8 AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION & EXTENSION SERVICES
Sugar cane production continued on a downward trend to a new low of just under 1.8 million tonnes in 2003. This was the second consecutive year in which cane production fell below the 2 million tonne level. This marked a further decline of 195,000 t following the fall of 175,000 t in 2002. Sugar production also fell to a new low of 153,157 t, the lowest in 63 years. Cane area declined by 2,462 ha (6%) below that reported in 2002.
A total of 1,789,743 t cane was harvested from 30,581 ha (82% of total cane area) Table 8.1. Cane milled was 1,778,712 t at a conversion ratio of 11.61 tc/ts. The Jamaica Recoverable Cane Sugar (JRCS), measured at the core sampler averaged 9.57.
Table 8.1: Cane and Sugar Production 2003 vs 2002
|Area in Cane (ha)||37,299||39 761|
|Area Harvested (ha)||Estates||17,123||18 467|
|Cane Harvested (t)||Estates||1,035,321||1,130 486|
|Cane Milled (t)||1,778,712||1,974 309|
|Sugar Produced (t)||153,252||175 252|
Cane production decreased in all cane growing areas, except for a marginal increase in the Worthy Park area. Records suggested that the decline was due mainly to reaping from 3,030 ha less than in the previous year. Productivity declined only marginally from 2002, Table 8.2.
Table 8.2: Cane Production Summary 2003 vs 2002
|Cane Area||Area reaped||Tonnes||tc/ha||tc/ha|
The area reaped in 2003 indicated 14% and 21% reduction by estates and farmers respectively when compared to the average of the last 6 years, 1997 2002, Table 8.3.
Table 8.3: Area reaped over the last 6 years vs 2003
|6 yr Avg.||Crop 2003||Diff.||%|
While there has been declining area under cane cultivation, productivity has tended to fluctuate, Fig 8.1.
Productivity ranged between a low of 35.2 tc/ha by the Hampden farmers and a high of 83.8 tc/ha achieved at Worthy Park Estate, Fig. 8.2. Of the 8 cane growing areas, cane yields exceeded the industry average of 58.5 at Frome, New Yarmouth, St. Thomas and Worthy Park, Fig. 8.3. Low levels of field maintenance as well as an inability to replant rundown fields were factors that impacted on productivity.
The major differences between 1996, when the industry last achieved reasonable production levels, and 2003 were that cane area was 20.9% greater then and tc/ha was 13.9% higher, resulting in a 36% greater sugar production, Table 8.4.
Table 8.4: Production Levels 1996 vs 2003
|Area harvested||38,672||30,581||- 8,091||20.90|
|Tonnes cane||2,643,212||1,789,743||- 853,469||32.30|
|Sugar prod.||239,192||153,157||- 86,035||36.00|
A lack of accessible loan funds continued to restrict the industrys replanting programme. At the end of October 2003, a total of 4,270 ha, including 143 ha of new lands, was planted, Table 8.5.
Table 8.5: Area (ha) Replanted During 2003 Planting Season
|Areas||Area planted (ha)||16% target||Area planted (ha)||16% target||Total planted|
Area replanted represented 11% of reported cane area in 2003, and only 61% of the replanting target. While estates replanted 90% of their target, farmers achieved only 27%.
The primary areas of new planting were at Appleton and Worthy Park:
|New Planting||Area (ha)|
|Worthy Park Estate||67|
|Worthy Park Farmers||6|
|Total New Plant||143|
8.2 EXTENSION ACTIVITIES
Extension activities directed at projects to halt the decline in productivity among farmers, produced mixed results. For example, expansion of recently released varieties continued under the Certified Seed Cane Programme, although the seed cane was not fully utilised by the replanting programme. The cane viability project to examine the economics of cane farming was successfully taken to its second year. Yet there was little progress towards improved yield or in better cane quality delivered to factories. Reasons advanced for this included lack of funds for replanting, high cost of irrigation water, and inability to apply various inputs in sufficient quantity or on a timely basis. In addition, problems brought about by the illicit burning of canes and other harvesting and factory related problems caused further frustration to farmers. Despite these challenges, officers maintained close working relationships with growers, conducted several research projects and were encouraged by results obtained by some farmers who were consistent in their management practices with the result that they achieved satisfactory cane yields and reasonable cane prices.
