Growing Sugarcane
Crop Nutrition Advice

Everything you need to know about sugarcane fertilization, best practice, suitable products, field trials and more.

Advice for growing Sugarcane (Saccharum)

  • Sugarcane consists of four principal parts, the root system, the stalk, the leaves and the inflorescences.​

  • Sugarcane is propagated vegetatively from cuttings with a limited number of buds, each of which may develop into a primary stem.​

  • The stalk consists of nodes and internodes. The length of the internode varies from short at the bottom and at the top of the stalk to long in the middle section. ​

  • The leaf consists of two parts, the blade and the sheath, separated by a leaf joint.​

Sugarcane crop field

Sugarcane harvesting

General Aspects:


Influences sugarcane yield and quality (nitrogen increases the number of millable canes and total weight of stalks)​. Optimum N concentration of 1.95–2.0% at plant at tillering has been estimated to be essential for maximum cane yield. Excess nitrogen leads to delayed maturity and ripening, lowers juice quality and makes crops susceptible to lodging and pest and disease incidence.


Phosphorus is important for cell division, stimulates root growth and tillering​. It influences length, girth, cane numbers, and yield of millable cane​. Phosphorus content in juice eliminate colloids during processing (300 ppm P2O5 concentration in juice has been rated as a critical limit for better crystallization and colour of the finished “sugar” product).


Potassium has a positive effect on tillering ratio, primary index, cane yield, and sugar accumulation.​ It helps sugarcane to develop resistance to pest, diseases, and lodging and maintains cell turgidity under moisture stress conditions.


Sulfur is essential for synthesis of amino acids, protein, and vitamins in sugarcane, while increasing the juice quality, cane yield​, and providing protection against stresses such as salinity, drought, metal toxicity, and extreme temperatures.​


Magnesium is both an enzyme activator and a constituent of many enzymes and is the central element of the chlorophyll molecule.​ It’s deficiency is first evident on older leaves. Red necrotic lesions result in a “rusty” appearance.


Manganese sparks the photosynthesis process by splitting water molecules, fixes light to initiate the conversion of CO2 and water into carbohydrates. ​It act as catalyst in oxidation-reduction reactions and is an activator of many enzymes in sugarcane plant. Manganese helps in iron and nitrogen metabolism, as well as chlorophyll formation​.

Related Trials

Sugarcane & Polysulphate
USDA ARS Sugarcane Research Unit, White Castle, Louisiana, USA, 2018


Yield Increase


  • For soil analysis, soil samples should be taken from the surface to 15 cm depth, but this can be up to 30 cm.

  • Sugarcane requires between 1,100 and 1,500 mm of rainfall, provided the distribution is right. Abundant water is required during the vegetative growth months, followed by a dry period for ripening.

  • The optimum temperature for sugarcane bud sprouting ranges from 20° to 30°C. Extremely low (<10°C) and extremely high (>40°C) temperatures adversely affect the cane bud sprouting.

  • There are a number of sugarcane planting methods, including trench, double row, ring pit, bud chip technology, and STP (spaced transplanting technology).

  • Shallow 10-15 cm deep furrows spaced at 90 cm in autumn and 75 cm in spring are opened, and setts are placed in the furrows following either head-to-head or bud-to-bud alignment. The furrows are compacted with a heavy wooden plank to conserve moisture.

  • The trench sugarcane planting method is recommended for sugarcane growers. The input use efficiency is high, and there is scope to accommodate intercropping between the sugarcane rows. Trenches should be 30 cm wide and deep with a center-to-center distance of 120 cm. The sugarcane setts are placed along both walls of the trench.

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