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 Home>Crops & Livestock>Crops>Sugarcane>

Sugarcane Pathogen or Pest Response Plan

[Image: Brown Rust in Sugarcane]

Sugarcane is produced on approximately 420,000 acres in 23 south-central Louisiana parishes. The crop is processed by 11 sugar mills. The sugar industry employs approximately 32,000 people. Each year, the Louisiana sugar industry produces about 1.4 million tons of raw sugar. The total economic impact to the state is estimated to exceed $1.7 billion, making the sugarcane industry a major component of the Louisiana economy.

Insect pests and diseases represent serious constraints to the production and profitability of the Louisiana sugarcane industry. Chemical control has been effective for some insect pests. However, the development and release of resistant sugarcane varieties traditionally has been the most effective means for controlling most pest and disease problems. Sugarcane breeding and the selection of new varieties is a process that takes a minimum of 12 years. The cooperative Louisiana varietal development program employs both basic breeding and recurrent selection. An encounter between an introduced pest or pathogen to which the Louisiana sugarcane genetic base has not been previously exposed could result in highly susceptible reactions in some varieties and severe impacts on yield. In the worst case scenario, losses could occur of such magnitude that rapid replacement of one or more varieties would be needed.

Sugarcane is a vegetatively propagated crop with a multiple-year crop cycle. This makes it very difficult to replace rapidly a widely planted variety. Early plow-out of a sugarcane crop will result in severe economic loss (see Appendix 3). Another major constraint on variety replacement is the availability of healthy seedcane of replacement varieties. Strategies for rapid replacement of varieties are, therefore, an important component of emergency response planning for sugarcane.

The most effective response to some introduced pests or pathogens might be the application of pesticides. A regulatory pathway and procedures for the emergency labeling and use of pesticides exist and are available through the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Therefore, description of this process will not be a part of this response plan.

Incursions by exotic (foreign) pests and pathogens into sugarcane in Louisiana have occurred multiple times during the past, and future additional incursions are highly likely. The purpose of this plan is to prepare to the extent possible for the incursion of a pest or pathogen capable of causing rapid, severe yield losses in sugarcane varieties occupying major acreage in Louisiana. The plan will outline pre- and post-confirmation actions to educate stakeholders, coordinate the response following the incursion and mitigate the impact on the industry. The plan presented here is generic in nature. It will be distributed to appropriate parties and should be consulted in the event of a pest or pathogen incursion threat or event. However, each potential biological threat will have unique characteristics that will require the additional delivery of specialized information and tailoring of mitigation actions. Advanced planning and preparation to minimize the risks posed by exotic pests and diseases and to enable an effective response to any threat will help ensure the future sustainability and viability of the Louisiana sugarcane industry.

The United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine (USDA APHIS PPQ) National Crop Biosecurity framework consists of four elements -- prevention, preparedness, response and recovery -- that ensure science-based early detection, rapid response and practical recovery systems are available to provide maximum protection of U.S. agricultural and natural resources, thus ensuring minimum impact to consumers, producers and the environment from exotic pathogen or pest incursions.

Federal regulatory authority is pursuant to Section 412(a) of the Plant Protection Act of June 20, 2000, as amended, 7 U.S.C. 7712(a), which authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to prohibit or restrict the movement in interstate commerce of any plant, plant part, article or means of conveyance if the secretary determines that the prohibition or restriction is necessary to prevent the introduction into the United States of a plant pest, plant pathogen or noxious weed or the dissemination of a plant pest, plant pathogen or noxious weed within the United States.

If the introduced pest or pathogen is foreign to the United States, PPQ will institute an Incident Command System (ICS) (see explanation below) to respond to the incursion of an exotic (foreign) pest or pathogen. This standardized incident management concept follows a "top-down" organizational structure that is not hindered by jurisdictional boundaries. ICS will be managed by a Unified Command.

Incident Command System (ICS)

An incident is an occurrence, either human caused or by natural phenomena, that requires action by emergency service personnel to prevent or minimize loss of life or damage to property and/or natural resources.

Examples include:

  • Fire, both structural and wildlife
  • Hazardous material situations
  • Search and Rescue
  • Oil Spills
  • Control of animal diseases

Because of today’s budget constraints, including limited staffing of local, state and federal agencies, it is not possible for any one agency to handle all management and resource needs for the increasing numbers of incidents nationwide. Local, state and federal agencies must work together in a smooth, coordinated effort under the same management system.

