Near infra-red spectroscopy for nutrient analysis in sugarcane

SASRI continues to evaluate the potential of near infra-red spectroscopy (NIRS) as a rapid, low-cost diagnostic method for the measurement of essential macro- and micronutrients (other than N) in soil and leaf samples.

The latest project findings indicate that NIRS cannot presently replace the current analytical methods used on leaf samples.

However, investigations are ongoing into factors that may improve calibration efficiency, including increased sample size, the use of more sophisticated modelling procedures and grouping of samples by region.

Using UAVs in sugarcane quality management

SASRI is currently assessing the feasibility of using aerial imagery, captured with UAV (drone)-mounted cameras, for rapidly estimating cane quality.

During the first phase of this research, aerial images were captured from numerous multi-location variety trials and assessed for accuracy in estimating cane quality at harvest.

Preliminary analysis shows promise for estimating Brix%, Pol% and RV%. By contrast, Fibre% could not be estimated, and this finding is supported by research conducted elsewhere.

The second phase of this research will establish whether factors such as variety, ripener treatment and location affect the strength of the prediction models.

Chemical ripening on small-scale grower farms

SASRI Extension Specialists held a study session which was focused on the potential use of ripeners by the Gledhow Sugar Mill’s small-scale and land-reform growers.

One of the small-scale growers attending the study session decided to apply a ripener to suitable fields on his farm.

Considering the low cane maturity when the ripener was applied with a drone, this grower achieved noteworthy results, with RVs as high as 13% throughout most of the early- season. Due to high rainfall such high RVs would not have been achieved during 2021 without ripening.

Since he has now experienced first-hand these benefits, this small-scale grower is planning to adopt ripening when conditions are suitable.