Sunday, April 13, 2008

South American Highlights #8

Sugarcane Fields

Welcome to the sugarcane field!

The top of the irrigation pivot is just visible over the top of the plants. They can grow to 20 feet tall. Brazil is the world's #1 producer of sugarcane and it is widely used in the production of ethanol. It produces a lot of fuel per tonne of crop, unlike corn which requires lots of raw material to get just a little fuel. Wikipedia says that in Brazil, 30% of the automobile fuel is made from sugar-based ethanol.

You can see the 2 crops growing side by side.

There was a group of workers in the field and they had this collection of things at the end of the row. It reminded me of the coolers and water jugs that our guys take to the fields too.

This researcher from a national research institute knew everything you could possibly want to know about breeding and growing sugarcane. Standing beside him is Brian, an American who now lives and manages a farm in Brazil. Brian was our Portuguese interpreter for the farm visits in this area and he did an awesome job of getting the answers to all of our questions.

This piece of cane would be placed in the furrow and new plants would grow out of each nodule. Once the stalks are mechanically harvested, new plants would grow from the rootstock that was left in the ground. Fields used to be burnt off before harvest to reduce the leaves but that resulted in lots of air pollution so the practice has been reduced.

It grows really tall and after it's cut down, it will regrow several times. Sugarcane requires at least 1500 mm of water and this research facility is trying to produce varieties that can thrive with less.

Taste testing! It's really fibrous and sweet. AFter you chew it, you end up with a mouthful of stalk that you just spit out.

Even the bugs are bright and colorful in Brazil!

Busy paying attention! We learnt alot about another new crop on this day!


  1. This is really interesting. We know very little about sugar cane, although we have chewed on it for a while. What a different type of agriculture compared to our grain-growing prairie lifestyles.

  2. WOW!!! This is ALL so fasinating to read! Not crazy about ANY bugs matter how bright they are! hehehe
    Love ya,

  3. Very interesting for sure! You got some really good photos too!

  4. Crystal, you really do take great pictures on your trips!