Researchers at the Sri Lanka Sugarcane Research Institute (SRI) introduced four new and improved sugarcane varieties, along with technological and policy innovations linking researchers, farmers, and industry.
Working in a highly challenging environment, SRI researchers developed these new sugarcane varieties that promise increased productivity. The new varieties were created through crossbreeding in field experiments.
The institute also developed an app called Uksaviya, which means “strength of sugarcane” in Sinhala. The app can help farmers identify diseases and apply effective cultivation methods, and it also provides access to current research findings.
Sugarcane is a multipurpose crop that is mainly used for sugar, ethanol, and biofuel production in Sri Lanka. However, only 15% of the country’s sugar requirement is met by local production, forcing the country to import sugar at a high cost.
A major hurdle is the low sugar recovery percentage of the sugarcane variety routinely grown in Sri Lanka, which is as low as 6-8%, according to SRI data. Comparatively, varieties grown in top sugarcane-growing countries have a sugar recovery percentage as high as 15%.
Improved sugar recovery percentage:
The four newly introduced varieties have an improved sugar recovery percentage of about 10-13%, according to SRI data. This is a major achievement that the industry has been seeking in cultivars.
As farmers get paid for the weight of cane harvested, they mostly prefer varieties that give a higher cane yield. However, the low sugar recovery percentage of currently grown varieties makes it less profitable for the factories.
Gamini Ratnayake, chief executive officer of Ethimale Plantation Private Ltd., a leading sugar factory in the country, said Mongabay that the new varieties having improved sugar recovery with high cane yield is a step toward a win-win for both sugarcane growers and sugar manufacturers.
The introduction of these new sugarcane varieties offers hope for Sri Lanka’s agriculture sector. By increasing productivity and improving sugar recovery, these varieties can help to reduce the country’s reliance on imported sugar and boost the incomes of sugarcane growers and sugar manufacturers alike.