The Extension Unit, in seeking to encourage good harvesting practices among harvesting contractors, conducted several exercises to assess the performance of contractors assigned to harvest farmers canes. The objective was to improve cane quality by reaping clean, fresh, mature canes. This also included maturity testing and provision of guidelines to harvesting for best results. Growers were very responsive and displayed high levels of awareness.
The study to compare the Jamaica Recoverable Cane Sugar (JRCS), realized in canes reaped commercially, with the potential JRCS as existed in the fields prior to harvesting, continued at Frome. Data collection was done throughout the cropping period December 2002 to May 2003. Of the 143 samples taken during the 2003 crop 27 represented fields that were sampled before burning (green), then again after burning (burnt), with the final sampling done routinely with cane delivery (commercial), Table 8.6. Comparison of these three tests of cane quality indicated a loss of 2.36 JRCS units between the green and the commercially harvested canes. Samples taken prior to delivery would be largely devoid of trash and soil and would therefore tend to be inherently of better quality. In some instances, only burnt cane samples were taken prior to delivery. From 124 such samples, the loss between burnt cane sampling and commercial testing was 2.32 JRCS units, Table 8.7.
A further 30 green cane samples were taken and compared with the corresponding commercial tests results without data collected on burnt cane samples, Table 8.8.
Table 8.6: Comparison of green, burnt and commercial canes 2003
|# of Samples||Mean JRCS||Range of JRCS|
Table 8.7: Comparison of burnt vs commercial canes 2003
|# of Samples||Mean JRCS||Range of JRCS|
Table 8.8: Comparison of green vs commercial canes 2003
|# of Samples||Mean JRCS||Range of JRCS|
Fig. 8.4 indicates the wide differences in JRCS in samples taken before and after burning and JRCS determined in the harvesting process.
In summary, from a total of 57 green cane samples there was a loss of 2.69 JRCS by the time the field was commercially harvested. This represented a 22% loss in the JRCS. The difference in the value of 2.69 JRCS units translated to about J$400/tc at a sugar price of $27,700/tonne.
A total of 1,047 soil and 554 leaf samples were collected and sent to the SIRI Laboratory for analyses and recommendations. The number of soil samples collected, decreased in proportion to the reduced replanting. Up to the end of October some 27,468 ha or 90% of the area harvested received fertilizer, Table 8.9. At planting it was generally recommended to use 14-28-14 at 350 kg/ha followed at 6-8 weeks with 17-0-20 or 17-0-23. In some cases farmers used 15-5-35 in ratoon fields while others used 16-9-18 or 16-5-23. Fertilizer application also reflected a reduction of 4,271 ha in the area being fertilized over the previous year, which is cause for some concern for the Industry.
Table 8.9: Hectares Fertilized 2003
|St. Thomas Sugar Co.||980||790||1,770|
|Trelawny Sugar Co.||1,319||714||2,033|
Problems of fertilizer allocation and distribution, which have been affecting the smallholder for some time, worsened during 2003. For instance, farmers in the Trelawny Sugar Co. area were unable to access fertilizer through the existing scheme until some two months after the start of crop. The problem was further compounded by the method used in issuing fertilizer (1 bag to 6 tonnes cane delivered) which resulted in inadequate application. However, intervention by SIRI led to the narrowing of the ratio (1:4) which brought the distribution closer in line with the recommended rate.
Certified Seed Cane Project
Under the certified seed cane programme, funded by the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA), Extension Officers assessed potential participants, monitored agronomic practices to ensure the production of good quality seed cane and assisted in identifying potential purchasers to speed up expansion of newer released varieties. Nurseries established in 2003 were: Frome area 74.2 ha, St. Elizabeth 37.3 ha, Trelawny 41.0 ha, Clarendon 91.7 ha, and St. Catherine 54.0 ha. The varieties planted were BJ8252, BJ7938, BT82156, BJ78100, BJ7555, J9501, and BJ82119. The 298 ha planted are expected to produce over 16,000 tonnes seed cane for the 2004 spring planting season.
