This series of posts will highlight the plants that help you celebrate the Yuletide season.
While New Year’s Day may have brought some resolutions for a healthier lifestyle, the holiday season would not be the same without sugar. Two plants are responsible for sugar production in the United States- sugarcane and sugar beets. Each of these plants produces about half of the sugar in the U.S. In celebration of tonight’s Sugar Bowl game*, today’s post will focus on sugarcane.
Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) is a member of the grass family that grows as stout fibrous stalks 6 – 19 feet tall. Within these stalks are the highest yields of calories per unit area of any plant. It loves a warm climate with plenty of rainfall. Louisiana, anyone? Louisiana has been in the sugarcane business for more than 200 years. Growing sugarcane and refining it into the sugar your use for baking or sweetening your coffee is worth more than $2 billion to Louisiana.
Check out this video on sugarcane farming in Louisiana.**
Just down the road from the LSU campus in St. Gabriel, LA, researchers at the Sugar Research Station are working to develop new sugarcane varieties and pest management strategies for sugarcane farmers. There is also a USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma dedicated to improving sugarcane production in Louisiana. Genetic improvement focuses on increasing cold tolerance for Louisiana’s temperate climate, disease and insect resistance, and increased yields. It is the epitome of delayed gratification as new varieties take 12 years to develop. Nevertheless, the station hosts an annual field today to keep Louisiana farmers up to date on the latest technology related to sugarcane farming.
Check out this video describing what research was presented at the 2013 Field Day.***
Addendum: Almost forgot I had this picture. Among the many jobs held by my grandfather during his life (95 years and counting), he drove a cane truck. Awww, how sweet!
*Alabama vs. Oklahoma. Sigh. It is usually customary to cheer for SEC teams, especially those that play in the Sugar Bowl. Alas, as an LSU Tiger fan, I cannot in good conscience bring myself to say “Roll Tide.” That was me just throwing up in my mouth a little. Because of He Who Shall Not Be Named, LSU faithful are required to hate the Crimson Tide with the fire of a thousand suns. Then again it pains me to cheer for another conference over the SEC. Let’s just settle on Geaux SEC!
**Note regarding health statements at the end of the video: As with anything, eat with moderation. Over consumption of any refined plant product isn’t really that good for you.
***For those of you loyal readers that have been paying attention, sugarcane researchers in Louisiana run up against some photoperiodism problems getting sugarcane to flower (yes, it will flower) for breeding purposes. When our days are long enough to trigger flowering, it’s December- too cold for sugarcane!
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