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(sugarcane), a genus of perennial sugar-yielding plants of the family Gramineae. The erect stem is tall, reaching a height of 6 m. The panicle is large and fluffy and has jointed branchlets. The spikelets, which are surrounded by long hairs, are paired and have a single bisexual flower (the second is reduced to a glume).
There are five known species. The common sugarcane (S. officinarum), which is unknown in the wild state, is cultivated in tropical countries. Most often hybrids of the species are raised. S. barberi, a semicultivated, polymorphous species, is distributed in the subtropics of India. S. spontaneum is a wild polymorphous species that occupies a vast range—Southeast Asia, Hindustan, North Africa, and Middle Asia (thickets in the floodplains of the Syr Darya, Amu Darya, and other rivers). The plant survives frosts to — 30°C. S. sinense is cultivated and grows wild in North India, South China, and Japan; S. robustum grows wild in New Guinea.
Sugarcane is propagated by cuttings. Plantings yield three or more harvests of commercial stalks, whose parenchymatous cells contain as much as 20 percent sugar. The stalks of wild species contain 2–10 percent sugar. The molasses is used to produce rum. By-products are used in construction and for fuel.
Sugarcane is considered to be native to Southeast Asia. It has been cultivated in India since 3000 B.C. and in countries of the Middle East, the Mediterranean region, and China since the sixth century A.D. In the 15th century the plant was introduced into the Azores and Canary Islands; it was later introduced from Spain into Cuba and Mexico.
Worldwide plantings of sugarcane totaled 6.6 million hectares (ha) in 1948–52, 9.6 million ha in 1961–65, and 10.8 million ha in 1972. The largest plantings in 1972 were in India (2.4 million ha), Brazil (1.75 million ha), and Cuba (1 million ha). The average yield of stalks is 400–500 quintals/ha (on experimental plots, up to 2,000 quintals/ha). In the USSR sugarcane is grown as an annual crop in the Vakhsh Valley (Tadzhik SSR) and in Surkhandar’ia Oblast (Uzbek SSR). The stalks are set in furrows in February and March. The crop, which yields 450–800 quintals/ha, is harvested in October. The sugar content of the stalks is 8–10 percent. Sugarcane is used in the production of rum.
REFERENCESPoliarush, E. I. Sakharnyi trostnik i ego kul’tura na iuge Srednei Azii. (Dushanbe] 1959.
Ustimenko, G. V., and I. S. Beliuchenko. Tropicheskie propashyne kul’tury. Moscow, 1966.
Zhukovskii, P. M. Kul’turnye rateniia i ikh sorodichi, 3rd ed. Leningrad, 1971.
S. A. SEREDKIN