The Incident Command System, or ICS, is a standardized, on-scene, all-risk incident management concept. ICS allows its users to adopt an integrated organizational structure to match the complexities and demands of single or multiple incidents without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries. ICS has considerable internal flexibility. It can grow or shrink to meet different needs. This flexibility makes it a very cost effective and efficient management approach for both small and large situations.

Items and activities for which USDA-APHIS-PPQ may provide funding (in event of pathogen or pest introduction new to the United States) include:

  • Technical working group and subject-matter expert activities
  • Resource purchasing for incident activities
  • Vehicle use and maintenance
  • Communications and outreach activities, including news and media events to alert stakeholders and public of pest/pathogen threats
  • Program command post start-up and overhead
  • Identification and diagnostic equipment and personnel
  • Rapid survey and detection tools, personnel and equipment
  • Information technology equipment and support
  • Development of response action plans
  • Safety equipment and personnel protective devices
  • Eradication and containment costs
  • Environmental compliance: drafting environmental impact statements, environmental assessments and conducting environmental monitoring as necessary

The authority of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) is based on the Crop Pests and Diseases Law and Quarantine Regulations. The Crop Pests and Diseases Law provides LDAF with “full and plenary power to deal with all crop and fruit pests and such contagious and infectious crop and fruit diseases as in the opinion of the Entomologist, may be prevented, controlled, or eradicated.” Quarantine regulations provide LDAF with “authority to conduct inspections; halt or destroy shipments; impose movement restrictions; impose quarantines and restrict or dispose of regulated materials; issue certificates and permits.” Following confirmation of a pathogen or pest incursion new to the state but not the US, LDAF will institute an ICS to respond to the incursion (see description above). ICS will be managed by an Incident Commander. ICS will provide control of personnel, facilities, equipment, and communications during the response to an introduction. The ICS command structure will involve various government entities, and if necessary, a Unified Command among two or more entities may be established.

Response tools include:

  • Trap and visual surveys
  • Paperwork/marketplace checks
  • Sampling and analysis
  • Mitigation, education, and action

[Image: Mexican Rice Borer Adult]

Educational Effort

Advanced preparedness is an important component of any incursion action plan. Educating all parties that will be involved in a response by preparing and providing information prior to an incursion will allow a rapid response time if the event occurs and will allow coordinated, effective action that will minimize the detrimental impact of the new pest or disease.

Specialized education and training needs to be provided to the people who are most likely to first encounter and identify a new pest or disease. This would include LCES County Agents, LDAF Agricultural and Environmental Specialists, American Sugarcane League Agronomists, agricultural consultants, and research personnel. Training should address how to identify the pest or disease, notification procedures, and methods for collection and delivery of a sample (if required). Training will be provided as needed by appropriate entomology or pathology experts with the LSUAC and USDA-ARS.

Exotic Pest and Disease Threat Analyses

Analyses of potential threats posed by exotic pests and diseases will be prepared by entomologists and pathologists and made available to industry support agency personnel and stakeholders. In the on-line version of this planning document, individual pest and disease risk and impact analyses will be made available in an appendix (Appendix 4). Educational material may include:

  • Pest or disease identification and background information
  • Probability of entry into Louisiana
  • Potential yield loss and economic impact
  • Management action recommendations
  • List of approved pesticides and application rates/timing of applications


Organized pre-incursion surveys for potential pest and disease threats could allow early detection of an incursion regarded as imminent. The arrangement and conduct of such surveys may be undertaken by one or more industry support agencies, including USDA-APHIS-PPQ, LDAF, USDA-ARS, and LSUAC, depending on the situation and could involve personnel from multiple agencies. Monitoring devices, such as insect pheromone traps and trap crop plantings, may be employed. Informal monitoring can be performed by industry support agency personnel during the routine performance of regular duties. Variety Selection Program personnel can monitor experimental varieties and surrounding commercial fields during visits to outfield yield trials. ASCL agronomists can monitor Variety Seed Increase Program plots of experimental varieties and surrounding commercial fields at Primary and Secondary Increase Stations. LDAF Agricultural and Environmental Specialists can monitor commercial seedcane increase plots.

Any personnel from the agencies mentioned above participating in a survey must be trained in appropriate identification, sample collection and delivery, and notification procedures. Training will be provided as needed by entomology or pathology experts with the LSUAC and USDA-ARS.

