The Colombian sugar sector has a variety offer that represents alternatives compared to CC 85-92. The key to success is using the Site Specific Agriculture approach, AEPS®.
CC 85-92 has been the queen of sugarcane varieties in Colombia for more than a decade. Its high productivity, added to the resistance to some diseases and pests that it enjoyed until some time ago, made it the favorite of growers and sugar mills.
But that preference has not allowed us to take a look at the new varieties that the sector has today, which become an alternative to reverse that dependency towards CC 85-92 and renew crops without running the risk of reducing productivity.
A risky dependency
It is no secret to anyone in the Colombian sugar industry that CC 85-92 is the most cultivated variety in the region. In fact, as of December 31, 2012, it occupied 66.4% of the total area dedicated to the cultivation of sugarcane in the geographical valley of the Cauca River. With this very high proportion, the industry moves away from the Brazilian scheme, which has been adopted in the country and which consists in allocating 80% of the total area to four varieties and an additional 20% for those who are expanding or decreasing their area, a distribution that gives a sanitary and at the same time economic support for productive activity.
"This scheme (of the Brazilian industry) gives a margin of tranquility in the event that difficulties of a sanitary nature arise that can significantly affect the productivity of the variety and thus, avoid the sector suffering economically," he says. Jorge I. Victoria K., director of the Cenicaña Variety Program.
The statement is not exaggerated and one only needs to look to other latitudes to understand it. In Australia, for example, at the beginning of this century, the appearance of orange rust affected the economy of this industry because its main variety, Q 124, was highly susceptible to this disease. Later, in 2006, coal appeared and all its main commercial varieties were susceptible to it, so once again its productivity suffered again.
According to Victoria, Brazil can be a benchmark of the opposite: “Until now, the sugar economy of that nation has not been affected by the appearance of devastating diseases. There when a new disease appears and there is a susceptible variety, they simply change it because they handle the 20% scheme. ”
When reviewing Colombian history, there are also cases to reflect on the vulnerability that some varieties are acquiring over the years due to the mutation of pests and diseases and how their dependence can become a risk. This is the case of the Otahiti, at the beginning of the 57th century and the CP 603-85, at the end of the same century, which were the most cultivated varieties at the time, but were very susceptible to common mosaic, coal and brown rust. CC 92-2006, which initially had high levels of resistance to most diseases, since XNUMX has recorded an increase in infection by brown rust, which would be showing a pathogenic variation.
"We are not exempt from the fact that the pathogen continues to mutate and may affect some of the varieties that currently predominate in the sector with the disease. By having a wide range of varieties, the probabilities of mutation will be lower ”, explains Victoria.
More than good reasons
In Colombia, the existing range of varieties gives more than good reasons to start a crop renovation as soon as possible. This offer includes up to fourteen varieties different from the five that have predominated in recent years in the sector (CC 85-92, CC 84-75, PR 61-632, MZC 74-275 and V 71-51). The new varieties can be very competitive with adequate agronomic management and for each agroecological zone, that is, with a site-specific agriculture approach.
And it is that the good performance of a variety depends, to a large extent, on whether it is planted in the agro-ecological zones for which it was identified, with the practices defined for its soil type and also on the climate.
In accordance with the site-specific agriculture approach, the process of selection and development of varieties for the agro-ecological zones of the Cauca river valley is carried out in three environments that group dry-semi-dry, wet and foothill areas. Crossings are scheduled according to goals in each setting and selection is based on three states and one regional test. The new varieties continue in multiplication and monitoring in main plots and satellite plots, where they are jointly evaluated by researchers and producers, who plan their adoption and diffusion.
This means that the suggestion of a certain variety by agroecological zone is the result not only of experimental results, but also of commercial results obtained by the same growers and a statistical analysis with a 99% probability that the variety will behave in a certain way. and no other.
In any case, the important thing is to understand that there are different alternatives to CC 85-92, but the key to a successful varietal renewal plan is not only due to the variety, but also to agronomic management adjusted to the AEPS approach.
This is the only way to talk about better productivity per hectare and a greater profit margin for growers.
“About five months ago we decided not to re-sow CC 85-92 due to the high percentages of fields affected by rust, which concerned us as we had an experience with MZC 74-275. We are changing CC 85-92 to CC 93-4418 and we are also sowing CC 98-72, CC01-1228 and CC 01-1940. You have to understand that if a variety were not good, we as ingenuity would not be multiplying it, because the key to success in a renewal process is to have results, which is the first thing the supplier demands ”.
Field manager - Mayagüez
“At Manuelita we have decided to innovate with the varieties CC 93-4418, CC 01-1228, CC 01-1940, CC 01-746, CC 98-72 and CC 01-678. The first experiences were not very encouraging, however, a series of varieties appeared that began to show outstanding results, as is the case with CC 93-4418. It is important not to make definitive decisions with little harvested area since the mistake of eliminating a variety that for reasons of circumstance and specific conditions of a site, does not work. The variety CC 93-4418, for example, began to show outstanding and sustained results from the 300 hectares harvested ”.
Head of the Agronomy Department - Manuelita
“Changing the variety cannot be a fashion decision, because the neighbor told me so or because I liked the size of the cane. No. When a new variety is selected for planting, it is because there is validated information in Cenicaña, which allows us to understand that it can perform better depending on the agro-ecological zones. We are aware that the first experience can have a great cost, in the sense of doing things that are not what that variety actually requires, but only as we understand the specific handling of each one and for each area we will be able to find it. the advantages".
Carlos Hernando Azcarate
KEEP IN MIND
At the end of 2012, the variety CC 66.4-85 was found in 92% of the planted area; followed by CC 93-4418, with 8%; CC 84-75 with 7.4% and CC 01-1940 with 2%.
Note: the information on the productivity of the sugarcane varieties on the Cenicaña website is updated monthly according to the records by luck of cane provided by the sugar mills.