Research on cultural operations consists of projects aiming at reviewing existing cultural practices or developing new ones to improve cane productivity or adapting them to changes in the production system. Minimum Tillage Practice (MTP) was developed in the 1970s as a planting technique on sloping lands and, later on, on flat lands.
Since 1992, trash blanketing is advantageously replacing the traditional trash lining (on alternate interrows) practice in the subhumid and humid areas. Partially Mechanized Planting (PMP) was developed as an alternative to mechanical planting to reduce labour, particularly female one, required during planting in 1993.
Cool-burning consisting of burning cane early in the morning was shown to reduce particulate matter emission by more than 60 % compared to the traditional practice and has been included as a prerequisite in the code of burning practice in 2002. A new system to plant cane on ridges in high rainfall areas was recommended in 2004. The practice is less labour-intensive whilst partially mechanized planting and mechanized harvest is possible. Moreover, the ridging operation will also bury any weeds present.
Recently (2006) changes in cane row spacing with the adoption of dual row planting offers great potential to increase cane productivity and machine efficiency without increasing inputs (planting material and fertilizer). It consists of pairs of rows 0.5 m apart with 1.8 m between their centres. In line with more recent economic and agronomic developments in the industry, new cropping systems are being investigated to meet the challenges. The new systems involve more integrated practices with the basic principles of reduced tillage, controlled traffic (by matching row spacing to vehicle track width) and a leguminous fallow break.
The Department is also involved in research projects relating to farm planning and soil conservation; farm plans are produced using Digital Terrain Modelling (DTM) technique. A project initiated in 2001 to study soil erosion has confirmed the contribution of sugar cane to control erosion, particularly in high risk areas where slopes can exceed 20%.
Weed Agronomy is the study of the ecology and biology of weeds, their effect on different crops and their control by various methods, especially by the use of herbicides.
One of the main tasks of the weed agronomy section has been the evaluation of new herbicides; some 150 herbicides have been tested during the last 50 years and some 25 recommended to the planting community. Herbicides have also been screened for use in foodcrops, planted in sugar cane interrows or in full stand. In the recent years, significant progress has been achieved in spraying techniques, more particularly with introduction of air-inclusion nozzles. The current R&D programme is focused on developing weed management strategies with the objectives of reducing cost and amount of herbicides.
On going research projects
Dr Suman Seeruttun
The department carries out research on the mechanization of cultural operations for sugar cane and food crop production in the following fields:
On going research projects
1. Reducing production costs
2. Relieving labour from the arduous aspects of agricultural work
3. Minimizing the ill effects of mechanization on soil and crop
4. Environment friendly measures
Mr Vivian Rivière