B80689: The Champ of our Sugar Cane VarietiesSeptember 4, 2020 8:21 pm
The starting point
In 2016 we found there was nigh-on any cane being grown on the island. We had a clean sheet giving us an opportunity to start afresh our cane propagation from famous varieties by tissue culture for ultimate hygiene, the raw material which was supplied by the West Indies Central Sugar Cane Breeding Station (WICSCB).
Our goal was to match-make different varieties to the diverse landscapes, soil types and microclimates of our farms. So, not a case of “one size fits all” but rather tailoring the varieties to our individual farms, what might work well in one field might not necessarily be suitable for another. With this diversity came the ability to maximize the quality of the cane grown and, as a result, the quality of rum distilled from it.
After much research we sourced six different high-performance sugarcane varieties: B63118, B5992, B69566, B77602, B89447 and B80689. We have cultivated these varieties for four years now first of all in nursery cane fields and then planting them on our ten farms across the island. With the Renegade Rum Distillery nearing completion and raring to distill the essence of our sugar cane into rum, it’s an opportune time to introduce each of our varieties and share our observations of growing these.
This being Grenada where many of us customarily go by nicknames, it didn’t take long for our sugarcane varieties to receive a local moniker. Easier to remember, these names also add a sense of character to the different sugarcane varieties we grow. One of our team’s all-time favourite variety – B80689 – has been christened Lacalome Red.‘Lacalome’ after the area where we first started growing this variety. ‘Red’ for its reddish to brownish appearance, especially when the cane shoots are still young. We grow this variety across almost all our farms including The Nursery, Old and New Bacolet, La Sagesse, Hope, Dunfermline, River Antoine and Pearls. With 49.5 acres covered out of approximately 180 acres cultivated, Lacalome Red makes up around 27.5% of our overall mix of varieties.
Introduced to Trinidad in the 1990s and to Barbados around 1995, the variety has found popularity in both countries. We introduced this variety in 2016 and it has quickly become a favored “go-to” sugarcane for its ease of germination and cultivation. High in yield and sucrose content, Lacalome Red is a prolific plant and a very sweet sugarcane variety. It also possesses great drought tolerance. Where other varieties struggle under drier conditions, especially on sloped and dry terrain that we have here in Grenada, Lacalome performs remarkably well. It grows slowly, but still reaches maturity early without any flowering. Once it grows tall, it is free-trashing and stays nicely erect, which makes it an ideal candidate for mechanical harvesting.
To top it off, Lacalome Red is also highly disease resistant. Pests like smut, yellow spot and Pokkah Boeng – a windborne fungal disease – barely affect this variety. Some of our other varieties across different farms have been attacked now and again by aphids causing fungal sooty mold, not so Lacalome Red. On our New Bacolet farm we observed sooty mold on another variety in an adjacent field to Lacalome Red. Only a 20-feet distance from the locus of pest away but not a stain in sight on Lacalome Red. It’s easy to see why our teams have come to regard Lacalome Red as the champ amongst our different sugarcane varieties.
If this variety has any weakness, it’s that it doesn’t ratoon very well after its third crop. While generally speaking it is great that Lacalome Red is free-trashing, which gives it a clean appearance, this can also produce a heavy trash blanket which can pose an issue for harvesting under wet conditions. The leaves of Lacalome Red are also lined with cactus-like, menacing, little prickles, however, under damp conditions these soften making it easier for our workers to handle this cane variety. The fibre content of this variety is low, which supposedly makes it susceptible to getting chewed on by rats, but so far this has not been an issue for our champ – Lacalome Red.