Agriculture and Environment: Sugarcane

Environmental Impacts of Production: Effluents

Silt from eroded soils and nutrients from applied fertilisers often foul local water supplies.

Another problem with sugarcane production is nonpoint source pollution of water with pesticides, which is caused either by drift from spraying or by percolation of water through the soil.

Effluents are also created from sugarcane processing. Effluent flows into water supplies, and into important ecological areas such as the Everglades, need to be reduced.

However, corrective measures may have their own environmental costs. From 1980 to the crop year 2000-01, area planted to sugar in Florida increased from 130,000 to 183,000 hectares (320,700 to 460,000 acres). There has even been a 10% increase in the area planted to sugar since 1995.

Shift in production areas
Because of environmental concerns with water quality, large areas previously planted to sugarcane have been reduced from production. Consequently, production has intensified in the remaining area and expanded onto sandy soils, which by 2001 represented 22% of all sugarcane cultivation.

Production in those areas is high initially, but because such soils are easily leached, production can only be maintained over time with increasing applications of fertiliser (University of Florida 2002).


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

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required