Evaluation of varietal susceptibility at foreign locations

Sugarcane germplasm is routinely exchanged among breeding programs located in different regions. Commercial and experimental varieties developed by the Louisiana cooperative breeding program are evaluated as potential parents for these programs in different parts of the world. As part of this process, the reactions of the imported Louisiana clones are determined for the pests and diseases important at those locations, some of which are threats for introduction here. The distribution of Louisiana clones, pest or disease resistance evaluations performed, and evaluation results or ratings need to be monitored and reported. Sugarcane breeders obtaining pest and disease reaction data on Louisiana clones will make the results available. The USDA-ARS Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) can serve as a repository for this type of information.

For pests or diseases of particular concern or those recently found in neighboring areas with an increased chance of introduction, it may be desirable to arrange for the shipment and testing of Louisiana varieties and breeding parents at a location where the pest or disease already occurs. Advanced knowledge about the resistance ratings of commercial varieties and breeding parents can be very helpful in assessing the degree of threat posed by a potential incursion and devising the most appropriate introduction response strategy.

Initial Identification and Confirmation of Incursion

Once a suspected positive identification of a new pest or disease occurs in the field, a specific set of steps should be followed to confirm the identification and initiate an industry alert. Depending on whether the incursion involves an insect pest or a disease, a respective sugarcane entomologist or pathologist with either the USDA-ARS or LSUAC should be notified as soon as possible. A preliminary confirmation assessment might be performed based on photographic information or possibly a collected sample. The movement of a sample within the state for analysis may require certain safeguards and, in cases where the problem is caused by an aerially dispersed pest or pathogen, transporting a sample may not be advisable. If it is deemed appropriate to transport a sample for evaluation, care must be taken to collect the sample in a sealed container to prevent any dispersal of the agent during removal from the field and transport to the lab. Ultimately, the entomologist or pathologist needs to evaluate the problem at the initial site of observation. The entomologist or pathologist will then collect an appropriate sample for further identification and confirmation. A sample may be taken to an appropriate lab within the state for further observation and testing with a pathogen specific assay. A sample will be sent to a USDA expert lab for analysis and final confirmation of identification for exotic pests and pathogens.

The steps for identification and confirmation can be summarized as:

  • Tentative identification in field based on symptoms and signs
  • Notification of state expert, entomologist or pathologist
  • Site visit by state expert and probable identification
  • Sample collection
  • Sample delivery to state lab for analysis and shipment to USDA expert lab
  • Final identification confirmation by USDA expert lab

Appropriate Procedures for Notification and Announcement of Introduction

An ICS will be established. It will have authority over personnel contacts and information dissemination. Once a new incursion of a pest or disease is confirmed, pre-determined notification procedures will be performed. A response Personnel Contact List is provided in Appendix 1. Agencies and persons on this list will be contacted and informed of the introduction first. Next, agencies and persons on the Stakeholder Contact List (Appendix 2) will be informed, and a coordinated, cooperative statement will be provided to appropriate print and electronic media outlets. Announcement of the incursion will additionally be made through communications channels for LCES and stakeholders, such as the American Sugar Cane League and the Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association. The initial announcement alerting the industry to the introduction should include advice on where additional information can be obtained, such as support agency contacts and websites.

Media announcements will be coordinated by the ICS between public information officers for government and industry groups for all pests/pathogens new to the US or of limited distribution.


Note: Pre-confirmation communication needs to be somewhat limited in scope, so the news does not impact markets before final pest/pathogen identification is determined. Those provided pre-confirmation notification will be asked not to pass information on until approval is given by USDA-PPQ and/or LDAF, especially if regulatory quarantine actions are anticipated.

The purpose of a pre-confirmation communication plan is to 1) ensure that all stakeholders are prepared for an incursion of a new pest or disease threat; 2) identify and commit resources to carry-out an effective post-confirmation communication program; and 3) assemble relevant information on identification and management that, when transferred, will enable growers to minimize the impact of the introduced pest or disease.