In the Frome area four other nurseries were established at Murrays, Mc Farlanes, Pinkneys and Sankars Farms. The varieties established were BJ8252, BJ82119 and J9501. Two nurseries, Suttons and McNie, managed by Extension in upper Clarendon, produced some 80 tonnes of seed cane, of the varieties BJ78100 and BJ82102. Several farmers established small plots of these varieties. The McNie nursery was later replanted with the variety BJ7938 and will produce seed cane for the 2004 season.
Weed Control Practices
Observations in areas where poor weed control existed suggested that the farmers had the knowledge of what to do but lacked financial resources to carry out the practice. To reinforce the guidelines for good control, several demonstrations were conducted across the industry based on the population and species of weeds. Pre-emergence herbicide application was encouraged as the most cost effective use of chemicals. However, growers were encouraged to apply an integrated approach to weed control by increasing the number of inter-row cultivation and decreasing the number of chemical applications. This usually resulted in growers seeing a reduction in weed control cost of some 7-9%.
In keeping with the usual practice of Officers testing the effectiveness of new products in their respective areas before making recommendations, several trials using the recently introduced herbicide, Krismat, were established at Appleton and Holland farms. In Westmoreland plots were also sprayed with Krismat at Hamathys and Salabies farms. Results showed that Krismat was effective against most weed species especially the broad leaf species, but aged corn grass (Rotboella chochichinensis) and Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) showed some resistance. Similar trials were also conducted at Muschettes farm in the Hampden area and James farms in the Trelawny Sugar Co. area. Very good control was obtained for weed species brown-top millet and corn grass at James farm but results were unsatisfactory at Muschettes. It was also observed that timeliness of application was critical for effective control.
At Wallens Farm in St. Catherine an investigation was conducted in efforts to explain the sudden fall-off in productivity of 2 fields by 7-20%. While other factors could be associated with the problem, the preliminary indication was that gaps developed after harvesting ranged from 15-18% of field area. Monitoring and measurement of gaps will continue to determine the impact on yields and general field performance.
Dual Row Trial
Based on initial performance, dual row planting was becoming widely adapted as a measure to maximise field productivity at Worthy Park, Fig. 8.5. Meanwhile, studies continued in efforts to quantify the effect. Productivity of the dual row at first ratoons was 105.45 tc/ha, an increase of 28 tc/ha over the plant cane yield. Single row planting yielded 79.54 tc/ha, an increase of 16.32 tc/ha above the plant cane yield. A direct comparison between the two systems of planting showed 32.5% greater cane yield in the dual row plots at first ratoons.
A survey to determine whether Jamaica was still free of ratoon stunting disease (RSD) commenced in the latter part of the year. For detection of the causative agent, Leifsonia (Clavibacter) xyli subsp. xyli, tissues blots were made from fields across the industry and the membranes sent to the French Agricultural research Station, CIRAD, at its Guadeloupe station. The last comprehensive survey, carried out in 1986, using the fluorescent antibody staining technique, failed to detect the presence of RSD in the industry. The present survey uses the tissue blot method and, should positive results be obtained, there will be follow-up using more definitive tests. A member of SIRIs Extension Team, who went to Guadeloupe for specialist training in the tissue blot sampling, was in charge of the local survey.
As a means of reducing tillage cost, the SIRIs Reduced Tillage Machine (RTM) was demonstrated, in conjunction with the Agricultural Engineering Dept., to farmers in the Trelawny Sugar Co. area. Two field days were conducted with the RTM , one in Brompton and the other at Swanswick Farm. Farmers were impressed with the quality of preparation and the obvious cost reduction implied by the new method as against the traditional land preparation. Table 8.10 gives a breakdown of the savings that can accrue on land prepared using the R.T.M.
Table 8.10: Cost of Conventional Tillage vs R.T.M.
