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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra



Sugarcane originated in New Guinea where it has been known since about 6000 BC. The cultivated canes belong to two main groups 1. Thin, hardly North Indian types Saccharum barberi and the Chinese Saccharum sinenses and 2. Thick juicy noble canes Saccharum officicinarum. Highly prized cane is Saccharum officinarum. The origin of Saccharum officinarum is the Indo Myanmar China border with New Guinea as the main centre of diversity. The officinarum are called the “noble canes “ due to thick juicy, low fibered canes of high sucrose content. The origin of Saccharum robustum is New Guinea. The origin of Saccharum spontaneum is subtropical India. The habitat of these two wild canes is swamps, river banks, water courses etc. Tropical canes ( thick canes ) might have originated in New Guinea. From India it spread probably to China, Arabia, Egypt and Sicily.

Sugarcane and sugarbeet are the main source of sugar in the world. Out of total sugar produced in the world, 60 percent is obtained only from sugarcane. Asia is the largest producer of sugar followed by Europe. Most of the sugar in Asia comes from sugarcane whereas in Europe, from sugarbeet. Presently, sugarcane is grown in an area of about 16 million ha in over 79 countries. The global sugar production in 2019-20 was 166.18 million tones. Sugar production in India was 30.5 million tones in 2019-20. Uttar Pradesh has the largest area; almost 50 percent of the cane area in the country, followed by Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Haryana ,and Punjab. These nine are the most important sugarcane producing states. Sugarcane production is also highest in Uttar Pradesh followed by Maharashtra. Productivity wise, Tamil Nadu stands first with over 100 tones per hectare followed by Karnataka, Maharashtra. Bihar has the lowest productivity among the major sugarcane growing states. The sugar industry is the second largest agro-based industry, next only to textiles, in the country.

Family: Gramineae

Class: Monocotyledons

Order: Glumaceae

Sub Family: Panicoidae

Tribe: Andripoganeae

Sub Tribe: Saccharininea

Botanical description:

Sugarcane is a tall perennial grass, which tillers at the base to produced unbranched stems 2-8 m tall, and around 5 cm in diameter; it could be tall as giant grass. It is cultivated from these thick stems or stalk canes from which the sugar is extracted. The botany of cane consists of roots, stem, leaves and inflorescence.


  1. The root system is fibrous and two types namely sett roots and shoot roots.

  2. When the sugarcane sett is planted in the soil, the root primordial situated at the base of every cane joint is activated and produces roots. These roots are sett roots and are mostly temporary.

  3. Sett roots can merge within 24 hours of planting.

  4. The shoot roots arise from the root rings of the lower nodes of tillers.

  5. These are permanent roots which are continuously produced from tillers.

  6. Shoot roots emerge from the base of the new shoots.


1. Sugarcane is propagated vegetatively from stem cuttings.

2. The stem of sugarcane is roughly cylindrical and consists of nodes and internodes, the former being around the bud from the leaf scar to the growth ring and the latter being the part between two nodes.

3. The node consist of a lateral bud, root primordia and growth ring.

4. Bud situated in the exit of the leaf on alternate side of the stalk.

5. Root primordia at lower side of the leaf scar arranged in rows.

6. Growth-ring present immediately above each node coated with waxy layer.

7. The top of the stem is poor in sucrose and is of little value to the sugar factory but is good for seed purpose.


1. The leaf consists of two parts, the leaf blade and the sheath, separated by a leaf joint.

2. The leaves are attached alternatively to the nodes.

3. The leaf sheath is tubular in shape and is inserted at the node.

4. The leaf blade is linear or lanceolate reaching one to one midrib is prominent with grove on upper surface.

5. The ligule is a membranous ring found as an appendage of the sheath, separating the latter from the blade, and bears long hairs.

6. The scarious extension of the leaf sheath is known as auricles.


1. Inflorescence or tassels of sugarcane, generally called as arrow, is a loose terminal pennicle.

2. 25-50 cm long arrow with silky appearance owing to rings of long hairs below each spikelet.

3. The arrangement of the spikelet is racemose.

4. Each tassel consists of many tiny flowers, each capable of producing one seed. Sugarcane usually flowers at the age of 10-12 months, but some varieties do not flower at all.

Climatic factors:

Latitude and altitude : Sugarcane is grown in the world from latitude 36.7 N and 31.0 S from sea level to 1000 metres altitude or little more.

Rain fall : A total rainfall between 110-150 cm is adequate provided the distribution is right, abundant in the month of vegetative growth followed by a dry period for ripening. It also grows in areas where rainfall is low, up to 50 cm. Above 150 cm, rainfall causes lodging of cane.

Temperature : Growth is closely related to temperature. It has a wide temperature range from over 38 C. Optimum temperature for cane growth (germination) is 27-33 C . Temperature below 27 C definitely injurious to the cane, reduce tillers and above 38 C adversely affects the sprouting.

Carbon assimilation : 30 C

Sugar synthesis : 30 C

Sugar transport : 30-35 C

Tillering : 33-34 C

Root growth : 36 C

Shoot growth : 33 C

Relative humidity : high humidity ( 80-85 ) favours rapid cane elongation during grand growth period. A moderate value of 45-65 percent coupled with limited water supply is favourable during the ripening phase. Above 40 percent humidity coupled with warm weather favours vegetative growth of cane.


1. Sugarcane is a sun loving plant

2. Greater incident radiation favours higher sugar yield.

3. About 7-9 hours of bright sunshine is highly useful for both active growth and ripening.


1. Severe cold weather inhibits bud sprouting in ratoons and arrests cane growth.

2. At temperature -1 to 2 C the cane leaves and meristem tissues are killed.

Wind: High velocity wind exceeding 60 Km/hours are harmful to grown up canes leading to lodging and cane breakage.

