The LSU AgCenter and the American Sugar Cane League sponsored an informational seminar on sugar factory operations at the AgCenter Sugarcane Research Station in St. Gabriel on April 20.
In addition to an overview of the 2015 sugarcane crop, a variety of other topics were discussed, said Audubon Sugar Institute department head Ben Legendre. Presentations included an evaluation of sugarcane ripeners, sugar crystal size analysis, the 2015 molasses survey, syrup storage and other topics related to sugarcane factory operations.
A number of graduate students also presented findings from their research projects, which are funded by the American Sugar Cane League, he said.
Sugarcane is a billion dollar business in Louisiana. "And when you look at the multiplier, you have a $2.5 billion industry,” Legendre said.
Sugarcane is the No. 2 row crop in the state, second only to soybeans, he said.
Since 2001, the institute has been analyzing molasses provided weekly by each of Louisiana’s raw sugar factories. These results are used to calculate the purity for the molasses.
Research at Audubon helps the factories maintain purity and crystal size, improve the color of sugar and provide a process to keep the factories efficient.
AgCenter pest management specialist Al Orgeron gave an update on the use of sugarcane ripeners.
He discussed the use of glyphosate on early-season varieties and the use of ATRuin, Roundup PowerMax II and Modus.
"This study is important because cane is immature when we begin to harvest in Sept. and Oct.,” Orgeron said. "So there are compounds out there that will help to increase sucrose levels in the cane.”
He said by Thanksgiving, Mother Nature kicks in and the cane naturally matures. At that point, ripeners have less of an impact.
Of the products being looked at as alternatives to glyphosate, none have shown any real promise, Orgeron said.
AgCenter sugarcane specialist Ken Gravois updated the participants on how the 2015 crop shaped up.
"Last year’s crop started off very wet with an early spring,” Gravois said. "Then we hit a dry, droughty spell in the summer.”
The harvest started out dry, but after Hurricane Patricia, it continued to be wet. "Yet with all of the adversity, we averaged 7200 pounds of sugar per acre, which is a good crop,” Gravois said.
AgCenter Vice Chancellor John Russin gave an update on the biofuels industry and the number of products that can be made from sugar.
"There are a number of companies working with us to develop products, such as plastic bottles, jet fuel, diapers, sealants for drilling mud and bioplastics,” Russin said. "These bioplastics can even be fashioned into fishing lures.”
There is also the possibility of using sugarcane byproducts in the biomedical industry. "The products can be used to produce scaffolds for growing human tissues,” Russin said. "We can actually grow bone tissue and skin tissue on these scaffolds.”
For additional information about the Audubon Sugar Institute, contact Legendre at 225-642-0135 ext. 202.
Ben Legendre can be reached at 225-642-0135 ext. 202 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Gravois can be reached at 225-642-0224 or email@example.com
Al Orgeron can be reached at 225-562-2320 ext. 322 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Top: Louisiana Sugar Co-Operative Sugar (LASUCA) mill in St. Martin Parish, La., cranks up at the start of the 2015 sugarcane harvest. (Photo by Sam Irwin, American Sugar Cane League).
Bottom: Ben Legendre, Audubon Sugar Institute Department Head, left, and LSU AgCenter Vice Chancellor John Russin discuss products that are being developed from sugarcane at a sugarcane factory operator’s seminar held at the LSU AgCenter Sugar Research Station on April 20. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)