Harvesting Sugarcane (A Complete Guide)

Harvesting Sugarcane (A Complete Guide)

How long before sugarcane is ready for harvest

Agronomists and sugar millers have been working on the sugarcane harvest readiness date for a long time. They have been using a Microwave Sugarcane Test (MSCT) to measure the sucrose content of the cane. They do this by measuring how much microwave radiation is absorbed by a sample of the sugarcane and then calculating how much sucrose is in it.

It is hard to say how long it will take before the sugarcane plants are ready for harvest. As a rule of thumb, it is safe to assume 6-12 months for sugarcane to be ready for harvest.

How to tell if sugarcane is ready for harvest

The sugarcane is ready for harvest when:

  • Stalks are brown
  • The outer layer of the stalk becomes very thin near the top of the stalk
  • Sugar cane stalks are not green or has brownish green color on their outer surface

When assessing if sugarcane is ready for harvest, look at two specific physical characteristics. First, take a good look at the stalk. Sugar cane should be brown, not green, or brownish-green in color on its outer surface. Secondly, observe how thin the stalk has become near the top of it.

When sugar cane is ripe, its outer layer gradually becomes too thin to support itself and easily breaks off in your hand when you grab it from above.

Alternatively, another way to tell if sugarcane is ripe for harvest is to take a few stalks and break them open. The cane will be brown and oily when it’s ready, but it can also be yellowish or whitish in color. When the cane has turned brown, it has reached its highest sugar content level and is ready for harvest.

If you want to test whether the sugarcane has ripened, cut a stalk in half, and taste the juice that comes out of it with your tongue or finger. If there’s no bitterness or sour taste, then you’re good to go!

A Sugarcane Machete For Manual Harvest

How to harvest sugarcane

Commercial farmers use sugarcane harvesters to collect the crop once it is ready for harvest. These machines are used to cut the cane and strip the leaves off, before transporting it to a nearby processing plant or sugar mill.

Harvesting sugarcane manually is a very labor-intensive process.

People in the sugarcane industry use three methods to harvest sugarcane manually. They are cutting, bunching, and topping.

The first method is by cutting. This is when a worker cuts through the base of the sugarcane stalk with a machete or cane knife.

The second method is by bunching. This is when a worker removes all the leaves off of the top of the stalk which then causes it to break at its natural binding point near ground level.

The third method is by topping which consists of removing all but one leaf from each stalk so that it will no longer grow or produce new leaves or stalks while still allowing some sugar production on existing stalks for some time.


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