Sugarcane and Sugar Industry:

The Indian sugar industry, second largest in the world, is a key driver of rural development, supporting India’s economic growth. The industry is inherently inclusive supporting over 6 million farmers and their families, along with workers and entrepreneurs of over 550 sugar mills, apart from a host of wholesalers and distributors spread across the country. Contribution of sugarcane to the national GDP is 1.1 percent which is significant considering that the crop is grown only in 2.5 percent of the gross cropped area. In India, sugar is an essential item of mass consumption, and the domestic demand is around 25 million tons per annum. Sugar cane jaggery are the cheapest source of energy, supplying around 10 percent of the daily calorie intake. Sugarcane crop has been projected as the crop for future, contribution to the production of not only sugar but also a renewable source of green energy in the form of bio ethanol and many bio based products. The industry produces 350-360 m t canes 25-27 m t white sugar and 6-8 m t jaggery and khandsari every year. Besides that, about 2.7 billion litres of alcohol and 5500 MW of power and many chemicals are also produced. The industry is able to export around 3200 MW of power to the grid. The major challenges for sugarcane agriculture is static sugarcane productivity ( 70 t/ha ) and sugar recovery ( 10 percent ) at national level. The Indian sugar industry is fully capable of meeting the demand of portable alcohol as well as 5 percent blending in gasoline. Industry is gradually transforming into sugar complexes by producing sugar, bio electricity , bio ethanol, bio manure, and chemicals. Emergent businesses like fuel, ethanol, raw sugar and structural changes in global market have provided new horizons for the Indian sugar industry. The sector today not only has transformational opportunities that would enable it to continue to service the largest domestic markets but has also emerged as a significant carbon credit and green power producer and has potential to support ethanol blending programme of E 10 and beyond. The sugar industry is gearing up to meet the challenges of 2030 through judicious integration of agrotecnology, improved management practices, diversification and farmer’s friendly policies. The crop, besides providing the food and energy needs of the country, also contributes to employment and revenue generation, social development and environmental safety. Because of the manifold benefits from the crop and its wide and varied uses, sugarcane agriculture will remain a major contributor to the sustainable development of sugar industry in India.

History of Sugar Mills in India:

Sugarcane was being grown in India since time immemorial and sugar was produced in lumps during the fourth century. There was no sugar industry in India till 1904. The first sugar plant was set up at Saran in Bihar in 1904. In the year 1930 there was the advent of the modern sugar processing industry in India which was started with the grant of tariff protection to sugar industry. In the year 1931 the number of sugar mills increased from 30 to 135 and in the year 1935-36 production was increased from 1.20 Lakh tones to 9.34 lakh tones. Sugar industry is a big business in India and this industry is the second largest industry in India as the first one is the textile industry. India is the second largest producer of sugar in the world. The Indian Sugar Industry has a total turnover of Rs. 500 billion per annum and contributes almost Rs. 22.5 billion to central and state exchequer as tax, cess, and excise duty every year. In India, around 525 sugar mills produced more than 30 million tones of sugar.

Contribution of Cooperative Factories to Society:

In 1951, Ahmednagar district had 6 joint stock sugar factories. There was rampant exploitation of sugarcane farmers by owners of the Joint Stock Companies. The Joint Stock Companies were given on long base the land of large numbers of small cultivators at a very nominal rent of Rs 1/ per annum/ acre. On this the Joint Stock Companies established their own large sugarcane state and made huge profits. Because of the explanation the Joint Stock Companies and deriving impetus from the Malis of Saswad village, the farmers of the Loni area under the leadership of Dr. Vikhe Patil and guidance of Professor D R Gadgil, Dr. Vaikunthabhai Mehta collected a share capital, registered the Pravara Cooperative Society and sued capital to set up the Prevara Cooperative Sugar Factory ( in Maharashtra ).

The cooperative sugar factories have introduced many social, educational and cultural features as part of their total contribution for the well-being of both farmer members and environment. From the social angle, the cooperative society pays special attention to small farmers. It takes steps for the welfare of its factory labour as well as provides them with all the necessary amenities. Every village in its operational area has been linked with well constructed roads. A network of schools and colleges all contribute to the economic resurgence of the region. Jawaharlal Nehru visited Pravanna Cooperative Sugar Factory in 1961 and said, "I would like people from other states to come here and see how a real cooperative is organized and run. This is an example of the nation. I wish all success."

Sugarcane production increased from 110 million tones in year 1961 to 405 million tones in the year 2019. Sugarcane area grew from 2413 thousand hectares in 1961 to 5961 thousand hectares in 2019. Sugarcane yield increased from 45 tones/ hectare to 80 tones/hectare. The processing of sugarcane generates bagasse, molasses, and press mud. Indian sugar industry has been using these bi-products to generate bio ethanol, alcohol, electric and many other products over the year.

Sugar Mills in Punjab:

In Punjab, three sugar factories were established at Hamera, Phagwara and Dhuri ( private ) in 1930s. The owner of the sugar factory of Hamera shifted it to Uttar Pradesh in 1950s. Four co-operative sugar factories were established at Bhogpur, Nawanshahar, Morinda and Batala in 1960s. Later, many sugar factories were established in the co-operative and private sector and the number of sugar factories increased to 22 with double cane crushing capacity by 2000 and Punjab became self sufficient in sugar. It was made possible by the developing and releasing of high sugar varieties by the PAU Sugarcane Research Station Jalandhar scientists.

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