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RATOON MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES IN SUGARCANE

Arjun Tayade
Senior Scientist (Agronomy)
Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore 641 007

Gap filling
One serious problem in ratoons is the occurrence of gaps, which may exceed 20 per cent
and can cause considerable yield losses. Gaps occur because of poor stand of the plant crop,
poor sprouting owing to several reasons like cold or hot weather conditions, poor plant crops,
attack of fungal diseases, insect pests etc. Presence of properly spaced three viable clumps per
running meter is often considered as normal stand for ratoon crop. A spot in a row can be
considered as a gap if for a distance of about 60 cm there is no cane clump or the gaps exceed
more than 10 % of the total clump population. Otherwise there is no need for gap filling.
For gap filling it is better to use pre-germinated single bud setts. For this purpose, one
month prior to harvest of the plant crop, nursery may be planted with single bud setts and
seedlings if required for gap filling can also be obtained from spots where excess sprouting is
seen. Clumps can be uprooted and cut into quarters and planted in the gaps. Clumps could also
be removed from a small part of the field for gap filling and the area from where clumps were
removed could be replanted. While gap filling, the leaves of the seedlings should be clipped off.
Gap filled seedlings or quartered clumps require more attention. Pot watering may have to be
ensured for better establishment. A small quantity of super phosphate placed in the pit helps
better growth of the seedling. In delta region, quartered clump transplanting in the gaps has been
found quite effective in the wet land soils.
Stubble shaving
After harvest of the standing crop and cleaning the field, an indispensable operation that
has to be carried out is stubble shaving. The stubbles protruding out of the field are cut below
ground level using sharp spade to facilitate healthy underground buds to sprout and to establish a
deeper root system in the ratoon crop. Stubble shaving should be done before the buds sprout.
For stubble shaving, a sharp implement, preferably a spade should be used so that stubbles are
cut with minimum damage to the buds and stubbles are not uprooted. If the soil has become hard
and dry and it is difficult to carry out these operations, the field should be irrigated lightly and
stubble shaving may be done when field conditions are ideal for working with implements.
In some varieties, as in the case of CoC 671, the root system is shallow and there is
problem of uprooting of stubbles. In such cases instead of a spade, it is better to use a sharp
knife to cut the stubbles to the ground level.
Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research, Lucknow has developed a tractor drawn stubble
shaver for shaving the stumps close to the ground level. The implement gives an outturn of 2 ha
per day and brings down the cost of stubble shaving by 50 per cent.

Off-barring or shoulder breaking and loosening the inter-spaces


Soil compaction is one of the major causes for the poor growth of ratoon cane.
Compaction occurs due to long duration of the crop during which as many as 30 irrigations are
given in the tropical belt. These irrigations and the movement of labourers for various field
operations lead to soil compaction. Because of this, movement of air and moisture within soil is
affected. This in turn affects development of root system and finally the absorption of nutrients
and water. Hence, for obtaining a better crop stand and success of the ratoons, it is important to
improve the soil physical conditions. Off-barring or shoulder breaking is an operation
wherein the ridges are broken or cut on either side. To loosen the soil, the inter spaces between
the rows are dug. Shoulder breaking can also be carried out by bullock drawn implements like
wooden plough, or small ridger like implement. Off-barring reduces soil compaction and
facilitates quicker development of fresh root system and helps in vigorous growth of the young
crop.