Thailand’s cane and sugar industries have for several years developed so much that they are sufficiently competitive in the world market. Presently, Thailand is ranked the 2nd sugar exporter of the world, following Brazil, and ‘sugarcane’ is central for constant research and development to increase products and improve their quality before providing it to local farmers. Recently, the Office of the Cane and Sugar Board (OCSB) has introduced 4 newly developed cane species: Foi Thong (AA142224-028), Thong Ek (CSB11-303), Thong Yod (CSB11-612) and Thong Yib (CSB11-615). All of them feature good products with sweetness of as high as 13-14 CCS, thus ideal for planting in the northeast, the north and the central parts of the country. The cultivars are being propagated and it is expected that within a couple of years Thai sugarcane growers can plant them throughout Thailand.
‘Sugarcane Cultivars’ are the beginning of successful cane and sugar industries in Thailand because they are fundamental technologies and accessible easily among local farmers. Good cane species mean good products with high values. In terms of appropriate plantation location, governmental sectors play a major role in researching for new sugarcane cultivars to accommodate needs to replace the existing ones. Therefore, Sugar Asia was honored to discuss about the issue with Mr. Prasit Vongsateam, the director of Cane, Sugar and Related Industry Division, and Mr. Thawat Hamarn, the Scientist Senior Professional Level and Chief Officer of the Sector. The main topic discussion includes the origin of the 4 sugarcane cultivars development as well as future directions for OCSB’s sugarcane research and development which will be able to enhance capacities of the world market competitiveness.
Research Background of 4 New Alternative Canes
According to Mr. Thawat, individual research and development of sugarcane cultivars normally takes 12-14 years until a single one come up for sugarcane growers to plant. However, the OCSB, with cooperation of Kasetsart University’s Kampaeng Saen Campus, has developed various knowledge paradigms to improve sugarcane cultivars, thus reducing time for cultivars improvement to 8-10 years until new cultivars were obtained to replace the existing ones which are weak and prone to diseases and pests. The new sugarcane cultivars also serve the needs of sugarcane growers.
Formerly, there were not many sugarcane cultivars favored by sugarcane growers, so they had no choice. After planting them for a period of time, the sugarcane was found unable to yield crops with expected products and quality as the plant could not adjust itself to every area of plantation. Moreover, it was prone to diseases and pests. As a result, needs occurred for new cultivars of sugarcane to replace the old ones.
Lately, the cane and sugar committee, at the meeting on 13 January 2021, resolved to declare officially 4 sugarcane cultivars with titles similar to Thai sweets so that people can recognize them easily as the titles symbolize sweetness.
Alternative Cane as Alternative Choice for Local Farmers
Foi Thong (AA142224-028), a hybrid of K84-200 x 85-2-352 with sweetness of 12.5-13.5 CCS, can grow well in sandy soil. However, it is not suitable for lowland but well in drained areas. It does not give any flowers although it is not easily broken. Since it is easily harvested, Foi Thong can grow well in the northeast. If it is planted in a rainy zone, it yields around 20 tons per Rai while it yields around 25 tons per Rai if it is planted in an irrigated zone.
Thong Ek (CSB11-303), an open hybrid of H47-4991 with sweetness of 13-14 CCS, can be planted in clay loam or sandy soils. Like Foi Thong, it does not give any flowers and is not easily broken. An ideal for the central part of Thailand as well as the northeast and the north. It yields 18-20 tons of crop per Rai.
Thong Yod (CSB11-612), an open hybrid of K99-209 with sweetness of 12-13 CCS, can be grown in clay loam soil. Since it is not easily broken and does not yield any flowers, it may not be suitable to plant in the northeast. It yields 18-20 tons of crop per Rai in general.
Thong Yib (CSB11-615), an open hybrid of K99-209 with sweetness of 12-13 CCS, can be planted in clay loam soil. Although it is not easily broken and does not yield any flowers, it is somewhat prone to diseases and must be planted in a well-irrigated zone. It yields 16-18 tons of crop per Rai.
OCSB: Crucial Mechanism to Mobilize Thailand’s Cane Species Research
“The OCSB major mission concerns improvement and promotion of cane species for local farmers for the benefits of the country’s cane industry. The cane species used by local farmers changed in terms of time and popularity, such as from K88-92 to LK92-11. Nowadays, the Khon Kaen 3 one introduced by the Department of Agriculture is favored by over 90% of local farmers throughout the country,” explained Mr. Prasit.
Nonetheless, if only individual cane species are planted in all areas, risks to diseases and pests will become high, affecting the number of canes for extraction and national amount of granulated sugar produced in Thailand. New cane species have to be found so that farmers have a choice for their own area to replace the existing ones, resulting in sustainability for local cane and sugar industries.
Future Directions for OCSB’s Cane Research and Development
Mr. Prasit said that the OCSB’s Secretary General Mr. Ekapat Wangsuwan had already given policy on sugarcane cultivars research and development along with sugarcane cultivars promotion as a working guideline with an emphasis on using modern technology for sugarcane cultivars research and development. Also, Mr. Ekapat encouraged using new innovations to reduce time for sugarcane cultivars improvement from 12-14 years to 8-10 years together with selection of cane species with distinctive features regarding higher products and quality than the existing ones. The new cultivars should accommodate using of agricultural machines and decreasing number of labors while promoting zero burn during the harvest together with sugarcane production under conditions of unpredictable environment, namely drought and floods. Besides, in the future, the OCSB will focus on other alternative industries, such as sugarcane for biomass energy. Also, it emphasizes the importance of a network of local cane farmers who would like to learn about sugarcane cultivars and a network for sugarcane distribution launched by entrepreneurs and sugar mills so that alternative sugarcane cultivars are widely and thoroughly given to local farmers in replacement of old ones.
In other words, the 4 new alternative sugarcane are a part of success in using technology and innovations to research and develop sugarcane cultivars by the OCSB with cooperation of academic sectors, sugar mills and sugarcane growers who jointly mobilized a new option for Thai farmers. More importantly, it helps sustain Thailand’s sugarcane industry from collapsing due to mundane sugarcane cultivars in the country.
Anyone interested in the 4 new sugarcane cultivars can contact the OCSB because the organization has a plan to distribute them in Thailand via sugarcane growers, networks and sugar mills. It is expected that, in the next 2-3 years, all Thai sugarcane growers will have access to alternative sugarcane cultivars without any problems.