Sugar Processing: Growing

Fields Mill

Sugar cane grows best in warm, sunny, frost-free weather. It needs fertile, well-drained soil and around 1,500 millimetres of water each year from rain or irrigation supplies. These ideal conditions are found along the Queensland coastline where about 6,500 canegrowers operate sugar cane farms.

In Queensland more than 400,000 hectares of land is devoted to cane farming. Most farms range in size from 20 to 70 hectares.

Sugar is made in the leaves of the sugar cane plant by a natural process called photosynthesis and is stored as a sweet juice in its fibrous stalks.

Sugar Cane

Sugar cane is grown from setts or cuttings which are planted by special machines. These machines cut the mature sugar cane stalks into lengths of about 40 centimetres, drop them into furrows, add fertiliser and cover them with soil.

After a few weeks new shoots grow from buds on the joints of the setts and break through the surface of the soil. Up to 12 stalks grow from each sett, forming what is called a stool of sugar cane. The crop is cultivated to control weeds and let air and water into the soil.

Ongoing research into cane growing practices aims to improve land use, produce new and improved cane varieties, advance farm machinery and improve irrigation and drainage methods.