sugarcane yields are obtained on fertile soils where water is not limiting, particularly during tillering and grand growth phases of development.
- Good soil structure is essential for strong root development and good tillering and harvest management (reducing soil compaction and stool damage) helps to preserve the soil in good condition for a more productive ratoon crop.
- Maintenance of an optimum soil pH ensures nutrients are readily available and maximizes growth.
- Mechanical harvest does influence nutrient use and recycling, thus play a role in sugarcane yield. In green cane production fertilizer nitrogen efficiency is strongly influenced, and other nutrients, e.g. K, are recycled and returned to the soil/plant system.