Action items in this category may include:

  • Maintain list of agencies and persons who should be informed when an incursion is suspected and then confirmed (see Appendices 1 & 2 – to be updated periodically)
  • Develop and distribute educational information through all communications channels
  • Develop talking points for the Commissioner of Agriculture, LSU AgCenter administration, American Sugar Cane League, and Louisiana Farm Bureau
  • Create press releases – to be distributed once introduction is confirmed in state
  • Develop website links and information articles
  • Produce a list of frequently asked questions and answers

The ICS structure has both a Public Information component and a Liaison component (that helps coordinate among agencies and industry groups). Several of these action items will be joint efforts among agencies and the ASCL (e.g., talking points, press releases, FAQs). Exact responsibilities for development and distribution will vary depending on the incident type.


Once the incursion of a new pest or disease is confirmed, news of the introduction will be announced and relevant information distributed rapidly with ICS guidance through media and organizational outlets, including print and electronic media, USDA-ARS, LDAF, LCES, ASCL, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, and the Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association.

The purpose of the post-confirmation communication plan will then shift to minimizing the impact of the pest or disease following its confirmed introduction. This will be accomplished by 1) the continued distribution of electronic and print material containing information needed to manage the problem and 2) effective utilization of radio, TV and print media and stakeholder meetings to educate growers and the general public on action recommendations.

Delimiting Survey

Risk analysis and the estimation of potential impact of a newly introduced pest or disease needs to be based on accurate situation information. This must be obtained through delimiting surveys. The information to be collected will include:

  • Geographic distribution of the problem
  • Varieties affected
  • Incidence by region, variety, crop age, and field
  • Severity of symptoms by variety, crop age, and field

Surveys will be organized and conducted in collaboration with personnel of LSUAC-LAES, LSUAC-LCES, USDA-ARS, ASCL, and LDAF. USDA-APHIS-PPQ personnel will be involved if the introduced pest/pathogen is new to the US or occurs with limited distribution and is under USDA quarantine regulations. Survey design and information to be collected will be determined by entomologists or pathologists with LSUAC and USDA-ARS in consultation with the regulatory agencies and the ASCL.

Eradication Option Assessment

Once an incursion of a new pest or pathogen has been confirmed, the first question that must be addressed is whether or not eradication might be possible. A quick decision is needed on the eradication option because it will determine the level of regulatory response required. Survey results will be assembled, analyzed and reported by entomologists or pathologists with LSUAC and USDA-ARS. Conclusions drawn from the survey results and information on potential economic impact will be considered by regulatory agency personnel in deliberations leading to a decision to attempt eradication of the problem. If eradication is not an option, then appropriate management actions will be developed and communicated to the industry.

The APHIS New Pest Advisory Group (NPAG) may be involved in this discussion as will the Technical Advisory Group (scientific panel) that is formed to review the situation. NPAG responsibilities include:

  • Evaluation of the significance of a plant pest/pathogen believed to be new to the US
  • Determination of the response required to protect plant resources
  • Communication of PPQ’s position and intention about the new plant pest
  • Recommendations of PPQ’s response to the new plant pest

LSUSC and LDAF personnel will be members of these panels along with industry representatives. If the pest is new to the US, the ultimate authority to determine eradication, if USDA funds and resources are utilized, is the PPQ Deputy Administrator, but this issue may rise to the Secretary of Agriculture level. Eradication might be solely a state decision if the pest or pathogen is not considered of federal concern.

If eradication appears to be a feasible option based on initial survey results, more extensive surveying will need to be done quickly to allow a better-informed decision to be made. Very limited distribution of the problem and limited spread potential need to be confirmed before severe actions, such as local quarantines of crops and equipment, movement restrictions, or crop destruction, are undertaken. Severe types of regulatory action will be declared and instigated by the appropriate federal or state regulatory agency based on information gathered by the regulatory agencies and provided by the supporting research and extension agencies. The on-going accumulation of information concerning the distribution, local incidence, and severity of the new pest or disease is essential. If the status of the incursion changes and it is determined that the problem is not being contained within the limited industry areas where it was first detected, eradication attempts will be re-examined. If USDA-PPQ is involved in eradication of a pest/pathogen then an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) document will be generated. Review of the EA or EIS by the USDA Office of General Counsel is undertaken at this time.

Yield Loss Studies

Knowledge about the impact of an introduced pest or disease on yield of different varieties is crucial to determining the most appropriate management actions. However, during the early stages following an incursion there will be a high degree of concern within an industry, and containment or prevention of additional spread of the problem is usually a high priority. Regulatory oversight of the industry may initially preclude yield loss studies. As soon as regulatory oversight is lifted and studies can be conducted without placing growers at risk, yield loss experiments should be performed. If appropriate isolated locations can be identified, yield loss studies might be initiated immediately. Initial assessment of yield impact will be based on comparisons of growth and yield for plants affected by the problem at the individual plant and field levels with those in unaffected areas or with historical averages. Yield loss study results obtained in other states or countries will be of interest.

