IISR developing sugarcane varieties for water-stressed environment
In the backdrop of rising public discourse on recurringdroughts and falling ground water levels, the Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research (IISR) is now developing new varieties, which require less amount of water to proliferate.
A few years back, the water element was almost a non-issue with the researchers and breeders of new sugarcane varieties with the Institute.
"All the new researches and breeding projects are now mandated to develop such varieties, which perform well even in water stressed environment," IISR Principal Scientist Dr A K Sah told Business Standard.
He said along with the consideration about water conservation, the new sugarcane breeding programmes also aimed at tackling the menace of red rot and insects or pests, which cause extensive damage to the cash crop.
In fact, IISR has already developed an early maturing and high yielding variety of sugarcane, which could be cultivated in areas facing both drought or flood situations. Known as CoLK 94184, the new variety could help farmers harvest up to 75-80 tonnes per hectare as 'plant crop', followed by 70 tonnes for the next 2-3 years as 'ratoon crop'.
While combining the attributes of early maturity and good 'ratooning', CoLK 94184 is also tolerant to water logging, moisture deficit and top borer (most common sugarcane pest in UP), and resistant to red rot and smut diseases.
Since it could withstand moisture stress and water logged conditions, which are mostly prevalent in North Central Zone, the new variety is suitable for cane growers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
"At present, this new variety is being cultivated over an estimated area of 10,000 hectares in UP," Sah informed. However, compared to the total cane acreage of 23 lakh hectares in the state during 2015-16 crushing season, it was a miniscule and needs extension.
Meanwhile, UP Sugar Mills Association (UPSMA) Secretary Deepak Guptara said the industry was always supportive of cane varieties, which had good juice content and resistant to pests and other vagaries of nature, including drought or floods.
Recently, India has been witnessing debates whether cane plantations should be discouraged, since it needed large amount of water for irrigation and optimum growth and juice content. The scientific community and sugar industry has maintained although cane needed water, much of it was retained in the form of juice.