Sugarcane takes 12-16 months to mature. When it is ready for harvesting it stands 2-4 meters tall. Farmers harvest their cane between June and December when rainfall is less frequent and the plant’s sugar content is at its highest.
There are two methods used to harvest sugarcane. Traditionally, the cane has been burnt before harvesting to remove leaves, weeds and other trash that will make sugarcane harvesting difficult. In some other cane-growing areas, it is possible to harvest the cane green. The left over cuttings form a mulch which keeps in moisture, stops the growth of weeds and helps prevent soil erosion. areas. Green harvesting allows the farmers to recycle nitrogen in plant by leaving trash cuttings from harvesting in the field.
And the sugarcane harvesting machine is commonly used nowadays. Sugarcane is harvested by big machines which move along the rows of cane removing the leafy tops of the cane and cutting the stalk into short pieces or billets. Billets are loaded into bins which are towed alongside the harvester. When full, the bins are taken by road or tramway to the sugar mill.
After harvesting, the suitable left behind grows new shoots, producing a ratoon crop. Two or three ratoon crops can be grown before the land is rested (or planted with an alternative crop such as legumes), ploughed and replanted for the cycle to start with.
But there are some cautions for harvesting sugarcane.
1. Harvest in good time. As mentioned above, farmers harvest their cane between June and December when rainfall is less frequent and the plant’s sugar content is at its highest.
2. Cut the sugarcane with good quality. Use sharp tools to cut canes to ensure flat notch and no fracture of the cane head and it is advisable to keep the cane head 7-10cm long.
3. Plan for cane harvesting according to the sugarcane variety,, planting time and ripening time to make sure that the harvested canes are totally fresh.
4. Clean the cane field in time. There are two ways to clean the cane land after harvesting. One is piling up the sugarcane leaf in the furrow to be fertilizer, or burning the sugarcane leaves after drying to be fertilizer; the other is removing the cane leaves out of the cane land to be compost, and then fertilizing the field.