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SUSTAINABLE SUGARCANE INITIATIVE (SSI)
- SRI Concepts and Methods Applied to Sugarcane -
 

 

Overview

comparison between SWI and conventionalSugarcane, being a member of the grass (Gramineae) family like rice, wheat and other cereals, has similar growth potentials that respond positively to SRI-like management: Wider spacing, younger seedlings, soil aeration, optimizing water applications, increased soil organic matter. Farmers in Andhra Pradesh and other states of India had already begun extrapolating what they were learning from their SRI experience with rice to their sugarcane crops by 2004. The photo at right shows the difference between SSI and conventionally planted sugarcane. Over the next five years much experience has accumulated, and there has been a proliferation of adaptations. However, it is important to note that there are areas of India where traditional methods of sugarcane cultivation are similar to SSI.

A Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI) was launched in May 2009 by the joint Dialogue Project on Food, Water and Environment established by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) “to improve sugarcane cultivation in India.” The picture at right (same variety) compares sugarcane grown with normal practices and SSI (far right) in Andhra Pradesh state of India. The original manual for the Initiative reports that SSI methods can increase sugarcane yields by at least 20%, with 30% less water and a 25% reduction in chemical inputs. (Training manuals are available in English, Tamil, Oriya, and several other languages). This makes sugarcane production more profitable and environmentally friendly at a time when production costs have been rising and economic returns are declining; and when water availability is becoming a constraint and concern with adverse environmental impacts is growing. The team leader for the ICRISAT-WWF project, Dr. Biksham Gujja, noted in his introduction: “The inspiration for putting the SSI package together is from the successful approach of the System of Rice Intensification." (See item on this WWF-ICRISAT Initiative and their SSI website). Manuals updated in 2012 are available by e-mailing AgSri.

With 45 million farmers in India cultivating the sugarcane crop over 5 million hectares, Dr. Gujja decided there was work enough in India and founded the company AgSri in 2010 in Hyderabad. AgSri promotes SSI as well as selling seedlings grown from chipping off buds from sugarcane plants and growing them into seedlings in coconut pith packed into plastic trays. The farmers no longer need to hold back 10-15% of their crop as seed cane when they use SSI, and according to a 2012 article about Gujja's company, it's far cheaper to source the seedlings from AgSri because farmers can also use their farm land and labor to for other purposes. During 2012, AgSri published a book that describes farmer experiences with SSI. The publication, entitled Farmers from the field - SSI - More with less, documents farmer experiences in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh; farmers concluded that: a) the seed material can be significantly decreased b) wide spacing increases the production c) water savings can be substantial d) short duration intercrops will open whole new opportunities for farmers in increasing the income and improving the soil fertility.

After learning of the successes in India with adapting SRI principles for sugarcane and receiving an SSI manual from Biksham Gujja, Rena Pérez promoted SSI (SiCAS in Spanish) in Bahía Honda on the north coast of Cuba beginning in 2011. Results are pending.

Reports and Articles

Practical Information

Videos and PowerPoints

Progress Reports (India)

SSI-INDIA Network

The ICRISAT-WWF Project is supporting an SSI network in India that parallels the SRI-India network. More information about the network is available on the discussion group site (http://groups.google.co.in/group/SSI-India) and on the WWF ICRISAT sugarcane website. The first issue of the network newsletter, Sugarcane Matters, was published in November 2009 through the discussion group site.

Dr. Biksham Gujja reported a very quick and positive response to the ICRISAT-WWF initiative in India, facilitated by the economic competitiveness of the industry, growing water constraints, rising costs of production, and larger size of sugarcane growing operations. Anyone interested is encouraged to follow the SSI-India website noted above, and to subscribe to the SSI Newsletter, Sugarcane Matters, and participate in the SSI-India discussion group noted above. Dr. Gujja has also AgSRI, a company that supports the spread of SSI and other sustainable crop intensification applications based on the principles of SRI.

Progress Reports (Cuba)

After learning of the successes in India with adapting SRI principles for sugarcane and receiving an SSI manual from Biksham Gujja, Rena Pérez promoted SSI (SiCAS in Spanish) in Bahía Honda on the north coast of Cuba beginning in 2011 (see article). The managers at the "Camilo Cienfuegos" cane coop were enthusiastic about the tillering and growth as well as the reduction in cane needed to plant the fields. The traditional method requires 13 tons/ha of clean cane while the SSI method uses only 2 tons/ha! (see updates: article and Spanish language presentation)

Leaves of 14 month caneMeasuring the sugarcane in Bahia HondaThe SiCAS trials undertaken on 0.9 hectare at the Bahía Honda sugarcane coop, however, were unfortunately burned prematurely in November 2012- about two months prior to when they should have been harvested. Raul Frontera, one of the coop's technicians, decided to count and measure the width of the upper leaves (left) of several cane stalks. He relayed that while normal cane has seven leaves, those in the burned SiCAS field had eleven leaves and were eight centimeters wide. Furthermore, while normal cane grown there had 12 and 13 tillers, the cane in the burned field had between 18 and 20 (right). The technician responsible for the SiCAS plot subsequently estimated that the cane harvested from the destroyed field translated to about 150 - 160 tons/ha. While the SiCAS was originally of interest to prepare replacements for transplanting in conventional fields, these results may persuade the coop to adopt SiCAS on full fields. (See report for details).

On December 15, 2012, Rena Pérez made a presentation in Matanzas, Cuba, to a group of approximately 90 professionals working in the island's sugar industry. The talk, which focused on SRI adaptations to sugarcane (SSI, or SiCAS in Spanish) and generated considerable interest among the audience members, reflected preliminary results of the first trial on the Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI) in the "Camilo Cienfuegos" cane coop in Bahia Honda, Artemisa, Cuba. Pérez also orchestrated the translation into Spanish of AgSRI's Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative publication about SiCAS (SSI) in India. The publication, SiCAS Sistema de Caña de Azúcar Sostenible is available on the AgSRI website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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