Friday, November 14, 2008

Sugarcane

Sugarcane stalks
While driving around the Imperial Valley we went by a field where a crew was throwing what looked like sticks into furrows and covering them. We stopped and talked to some of the crew and found out that they were planting sugarcane (Saccharum) – a genus of tall perennial grasses from which sugar is produced.

The crew gave us a sample (see photo) of the cane they were planting. Once buried the new sugarcane sprouts from the nodes of the old canes. New plants can grow up to 12 feet or more. Once they are mature they are harvested (leaving the roots and a few inches of stalk for re-growth – called ratoons) and then brought to the factory for processing. In the factory canes are crushed to extract the sweet juice that goes through further processing to make sugar. Sugarcane is the source of 70% of the world’s sugar supply. Other uses of sugarcane include ethanol production.

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