The Dean Lee Research Center outside Alexandria is now the farthest north location for sugar cane planting in the world as scientists try to test the limits of the cash crop.
LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist Ken Gravois says more and more farmers are growing interested in the crop in central Louisiana and elsewhere away from the coast.
“We’re seeing a trend in our sugarcane acreage increasing further west and further north. Right now there’s sugarcane within four or five miles of Alexandria.”
Soybeans and corn tend to dominate acreage the further north you move in Louisiana.
Gravois says it’s not just that the average temperatures are lower in the north, there are also much higher risks of hard freezes which can decimate the tropical crop.
“A freeze is something less than 32 degrees. We really need to get into that 26, 27-degree range for an extended amount of time to see some kind of effect.”
The study crop was planted on August 14th.
Currently, the farthest north commercial sugarcane is grown is in Lecompte, a few miles south of Dean Lee. Gravois says it’s remarkable we’ve even found success that far inland.
“We really shouldn’t be growing sugar cane. It’s a tropical crop and we are a temperate climate over here, but because of breeding we have bred cold and stress tolerance into these varieties.”
Sugarcane prices are considered more stable than grain and soybeans.