Evaluation of Disaster Relief or Insurance Options

The potential for obtaining disaster relief or the mitigation of loss through crop insurance needs to be evaluated following an incursion. An assessment of the potential impact of the problem must be determined first. Economic impact information will be assembled by LSUAC and USDA-ARS personnel in consultation with the industry.

Input on this issue on the federal side will come from two USDA agencies:

USDA Farm Service Agency – Willie Cooper, (318) 473-7721

USDA Risk Management Agency – Rock Davis, (601) 965-4771

Natural Resources Conservation Service might also provide some input.

USDA NRCS – Kevin Norton, (318) 473-7751

Variety Replacement Strategies

As described in the introduction, rapid variety replacement in sugarcane is difficult to achieve and is very expensive (Appendix 3). However, the widespread occurrence of a new pest or pathogen with the potential to cause severe yield loss in certain varieties would necessitate rapid replacement of the highly susceptible varieties.

Susceptibility among the varieties under cultivation will need to be determined. If no preliminary results are available on the susceptibility levels in the current commercial varieties from other locations, survey results will have to provide the initial basis for evaluation. Incidence and severity data need to be collected. The potential impact on yield is an important consideration when deciding whether or how quickly a variety needs to be replaced.

If it is determined that one or more varieties need to be rapidly replaced, the most suitable replacement varieties need to be identified and recommended. Varieties already under cultivation that do not exhibit high susceptibility will be the most immediate candidates for expansion to replace the susceptible varieties. Experimental clones in the advanced stages of the variety selection program will not have enough seedcane available to have an immediate impact on variety replacement.

Rapid variety replacement entails rapid variety expansion. Seedcane availability is one of the factors that make rapid variety expansion difficult. The physical logistics of variety seedcane increase through vegetative propagation are only part of the problem. Systemic diseases can be spread and increased during variety expansion. Therefore, healthy seedcane programs are an important component of sugarcane productivity. Consideration of seedcane source will be important in rapid variety expansion, unless the emergency is dire.

There are several options for rapid variety expansion: commercial seedcane purchase, the Variety Seed Increase Program operated by the American Sugar Cane League, and on-farm increase. Currently, most growers rely on certified seedcane produced through micropropagation by commercial seedcane companies for their healthy seedcane program. Certification is regulated by LDAF. Under incursion circumstances, certification standards for stand eligibility might be relaxed to make more seedcane of replacement varieties available. Second ratoon stands that normally would not be certifiable may be approved for sale to quickly make some extra seedcane of replacement varieties available. The tissue culture process has the potential to produce rapidly plantlets, but field increase will be necessary before delivery to growers. On-farm seedcane increase then follows, so this option will not provide for immediate variety replacement. An additional consideration with this option is cost. The seedcane companies are commercial ventures. In the event of an emergency requiring rapid variety replacement, sugarcane growers will be hard pressed to pay for additional seedcane purchases. It is uncertain whether any state or industry funds might be made available for this type of emergency expense. Possible emergency funding options will have to be explored.

The American Sugar Cane League operates the Variety Seed Increase Program for introducing new varieties into the industry. The program has three Primary Increase Stations and over forty Secondary Increase Stations on commercial farms. Plantings of recently released varieties might still exist on the Secondary Stations that could be distributed to the growers. It might be possible to increase rapidly plantings of experimental varieties deemed ready for immediate release, but this would require multiple years.

The most rapid variety expansion method in case of an emergency would be on-farm increase. Growers could relax their healthy seedcane standards and use older ratoon crops of replacement varieties for seedcane. Growers with larger acreages of varieties identified for use in replacement might sell seedcane to other growers. Any use of extra seedcane represents a loss of income in terms of cane not being delivered to the mill for sugar extraction. It is uncertain whether any government or industry disaster relief funds would be available to help reduce the extra costs associated with variety replacement.

