Consensus Document on the Biology of Sugarcane (Saccharum spp.)

Sugar is commercially produced from either sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) or sugarcane (Saccharum spp.). Sugarcane is a tall-growing monocotyledonous crop that is cultivated in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, primarily for its ability to store high concentrations of sucrose, or sugar, in the stem. Modern sugarcane cultivars that are cultivated for sugar production are founded on interspecific hybrids between Saccharum spontaneum and S. officinarum (Saccharum spp.) that were then subjected to repeated backcrosses to S. officinarum. Commercial varieties in use today are typically generated by crosses between other commercial or pre-commercial hybrids. Sugarcane is an ancient crop and its use as a garden crop dates back to around 2500 BC. The centres of origin for the ancestral species giving rise to sugarcane are thought to be Papua New Guinea, China and India. At present sugarcane is grown as a commercial crop primarily in South America (e.g. Brazil, Colombia and Argentina), North/Central America (e.g. Mexico, USA, and Guatemala), Asia (e.g. India, China and Thailand), Africa (e.g. South Africa, Zimbabwe and Egypt), Australia and the Pacific islands. Cultivation practices vary throughout the world, but this document aims to outline the main features of sugarcane cultivation. Sugarcane in this document refers to the Saccharum spp. hybrids as described above. The information presented is that which is available for each country after a comprehensive literature review.