Growing sugar cane



The best climate for the sugar-cane is that of tropical or sub-tropical regions. Although sometimes grown in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky, it cannot be depended upon as a crop farther north than Louisiana. The principal varieties of the plant are the Creole, called also Malabar, the Otaheite, and the Batavian.

The plants are, in our Southern States, put in between January and March; October is the season for gathering the crop. At that time the slips or cuttings are selected for setting out, as the cane is never grown from seed. On general principles we venture to suggest that final deterioration is probable in any plant which is never renewed from seed.

For planting, after breaking up the land, furrows are run four, six or eight feet apart; in these the slips, each having several joints, are laid, from two to five feet apart, and covered not very deeply. The spaces between the rows are ploughed or hoed well. In Louisiana three crops will successively follow from a single planting; in the West Indies one laying will last from ten to twenty years. The yield of sugar to the acre is from 500 to 5000 or more lbs. to the acre; never more than 2000 in this country.

When ripe the canes are cut down close to the ground and stripped of the leaves, which are left to shelter the roots through the winter. This trash is now and then burned or ploughed under. The lowest part of the cane is richest in sugar. All parts of the plant make good fodder.

As soon as cut the canes should be taken to the mill, before fermentation sets in. There are many kinds of mills in use, from the simplest to the most powerful steam apparatus. In them all the canes are crushed repeatedly, so that the juice runs out below; but a great deal of sugar yet remains in the bagasse. The crude syrup contains various impurities, and should be at once strained through copper or iron wire into the clarifying vessels. Then it is boiled for concentration, lime being added in just sufficient quantity to neutralize the free acid, which is known by its no longer reddening litmus paper. The heat used should not be more than is necessary for boiling. In about twenty-four hours crystalization begins. The molasses is then drained out from hogsheads bored at the bottom. This process requires from three to six weeks before it is fit for shipping, but it continues to deposit or drip molasses for some time afterwards. Refining or whitening the sugar is performed in various ways, the most useful agent for the purpose being animal charcoal or bone-black.





Return to The Household Cyclopedia of General Information