The Belize sugar industry has been undergoing a transformation of renewed partnerships, refocusing on goals and overall growth in the industry. The goal is to produce 1.5M tons of sugarcane by 2015 and 1.8M tons by 2018. Currently, there is approximately 60,000 acres in production. The sugarcane production has hovered around 1,000,000 tons for the past 20 years giving an average productivity of 18 tons per acre.
The current level of production is unsustainable considering the increased costs of inputs. Increased production levels can be accomplished utilizing the same acreage. Borne from this idea, the industry has taken a policy of replanting. Increasing average productivity to 25 tons/acre yields 1.5M tons.
This policy has created a demand for seed for vegetative propagation. The majority of seed material available is of inferior quality and not conducive to longevity.
In agriculture, success depends on multiple facets. It requires good husbandry from the inception, beginning with proper land preparation, selection of appropriate varieties given the circumstances, uniform variety and also the use of seed free of pests and diseases.
The Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI) has recognized this and has taken the initiative to produce clean seed. The objective is to produce quality seed stock for commercial production ultimately improving sugarcane productivity and quality.
Clean Seed is high quality seed free of disease and pests. It requires a system of multiplication that meets standards that will ensure the final product, commercial seed, is of the quality necessary for the producer. It requires different management practices. The practices are more costly compared to cultivation of commercial cane but will guarantee success of producing higher quality seed.
Quality starting material will ensure good productivity and ultimately success especially in plantations that require multiple harvests with replanting.
This new concept of cane seed requires interested cane farmers to gradually but steadily move from traditional “seed” concept to the clean seed concept.