Analysis of Sugar Cane Production in Relation to Climate, Soil and Management

Oldeman, Leonard Rudolf
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The yield of sugar cane is analyzed in relation to climate, soil and management. Detailed Information is obtained from the Waialua Sugar Company Inc. on Oahu, where approximately 4200 ha of irrigated sugar cane are grown under fully mechanized conditions. The field records date back to 1930, but a selected group of data for the period 1960-1970 has been used for statistical interpretation. Management variables Include month of harvest, crop cycle, age in months, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus fertilization, amount of irrigation water applied and the number of days after the last round of irrigation until harvest. The climatic variables are rainfall during winter, rainfall during summer, rainfall one month before harvest; rainfall, maximum and minimum temperature and diurnal difference in temperature during the harvest month, average monthly evaporation and global radiation. The soils are mapped in detail and the yield data are grouped according to the major soil series on which sugar cane is grown in this plantation. Two soil series (Wahiawa and Lahalna) belong to the Order of the Oxisoils and cover almost 50% of the terrain, while another 40% is classified as Haplustolls (Ewa, Waialua, Kawaihapai, Pulehu, and Haleiwa). The remaining 10% of the area belongs to poorly drained Inceptlsols and Vertisols (Pearl Harbor and Kaena), The seasonal variation in climate with warm sunny summers and cool rainy winters is one of the determining factors in sugar production. Heavy rainstorms in winter show a negative effect on the production. Age of the crop is negatively correlated when the yield is expressed as Ton Sugar per Acre per Month. A significant drop in yield is observed in ratoon cropping. This decrease was more pronounced in the lowland soils. Sugar yield from the first plant crop is higher than the yield from the second plant crop. Since all other management practices and climatic factors are similar for both plant crops, this drop in yield must be considered as a genuine yield decline. During the 1930's the lowland areas produced more sugar than the fields located on chemically infertile Oxisols in the uplands. Increasing amounts of fertilizers since that time reduced the effect of the limiting fertility factor. The heavy machinery introduced since 1935 created poor physical conditions in the alluvial soils – impeded drainage, compaction and stickiness.- The result is that during the last decade the Oxisols produced significantly more sugar than the alluvial soils in spite of less favorable climatic conditions at higher elevation. The limiting factor appears to have changed from fertility to physical conditions. An analysis of variance test clearly demonstrated the significant difference in yield between these two soil groups. From this study it becomes clear that all three systems-climate, soil and management-play an Important role in the final yield figure. While it is not possible to estimate the yield satisfactorily with only one of these systems-the explained variation in yield varied from 18% to 34%- the combination of the three systems explained more than 70% of the yield variation. Almost 80% of the estimated yield data differed less than 5% from the actual yield. Because this study was carried out over a relatively large area and actual plantation records were used Instead of an experimental design, the unexplained variation is still considerable. However this study indicates that agricultural research designed to interpret actual field data should give equal importance to the three systems that control crop growth: Climate, soil and management.
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