8.3 DIVESTED FARMS
Divested farms at Frome recorded a 14% decline in cane production when compared to the previous crop. Of the 12 farms, only Barham Cane Holdings and 4-West farms recorded increases, Table 8.11. Salabies and Pinkneys farms experienced losses due to flooding. There was also a need for considerable replanting on these two farms. Improved agronomic practices were the main reasons for the increased production at Barham and 4-West farms. SIRIs Extension provided technical assistance to all divested farms in efforts to ensure high levels of performance.
Table 8.11: Divested Farms - Frome
2001 – 2002 Crop
2002 - 2003 Crop
|Farm Name||Area Reaped||Tonnes Reaped||tc/ha||JRCS||Area Reaped||Tonnes Reaped||tc/ha||JRCS|
|Barham C. Hold||60.03||3985.25||66.03||10.18||60.03||4134.24||68.56||9.14|
|Prospect C. Hold||59.94||4524.60||76.04||9.13||59||4130.72||70.01||8.72|
In the Monymusk area, the four divested farms (with the exception of the SIRI farm) have shown a steady decline in cane production. One farm of 101 ha has since been abandoned. While the others Border and Carrion Crow Investments have been severely hampered by cattle damage and chronic water shortage. Only 66 ha of the 176 ha were reaped in 2003 producing 3,246 tonnes cane at 49 tc/ha.
At Bernard Lodge nine (9) divested farms are located at Windsor Park, 1200 ha, and Half Way Tree, 600 ha. The Windsor Park farms were severely hampered by a lack of adequate irrigation water and livestock damage in addition to an inability to finance operations. Of the 9 farms only 3 delivered canes totalling 9007 tonnes at 40 tc/ha to the factory. The estate was in the process of reclaiming the Braeton and March Pen Coop holdings for the purpose of re-establishing the fields for crop year 2004/2005. Plans were also in place to re-possess 5 of the 9 holdings at Windsor Park.
The viability plot established at Frome in 2002 yielded 174.89 tonnes cane at 61.8 tc/ha reaped at 11 months. Field days were held exposing several farmers to techniques used in developing the plot resulting in the generally accepted field condition and performance. Field maintenance after harvesting included the application of 500 kg/ha 17-0-20 fertilizer and moulding. A combination of 2-4D-Amine, Turbutrex and Diuron was used infield and Glyphosate used to spray the edges and intervals. A complete analysis of the records will be done at the end of the project in 2005.
Certification of purchasers and users of pesticides is now becoming law in Jamaica. The Institute, in collaboration with the Pesticide Control Authority (PCA), began training and certification for users of pesticides in a programme to achieve compliance across the Industry. The training covered Safety in using Pesticides, Mixing and Application, Storage, Discarding Empty Containers, and Selection of Chemicals for the Job. Some 140 persons have been certified so far as users of Agricultural Pesticides.
Information Workshops, Field discussions and demonstrations were the main strategies used in imparting technical information to growers, community groups, schools and estate personnel .
Training sessions for students were conducted at the Sydney Pagon Agricultural School in Sugar Cane Agriculture and Field Mechanization.
With the introduction of an adjustment to the cane payment formula, training sessions were conducted with growers and Harvesting Committees to familiarize them with the changes. Emphasis was placed on how farmers would be affected and what they should do to maximise returns.
Fifteen farmers in and around the Crofts Hill Group were selected as participants in a pilot project in Record Keeping, spearheaded by SIRIs Economics Dept. In other areas workshops were held and each component in the record keeping book was discussed, data recorded and information analysed. Some of the topics covered were: The importance of Record Keeping, Cost Management and Budgeting.
8.4 SIRI EXPERIMENT FARM - SPRINGFIELD
The SIRI Springfield Experiment farm was subjected to two periods of severe and prolonged flooding during the growing period of May and September 2002, Table 8.12. In May alone the Farm received over 600 mm and in September a further 540 mm of rainfall. This would have had adverse effect on productivity in the crop harvested in 2003. In contrast, rainfall was much more evenly distributed in 2003 though with a total of 905 mm received, much greater reliance had to be placed on the irrigation water supply which proved to be unreliable and often inadequate, especially for the greater section of the farm served by furrow irrigation. Drip irrigated fields, which received metered water, were more adequately supplied, Table 8.13.