Development of Action Recommendations

Once an assessment of the situation has been performed, development of recommendations for management practices that will minimize the impact of an introduced pest or disease will be undertaken. This will be the responsibility of entomologists or pathologists and breeders in research and extension in conjunction with industry representatives. The most immediate need will be to identify and recommend replacement varieties and replacement strategies. Additional management practices may be rapidly developed to minimize losses. Research will commence following the incursion of a new pest or disease. Management recommendations will be modified as necessary based on research findings.

Implementation of Recommendations

Communication of recommendations to industry shareholders will follow development. As described above, multiple communication channels will be utilized for efficient delivery of information. Education will be the key for implementation of recommendations. A coordinated, cooperative effort will be needed to minimize the negative impact of a new pest or disease.

Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF)

Tad Hardy
Admin. Coordinator and State Entomologist
Quarantine Programs
Horticulture and Quarantine Division
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry
P.O. Box 3596
Baton Rouge, LA 70821-3596
(225) 952-8100 telephone
(225) 237-5564 fax

Craig Roussel
Director of Horticulture Commission
Horticulture and Quarantine Division
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry
P.O. Box 3596
Baton Rouge, LA 70821-3596
(225) 952-8100 telephone
(225) 237-5564 fax

United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine (USDA-APHIS-PPQ)

Bill Spitzer
USDA State Plant Health Director
4354 South Sherwood Forest Blvd. Rm. 150
Baton Rouge, LA 70816
(225) 298-5410 telephone
(225) 229-2300 cell phone

Louisiana State University AgCenter

Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station (LAES)

Kenneth A. Gravois, Sugarcane Breeder
Sugar Research Station
5755 LSU Ag Road
St. Gabriel, LA 70776
(225) 642-8150 telephone
(225) 642-5339 fax
(225) 281-9472 cell phone

Jeffrey W. Hoy, Sugarcane Pathologist
Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
(225) 578-1392 telephone
(225) 578-1415 fax
(225) 485-4227 cell phone

T. Eugene Reagan, Sugarcane Entomologist
Department of Entomology
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
(225) 578-1824 telephone
(225) 578-1643 fax
(225) 205-6344 cell phone 

Michael E. Salassi, Agricultural Economist
Department of Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness
101 Agricultural Admn. Bldg.
Louisiana State University Agricultural Center
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
(225) 578-2713 telephone
(225) 578-2716 fax

Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service (LCES)

Kenneth A. Gravois, Sugarcane Specialist
Sugar Research Station
5755 LSU Ag Road
St. Gabriel, LA 70776
(225) 642-8150 telephone
(225) 642-5339 fax
(225) 281-9472 cell phone

Raghuwinder Singh
Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic
302 Life Science Bldg.
Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
(225) 578-4562 telephone
(225) 578-1415 fax

United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Sugarcane Research Unit (USDA-ARS-SRU)

Michael P. Grisham, Sugarcane Pathologist
USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Unit
5883 USDA Road
Houma, LA 70360
(985) 872-5042 telephone
(985) 868-8369 fax
(985) 688-1034 cell phone

Ed Richard, Jr., Weed Scientist and Research Leader
USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Unit
5883 USDA Road
Houma, LA 70360
(985) 872-5042 telephone
(985) 868-8369 fax
(985) 804-7206 cell phone

William White, Sugarcane Entomologist
5883 USDA Road
Houma, LA 70360
(985) 872-5042 telephone
(985) 868-8369 fax
(985) 791-8113 cell phone

The American Sugar Cane League of the U.S.A.

Windell R. Jackson, Senior Agronomist
206 East Bayou Road
Thibodaux, LA 70301
(985) 448-3707 telephone
(985) 448-3722 fax
(337) 319-5420 cell phone

James H. Simon, General Manager
206 East Bayou Road
Thibodaux, LA 70301
(985) 448-3707 telephone
(985) 448-3722 fax
(337) 523-2804 cell phone

Steve Carmichael
State Resource Conservationist
USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service
3737 Government St.
Alexandria, LA 71302
(318) 473-7774 telephone

Willie F. Cooper - Director
USDA, Farm Service Agency
3737 Government St.
Alexandria, LA 71302
(318) 473-7721 telephone 

Rock Davis - Director
USDA Risk Management Agency
Jackson Regional Office
(601) 965-4771 telephone

Nathan Crisp - Director
USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
Louisiana Field Office
5825 Florida Blvd
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
(225) 22-1362 telephone

