New variety of sugarcane developed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 2, 2010

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – The LSU AgCenter recently announced the release of a new variety of sugarcane.

The new breed is called L 03-371 and was developed at the AgCenter’s research station near St. Gabriel.

“New varieties, they’re the lifeblood of the industry,” said Kenneth Gravois, a professor and sugarcane researcher with the LSU AgCenter.

New varieties of sugarcane are developed through a combination of field selection and crossbreeding. This is generally done to create stronger, more disease-resistant varieties of the crop.

L 031-371 was first crossbred at the research station in 1998. According to Kenneth Gravois’ brother, Greg Gravois, a sugarcane farmer based in Vacherie, it takes about 12 years create a new type of sugarcane.

Greg Gravois’ farm, Blackberry Farms, is a test farm for the AgCenter. As such, it has been working with the new strain for some time now.

“371 sure looks like it will be a good one,” said the third-generation farmer, who added he was impressed by the breed’s “stubbling ability.” Sugarcane crops can be harvested for three to four years, and the crops produced after the first year are called “stubble” crops.

According to the AgCenter, tests so far have shown the variety to have a high sugar yield as well as resistance to many current cane killers. Additionally, the breed’s large stalks make it well suited to combine harvesting.

“L 03-371 should pay big dividends in the future for Louisiana’a sugarcane growers and raw sugar processors,” said Kenneth Gravois.

His brother was very grateful for the efforts of the AgCenter in devising new breeds of sugarcane.

“We’re always looking to replace the existing varieties with new ones,” he said. “Without (the AgCenter) we wouldn’t be in business.”