Table 8.12: Springfield Rainfall 1999 - 2003
|No. of||Total||No. of||Total||No. of||Total||No. of||Total||No. of||Total|
|Mth||rainy days||rainfall||rainy days||rainfall||rainy days||rainfall||rainy days||rainfall||rainy days||rainfall|
Table 8.13: Water applied by Drip Irrigation in m3
A total of 7.11 ha were planted during the year. This comprised 3.5 ha of BJ8532 planted in field #1240A and 3.61ha in field #1272 planted to BJ8252 and BJ78100. Both fields were established using reduced tillage technology.
Weed control on the farm continued to be at a satisfactory level. Inter-row cultivation followed by late post-emergent chemical application when necessary gave good results.
All fields were soil and leaf sampled and results used to guide fertilizer use. The soil analyses, Table 8.14, indicated acceptable levels of most nutrients. However, nitrogen levels tended to be low while calcium and magnesium tended to be high.
Table 8.14: Soil Analysis, Crop 2003
The foliar analysis, Fig. 8.6 & 8.7, revealed that for the most part nutrients were within the acceptable range. However, there were a few instances where phosphate levels were low. Also potash values continued to be low in most fields despite an increase of dosage carried out by shifting from the 17-0-17 to 17-0-20 fertilizer blend.
Fig. 8.6: Foliar analysis, experiment farm - Springfield, 2003 (by field)
Fig. 8.7: Foliar analysis, experiment farm - Springfield, 2003 (by variety)
Maturity testing conducted at 11 months, in preparation for harvesting, showed BJ82156, BJ8281 and BJ7465 as the earlier maturing varieties, Fig. 8.8. Cane delivered to the Monymusk factory by the end of the farms harvest on May 15, totalled 2,386.06 t. This was 388.94 t lower than projected and the average yield of 55 tc/ha reflected the impact of severe and prolonged flooding during May and September 2002. The average JRCS for the crop was 11.44 - a n improvement over the 11.04 recorded in 2002, Table 8.15.
Table 8.15: Springfield yield data, Crop 2003
|1240A||2.10||3R||18 – 02 - 03||11.00||70||101.25||48||9.10|
|1240B||2.47||3R||03– 03 03||11.25||140||142.32||58||11.55|
|1241B||1.48||7R||28 – 03 - 03||12.50||120||91.39||62||13.61|
|1242||6.89||5R||26 – 03 - 03||11.00||380||309.81||45||12.36|
|1243||4.31||1R||09 – 04 - 03||11.50||375||272.53||63||11.27|
|1270||3.71||5R||15 – 05 - 03||11.50||200||206.19||56||10.56|
|1271||3.23||2R||08 – 04 - 03||12.00||200||218.23||68||13.04|
|1271B||1.62||3R||15 – 05 - 03||10.25||42||80||113.28||70||10.39|
|1272||4.81||1R||21 – 02 - 03||9.00||300||264.51||55||10.58|
|1273||5.06||1R||05 – 03 - 03||11.00||350||263.91||52||10.78|
|1273A||0.40||3R||08 – 04 - 03||10.00||30||42.65||107||12.28|
|1274||6.94||4R||10 – 04 - 03||12.00||12||380||359.99||52||11.76|
Cattle continued to roam and do considerable damage to the farm at nights. Young fields were particularly damage prone and were often completely eaten down but even fields in advanced stages of growth were sometimes affected. The SCJ rangers were involved in rounding up the herds but the effort was not as sustained as required.
SIRI in conjunction with the Jamaica Association of Sugar Technologists (JAST) hosted an agricultural field day at the farm on April 3. The theme was "Conservation Agriculture", with various aspects of this concept, from reduced tillage to trash blanketing and organic manure use on display. There was also demonstration of various pieces of tillage equipment and a manure spreader. Representatives from a wide cross section of the industry attended and expressed appreciation of the work being done.