Transitioning to Sustainable Methods in Sugarcane Farming

1994 Annual Report for AS94-017

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1994: $0.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1996
ACE Funds: $15,000.00
Region: Southern
State: Louisiana
Principal Investigator:
Jackie Judice
Northside Planting Co.

Transitioning to Sustainable Methods in Sugarcane Farming


Sugarcane farming in Louisiana presently uses methods of intense aerial application of pesticides during the growing season and burning of leaves surrounding the stalk at harvest time.

This project provided for designing and building equipment that would accomplish the following:
1.) Eliminate or reduce aerial application of pesticides in sugarcane production.

2.) Reduce the volume of pesticide application and combat pests (sugarcane borer) more effectively.

3.) Reduce drift and overspray which has contributed to human health problems, fish kills and wildlife damage.

4.) Decrease capital input of sugarcane farming and make the operation more sustainable while farmers look for alternatives to diversify their operations.

5.) Improve air quality especially during harvest time when burning sugarcane is prevalent in a 22-parish area.

6.) Provide a mulch for stubble cane fields where sugarcane has been cut and stalks have been removed, thus preventing runoff and providing winter protection to new shoots.

7.) Provide improved pesticide safety for applicators.

The completed design consists of a six-wheel, skid steering, 53HP power unit. It has a sealed air-conditioned cab with a special filtering system, which protects the operator from chemical drift at all times. A radar sensored computer allows pinpoint accuracy in applying pesticides so that only what is needed is applied.

The sprayer is mounted on a Hy Cycle trailer pulled by the power unit. Double tandem flotation tires distribute the weight to the side of the rows where the soil drains and dries quickly rather than in the bottom of the furrow where the soil stays soggy. The spray loom can be operated in a range from three to eleven feet off the ground. It sprays eight six-foot cane rows in one pass.

A third component in the works will use suction fans to remove dry leaves from sugarcane stalks and turn them into mulch, eliminating the need to burn off the leaves (farmers are penalized if leaves are not removed from stalks before the cane arrives at the mill for processing). The mulch will reduce soil runoff, protect the new shoots and prevent weed growth.

The power unit and sprayer were demonstrated at two parish field days, where they generated much interest among other sugarcane farmers. The demonstrations also generated feature stories in the Daily Iberian and the Southern SAWG newsletter Southern Sustainable Farming.

December 1995.