Rapid growth and early harvesting as new varieties dominate in Eston
Eston located in the KZN midlands is an area that has been producing and supplying sugar cane to Illovo Sugar mill located in Eston for many years. Historically the harvesting cycle in the midlands has been approximately 20 to 24 months with the cane varieties that were planted in the region, but that status quo has been changing and is changing with the constant introduction of newer varieties into the region.
SASRI Experiment station with its plant breeding facilities have created different varieties over the years and these varieties are introduced to the various regions based on climatic conditions, pests and diseases resistance, soil types, irrigation etc. The new varieties are planted in trial plots in the various sugar regions based on the assumed regional suitability and are thereafter taken up by growers for bulking up and planting on their farms should the trial meet the requirements of the region , the plant breeding team and the growers willing to plant this variety on their farms.
The most popular variety in the Eston region for many years has been the N12 variety which is a twenty to twenty-four-month variety. However, the introduction of newer varieties to the Eston area over the past ten years which include the likes of N48, N50, N52, N54, N61, N62 and various others are proving popular with growers and gradually replacing the ever popular N12 variety. One of the noticeable differences between some of the newer varieties to N12 is the earlier harvesting times due to their rapid growth. It is however difficult to accurately determine the difference in tons per hectare produced between the N12 variety and the newer varieties due to the harvesting time differences. The earlier harvesting times of the newer varieties will impact on growers harvesting and replanting programs. Having different varieties on a farm is important from an agronomic risk management perspective. With only N12 available, growers had no choice on where to plant this variety, however with the introduction of the new varieties, growers can now select varieties to their specific conditions, soils, slope and farming practice. By being able to do this growers are able to utilise marginal soils economically.
The graph shows varieties crushed at Eston over the last seven seasons with the decline in popularity of the N12 variety clearly shown.