In embarking on the era of Agriculture 4.0, Phetchabun cane growers are turning towards a “new cane cultivation technique,” in which single-budded cane setts are each planted in individual holes. As only 400 grams of these setts are needed per one rai, farmers can save four times as much cost.
At the Phetchabun Sugarcane Planters Association, located at Moo 13 Sa Kruad Sub-district, Si Thep District, Phetchabun, Mr. Thanom Phothikul, the Chairman, trained cane growers in the new technique in anticipation of Agriculture 4.0, where conventional agriculture will give way to modern farming methods that place emphasis on management and the use of technology, as well as shared knowledge on creating nursery plots for major cane varieties.
Mr. Somsak Jantararoungtong, Secretary General of the Office of Cane and Sugar Board (OCSB), presided over the session and gave a lecture on making nursery plots for major cane varieties to reduce costs and increase yield.
Saplings of a high-quality cane variety (KPK 98-51), jointly developed by OCSB and Kasetsart University under the development project for the improvement of cane varieties and the development of comprehensive cane production management systems, were given to the attending cane growers. For this first session, a total of 300,000 plants were given out, with each farmer receiving about 700, for further propagation. The project aimed to equip these farmers with the knowledge and quality cane species that they required in order to start appropriate cane nurseries. If all the 300,000 saplings are planted, the program will be able to produce the cane species by as much as 210 tons in weight.
Mr. Thanom Phothikul, the Chairman of the Phetchabun Sugarcane Planters Association, said, “after harvesting and delivering their cane to crushing mills, farmers would begin to replant cane as they had always done. They would use either labor or cane planters to plant cane setts and would require as much as two tons of cane setts for an area of one rai. However, with this new approach, in which single-budded cane setts are planted into individual holes, only 400 kilograms of these stalks would be needed, which could help farmers save four times as much cost.”
Cane setts planted this way have also shown higher rates of surviving and maturing fully for harvesting. More importantly, the KPK 98-51 species has been developed to suit the planting environment and is capable of yielding as much as 17 tons per rai on average, compared to the previous 8-11 tons of output per rai. This program will cane farmers in Phetchabun access to advanced cane species improvement technology and a cost-competitive high-yield cane variety that will enhance the security of their profession and livelihood.
Cane is considered a vital economic crop of Phetchabun; a total area of over 500,000 rai is dedicated to its plantation, with a trend of continuous expansion. Currently, the most significant problem for cane cultivation in Thailand is low yield. The national average of 10-12 tons per rai is relatively low compared to that of its rival countries, which ratchets up production costs per ton and in turn diminishes the competitiveness of Thai cane. One of the reasons for this problem lies in the limited number of suitable cane varieties available.
As the cane variety improvement process can be lengthy, most cane farmers resort to non-pure varieties. Also, the varieties that they have been using for a long time may deteriorate in quality and in turn negatively impact the yield and quality of the harvest. The goal of this year’s has been readjusted to place a greater emphasis on technology and resulted in a cane variety suitable for the plantation environment. This also marks the first time that the new method of planting budded stalks is applied to the area.