Generally speaking, it takes anywhere between 9-24 months, depending on certain factors such as climate, soil, and other conditions which can shorten or lengthen the time it takes sugar cane to grow.
Ideal planting and growing conditions, as well as an ideal climate, can significantly reduce the time it takes for sugar cane to fully grow, as well as increasing the amount of sugar produced by the sugar cane plant.
Growing Sugar Cane
What Is Sugar Cane?
Sugar cane is a type of perennial grass, native to parts of both Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. It grows most commonly and most effectively in areas with tropical climates and warm temperatures.
Sugar cane plants typically grow to a height of two to six meters when fully grown. Sugar cane is grown for the sugar sucrose found within its stalk.
Nowadays, four main species of sugar cane are interbred to form a rather large hybrid form of the plant which is used amongst commercial manufacturing in order to produce roughly 75% of the world’s sugar.
Sugar cane plants are most frequently planted by hand during the months of late August to July.
The climate of a given area is often the most important factor in determining how quickly sugar cane can fully grow. It grows much better in tropical climates.
A hot and sunny growing season with moderate to high levels of rainfall, followed by a cooler and drier harvest season produces the best ideal results for growing sugar cane.
The better the climate, the larger the amount of sugar that is typically produced within the stalk of the plant that can eventually be harvested.
As a result of this desired climate at which sugar cane most effectively grows, most sugar cane is grown in areas such as Hawaii, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and several other states along the Gulf Coast.
Planting is typically the most expensive part of the growing procedure. Stalk sections containing numerous buds are planted and begin developing and starting to root. Sugar cane plants are much more susceptible to rotting and weeds during this time and they are often treated with insecticide and/or fungicide before actually being placed in a seedbed.
Plant fields for sugar cane are typically replanted around every 2-4 years. This is because the second round of stalks, called a ratoon, will begin to grow from the old stalks after the first harvest.
Cultivation as well as herbicides are used to control weeds in a field or plantation. Sometimes, additional fertilizer can also be required to aid in the growing process of sugar cane plants.
Moderate levels of water are ideal, too little or too much water does not produce the best results.
Growing sugar cane does not restrict you to one particular type of soil. Sugar cane can grow in a variety of soil types, including loamy, sandy, and clay soils.
It can take between 9-24 months for sugar cane to harvest, depending primarily on the climate of the area in which it was planted.
The primary crop is harvested once, and then the next round of stalks, known as ratoons, are able to produce 3-4 additional harvests of the same original crop before you need to plant totally new sugar cane stalks again.
The process of ripening can often take up to 3 months. It is during this time in which the stalk of the sugar cane plant is able to begin drying out and begins the process of synthesizing and then storing sugar within the stalk. Fructose, among other simple sugars, is then converted into sucrose during ripening time.
Sugar cane fields are often harvested by harvesters which are mounted on tracks instead of wheels because of how muddy and moist the fields usually are when it is finally harvesting time.
The harvesters begin to stand up the stalks of sugar cane before cutting them a few inches above the ground. As previously mentioned, these stalks will regrow for numerous harvests without needing to be replanted and will continue to produce stalks of sugar cane.
Previously-harvested stalks of sugar cane are then collected and transported to a raw sugar mill. Here, numerous samples of the sugar content are taken to determine the overall quality, and thus the price of the sugar provided. Several other steps are taken at the sugar mill to extract the sucrose, or raw sugar, from the sugar cane itself.
At this point, the raw sugar is then taken to a refinery where it ends up being washed, crystallized, dried, and packaged before it can finally be distributed as the final product.
While the typical amount of time that it takes for a sugar cane plant to fully grow ranges from 9-24 months, there are numerous factors that can end up affecting and determining the time it takes for sugar cane to fully grow, the amount of sugar that each stalk produces, as well as the quality of the sugar itself.
These factors include the climate of the area in which the sugar cane stalks were planted, the soil in which they were planted, the amount of water or rainfall that the plant gets over the course of growing, the amount of fertilizer used, and the amount of pesticide and herbicide used.
The start to finish process of planting sugar cane stalks to finally having the end result, pure sugar, can be a lengthy one. Sugar cane is planted in a warm and typically tropical climate, where it grows for several months.
Several more months are required to allow the sugar cane to ripen before being harvested. When it is finally time to harvest, harvesters cut and collect all of the sugar cane stalks, before taking them to a sugar mill where the raw sugar is extracted from the plant.
The raw sugar is then finally taken to a refinery, where it is washed, crystallized, dried, and packaged, and is now the final product which you see on the shelves of every grocery store.