Expert System For Sugarcane

Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative(SSI)

About Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative

  • The major principles that govern SSI can be stated as below

  • Cultivation aspects

  • Fertigation schedule for sugarcane in SSI

  • Comparison between Conventional and SSI methods of Sugarcane Cultivation

Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative

  • The Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI) is yet another practical approach to sugarcane production which is based on the principles of ‘more with less’ in agriculture like System of Rice Intensification (SRI).  SSI improves the productivity of water, land and labour, all at the same time, while reducing the overall pressure on water resources.

  • Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative is a method of sugarcane production which involves using less seeds, less water and optimum utilization of fertilizers and land to achieve more yields.  Driven by farmers, SSI is an alternate to conventional seed, water and space intensive Sugarcane cultivation.

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The major principles that govern SSI can be stated as below:

  • Raising nursery using single-budded chips (conventionally, 2-3 budded sets are used and normally no nursery is prepared).

  • Transplanting young seedlings (25-35 days old), after grading (conventionally, direct planting of 3-budded chips is done). Raising a nursery and grading reduces plant mortality significantly as compared to conventional cultivation.

  • Maintaining wide spacing (5 x 2 feet) in the main field, which reduces the seed requirement by 75% from 48,000 (16000 3-budded chips) to 5000 single-budded chips per acre (conventional spacing is 1.5 x 2.5 ft). Wider spacing supports easy air and sunlight penetration in the crop canopy, leading to better and healthier cane growth. It also allows for easier intercultural operations.

  • Providing sufficient moisture and avoiding inundation of water, whereby 40% of water is saved (conventionally, flooding is practiced). This is significant as sugarcane consumes about 2500L of water per kg of sugarcane produced.

  • Encouraging organic methods of nutrient management and plant protection.

  • Practicing intercropping (which is possible due to wider spacing and non-flooding), thereby increasing effective utilization of land, giving additional income and reducing weed growth by 60%.

  • All of the above practices, lead to increased length and weight of individual canes, and alteast 20-25 tillers/plant and 9-10 millable canes/plant, as compared to 10-15 tillers and 4-5 millable canes in conventional cultivation.

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Cultivation aspects

Bud selection

  • Select healthy canes of 7 to 9 months old with10-12 buds per cane.

  • Remove buds from the selected canes using an implement called Bud Chipper

  • The chipped buds have to be treated with organic or chemical solutions.

  • 450-500 canes per acre is required.

Nursery preparation

  • Take-well decomposed coco-pith. Fill half of each cone in the tray with coco-pith.

  • Place the buds flat or in a slightly slanting position in the cones of a tray.

  • Cover the bud chips in trays completely with coco-pith.

  • Care should be taken to avoid water, air or sunlight entering into the trays by tightly covering and keeping the bundles in shade net or preferably inside a room.

  • Create artificial warmth through electric bulbs if the climate is too cold. This is the most crucial phase of the nursery management.

  • Under proper conditions (especially, warm temperature) within 3 – 5 days, white roots (primodia) will come out and shoots will also appear in next 2 to 3 days.

  • Based on the moisture content of coco-pith, watering to the trays (seedlings) has to be initiated in the evenings for the next 15 days using rose cans.

  • During six leaf stage (about 20 days old seedling), grading of the plants has to be done.

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Main field preparation

The main field preparation in SSI method is similar to that of conventional method. A good land preparation should be done.
a.Removal of residues
Main land preparation for sugarcane starts with clearing the preceding crop residues. Stubbles are to be collected and removed from the field. All residues can be incorporated into soil by a rotavator.
b. Tillage
Tillage operations through tractor drawn implements are most ideal and quick. After one or two initial ploughings, soil must be allowed to weather for a week or two before going for further tillage operations.
c. Addition of organic manures
The SSI method encourages application of organic manure as it enhances the macro and micro nutrient content in the soil in an eco friendly way, helps in optimum utilization of some of the chemical fertilizers and protects the soil from degradation and other hazardous effects.
d. Making furrows and ridges
• Make furrows with a distance of 5 ft in between
• Run a sub-soiler attached to the ridger/plough through the furrow to loosen the soil. This will support proper incorporation of the manure, deep plantation and prevention of lodging.

Fertilizer application

Nutrient management in sugarcane cultivation is very essential for crop growth. It is always better to know the required quantity of nutrients through soil testing and enrich the soil accordingly. If there is no facility for that, then NPK can be applied at the rate of 112 kg, 25 kg and 48 kg per acre, respectively through inorganic or organic methods.


  • The ideal age for transplanting the young seedlings from nursery to the main field is 25 to 35 days.

  • While transplanting to the main field, zigzag method of planting (see picture) can be followed to utilize more space and achieve maximum tillers.

  • Plant to plant distance of 2 ft has to be maintained for easy sunlight penetration and profuse tillering.

  • All the other cultivation practices are same as conventional method.


SSI supports intercropping in sugarcane with crops like wheat, potato, cowpea, french bean, chickpea, water melon, brinjal etc. In addition to effective utilization of land, this practice will reduce the weed growth up to 60% and give extra income to farmers.


