Agriculture and Environment: Sugarcane

Better Management Practices: Reduce Wastes & Effluents

Sugar processing wastes can also be treated so that they have far fewer harmful impacts.

For example, before it is released to streams or waterways sludge can be treated with microorganisms ("activated") so that it decomposes more quickly. Microorganisms already exist that can be used to accelerate decomposition.


A redesign of holding lagoons would allow them to be activated more easily for early and rapid decomposition. The treated effluent could then be returned (pumped) back to the soil both as a fertiliser and a source of energy for soil microorganisms.

Alternative uses of processing wastes
Bagasse is another 20 metric tons of organic matter that is produced per hectare. Fibre represents almost 50% of the biomass of bagasse. This fibre could be used to make paper (as is already done in India), or alternatively for cement board additives. Sugarcane produces a fibre harvest once a year.

But sugarcane plantations in any given area tend to be harvested over much of the year. If sugarcane came to be used as a fibre, it is not clear whether the sugar or the fibre would have the highest value.

Credits

Extracts from "World Agriculture & Environment" by Jason Clay - buy the book online from Island Press

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