Harvest Management

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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One of the most important (and expensive) aspects of sugarcane production is the harvesting and the cane’s transport to the mill for processing. Hand cutting is still practiced in many parts of the world, particularly when cane is burned before harvesting. The move to green cane harvesting has brought with it a move to combine (chopper) harvesting, which is increasingly practiced by larger growers. Whole-stalk harvesters are still used in some areas but have been largely phased out in favor of chopper harvesters. Good harvest management is crucial to the profitability of both the cane grower and the miller. The grower invests significant time and money to produce the crop, but poor harvesting and transport operations can result in dramatic losses of recoverable sugar, both from physical losses of cane in the field and deterioration in cane quality before milling, especially if the cane is burned before harvesting and cut into short billets by the chopper harvester. Yield in the subsequent ratoon or stubble crop can also be depressed by poor harvesting practices. The harvesting and transport costs form a large proportion of the overall cost of cane production. Very careful consideration must therefore be given to both the selection and management of the harvesting and transport systems.