A weed-free environment is absolutely essential for efficient intake of nutrients. This can be achieved by:
• Deep ploughing and removal of perennial weeds.
• Hand weedings and mechanical weedings (30, 60 and 90days after planting) are better for long term benefits.

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Trash mulching is important in sugarcane cultivation as it helps in checking the weeds and providing needed moisture. Sugarcane trash can be applied @ 1.5 t/acre within 3days of planting. Similarly, after detrashing the removed leaves can be applied in the interspaces as mulch.

Organic method of cultivation

The SSI method encourages application of organic manure as it enhances the macro and micro nutrient content in the soil in an eco friendly way, helps in optimum utilization of some of the chemical fertilizers and protects the soil from degradation and other hazardous effects.

  • Apply organic manure like FYM/compost/well-decomposed press mud (about 8-10 tonnes/acre).

  • Quantity of organic manure could be adjusted in such a way as to supply 112 kg N/acre through one or more sources depending on their N content.

  • Trichoderma and Pseudomonas (each 1 kg/acre) and Decomposing cultures can be mixed with the organic manures. This will improve the soil fertility to realize higher yields.

Water management

  • Drip irrigation can be practiced effectively in SSI due to wider spacing and raising of single seedlings.

  • It is always better to provide sufficient quantity of water on time rather than flooding the field with enormous amount of water.

  • In conventional flooding method water is always applied more than the biological demand of the crop which may affect the crop growth.

  • After transplantation, the frequency of the irrigation may differ depending on the soil type, age of the crop, rainfall and moisture availability. For sandy soil, the frequency will be more and for clay soil it will be less.

  • Give irrigation once in 10 days during tillering stage (36-100 days), once in 7 days during Grand Growth period (101-270 days) and once in 15 days during Maturity period (from 271 days till harvest)

  • Furrow irrigation helps in proper application and saving of water. Alternate furrow irrigation means irrigating the furrows of odd numbers initially followed by irrigating the furrows of even numbers after 7 to 15 days as per the moisture content and age of the crop. This will ensure saving of water up to 50%.

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Comparison between Flood irrigation and Drip fertigation in SSI


Flood Irrigation

Drip Fertigation

Water Requirement



Duration of irrigation

250 days

250 days

Irrigation Interval

7 days

1 day

Number of irrigation



Water requirement of single irrigation(lit)

6.1 lakhs

0.4 lakhs


92-105 t/ha

150-200 t/ha

Fertilizer Use Effieciency



Benifit Cost Ratio




Earthing up

  • Earthing up means application of soil at the root zone to strengthen the crop stand.

  • Normally two earthing up’s (partial and full) are followed during a crop period.

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Fertigation schedule for sugarcane in SSI:

RDF - 275:63:115 NPK kg/ha Once in 10 days

Stage (Day After Planting)

































Comparison between Conventional and SSI methods of Sugarcane Cultivation


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Harvesting in sugarcane is practiced in collaboration with the industry, in most of the cases, to suit the factory timings. Sucrose content in the plants will reach the desirable level on the 10th month of the one year crop duration, and they will be ready for harvest within the next two months.

Overall benefits

In conventional method, cost of setts occupies the major part of cost of cultivation

By practicing SSI, this seed cost can be reduced up to 75%

Reduction in the plant mortality rate

Increases in the length and weight of each cane

It is easy to transport the young seedlings for longer distance

Intercultural operations can be carried out easily due to wider spacing

Scope of SSI in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu, being the number one state in sugarcane productivity (more than 100 t/ha), has a great potential in SSI.  The following are some of the reasons to foresee the great impact of SSI in Tamil Nadu sugarcane sector.


  • Farmers are very much innovative, eager to take up any new technologies with great enthusiasm and support.

  • SSI will be a suitable option to solve the present problems of increasing seed cost, labour cost and other soil fertility and productivity related issues.

  • Due to wider spacing, intercultural operation becomes easy, thus reducing the drudgery among women labourers.

  • The wider spacing suggested in SSI are ideal in case of introducing Mechanical harvester, an effort already in practice in some of the Mills areas in Tamil Nadu.


SSI involves use of less seeds, less water and optimum land utilization to achieve more yields. It is governed by some principles like using single budded chips, raising nursery, wider spacing, sufficient irrigation and intercropping. By practicing these measures, the following benefits can be realized:

  • Better germination percentage

  • High number of millable canes

  • Reduction in the duration of crop to some extent

  • Increased water use efficiency

  • Improvement in accessibility to nutrients with optimum use of fertilizers

  • More accessibility to air and sunlight

  • Reduction in cost of cultivation and

  • Extra income from intercrops

On the whole, by practicing SSI farmers can very well increase their productivity by reducing the use of inputs like fertilizers and saving the vital resources like water simultaneously. Hence, it is very much possible for sugarcane farmers to reap greater economical benefits by maintaining ecological sustainability.



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