Sugar Cane Cultivation
Sugar cane is a hardy grass, native to Asia, which was introduced to the West Indies when commercial farming of the land there first began. The first sugar plantations date from 1644.
In order to thrive, sugar cane requires a warm, damp climate and rich, deep and well-drained soil. As Guadeloupe has an average temperature of 28°C and an annual rainfall of above 1 metre, sugar canes thrive everywhere.
For three centuries, sugar cane was propagated from cuttings only. This asexual approach to reproduction, with no selection, caused the first varieties of cane to degenerate.
In the 1920s, different agricultural research centres obtained high yield varieties from seeds. In Guadeloupe, this approach to propagation significantly improved production.
Among the varieties widely grown in the 19th century, Bonaire cites: white cane from Otahiti, Ribbon cane, Creole cane, Satavia, Black cane and cane from Selangor.
At the beginning of the century, the varieties cited for giving the best yields were: White cane, Ribbon cane, Satavia, Cristalline and Congo. However, some of these varieties were dropped in favour of new seeds introduced in Barbados: B109, B145, B167 and B203.
Between 1918 and 1927 the sugar producers’ association established an agricultural research centre. It introduced elite varieties from other sugar cane cultivation centres as well as seeking to develop new varieties itself. In this way, Big-Tanas, BH10.12, B6450, St Croix 12.4, SC 13/13, SC22.31, C00213, C0281, POJ213, P052878 and other varieties were introduced.
Javan cane did not produce very good results here; these canes tend to weaken too early. In 1946, after the Second World War, the profession of sugar, rum and cane producer became particularly difficult. With no fertiliser left and few spare parts for equipment, production levels were low (400,000 tonnes of cane).
Between 1949 and 1962, the most spectacular expansion took place. In spite of the slowdown caused by climatic events such as the hurricane of 1956, production continued to grow until it reached the point of 1.85 million tonnes of cane in 1962.
To assist planters, in 1982 CITES established 8 varieties of sugarcane which have been adequately studied in terms of agriculture and the economy so that individual planters can make fully informed choices.