Denise Wright, Executive Director
P.O. Box 104
Morrow, LA 71356
(318) 346-6728 telephone
(337) 945-3694
Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association

[Image: Recently Plowed Out Sugarcane]

Michael E. Salassi
Dept. of Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness
LSU Agricultural Center

Sugarcane is a vegetatively propagated crop with multiple stages of seedcane expansion in addition to harvest of production cane for sugar (plant cane and stubble crops) extending over several years between plantings. In order to achieve stability in planted and harvested acreage, planting, cultivation and harvest expenses and farm income from year to year, sugarcane farms seek to maintain a “normal” crop rotation pattern. This implies that for a farm harvesting sugarcane through third stubble, for example, equal portions of farm acreage are devoted to (a.) fallow/plant, (b.) plant cane, (c.) first stubble, (d.) second stubble and (e.) third stubble.

Typical seedcane expansion in Louisiana occurs over a three-year period. In year 1, cultured disease-free seedcane is purchased from a supplier and planted on the farm. The following year, that seedcane is harvested and expanded (replanted) on a planting ratio of approximately 5:1 for mechanically planted sugarcane. Planting ratio relates acres of seedcane planted per acre of seedcane harvested. In the third year, the first seedcane expansion is harvested and expanded (replanted) for a second time, again on a planting ratio of approximately 5:1. This second seedcane expansion then becomes plant cane which will be harvested and sent to the mill for processing in the following year. In addition, the first stubble crop of the initial cultured seedcane planting is typically also harvested and expanded as seedcane.

Utilizing plant cane and first stubble from initial cultured seedcane plantings as seedcane, each expanded over two acreage expansions, and harvesting production cane for processing into raw sugar and molasses through a third stubble crop, the percent of total farm acreage devoted to each production phase in a normal acreage rotation would be as follows:

Sugarcane crop phase

Percent of total farm acreage

(a.) Cultured seedcane planted

(b.) First seedcane expansion planted

(c.) Second seedcane expansion planted

(d.) Plant cane harvested for seed

(e.) Plant cane harvested for sugar

(f.) First stubble harvested for seed

(g.) First stubble harvested for sugar

(h.) Second stubble harvested for sugar

(i.) Third stubble harvested for sugar










Early plow-out of sugarcane acreage due to insect pest or disease infestation, prior to the end of its normal crop cycle, can result in severe economic loss to the farming operation. For example, assume that a certain percentage of stubble cane (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) is plowed out prior to harvest. If the plowed out acreage is maintained as fallow until its normal planting cycle, the sugarcane acreage rotation on the farm would be back to normal by the fourth year after plow-out. However, the economic losses incurred during the few years following plow-out can have impacts on the financial viability of the farming operation for several years into the future as depicted in Figure 1. In other words, the economic impact of early plow-out on the farm’s financial structure can last much longer that the impact on farm sugarcane acreage and rotation.

The costs to the farming operation of accelerated variety replacement after premature plow-out can also be substantial. Costs for fallow field seedbed preparation, purchase of cultured seedcane, seedcane planting and harvesting, as well as field operations on seedcane fields would be incurred on an increased amount of acreage to in an effort to bring the farm’s sugarcane acreage rotation back to normal as soon as possible.

Sugarcane Acreage Replanting Operations

Variable Cost per Acre

(a.) Fallow seedbed preparation

(b.) Purchase cultured seedcane

(c.) Hand planting sugarcane

(d.) Harvest wholestalk seedcane

(e.) Mechanical planting sugarcane

(f.) Seedcane field operations







Source: 2009 Projected Commodity Costs and Returns: Sugarcane Production in Louisiana, LSU Agricultural Center, January 2009.

A major economic challenge facing farms with premature plow-out of sugarcane is the tradeoff between rate of acreage replanted and maintaining a normal rotation. There are costs involved in maintaining fallow fields over a period longer than normal. These costs could be mitigated, in some cases, by planting another crop, such as soybeans or wheat, until the field is replanted in sugarcane. The viability of this option can vary greatly from parish to parish and farm to farm.

Cost of Stubble Cane Plowout.pdf


Mexican Rice Borer


Sugarcane streak mosaic virus
Sugarcane Fiji disease virus
Sugarcane streak virus
Phytoplasmas (including Grassy shoot, White leaf)
Sugarcane striate mosaic virus
Ramu stunt
Downy mildew

Last Updated: 4/7/2014 10:17:11 AM

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