New method claimed to increase efficiency, yield besides trimming input costs

Syngenta, the Switzerland-based agri-business company, has launched a new technology to grow sugarcane.

Called Plene, the technology is claimed to increase efficiency in planting, reduce labour and input costs besides increasing yield.

The Swiss firm will initially propagate the technology in Brazil and other South American countries before focussing on Asian countries such as India, China and Thailand.

“It will take at least two years for this technology to be introduced in India. We will have to localise it to suit Indian conditions,” said to Mr Daniel Bachner, Global Sugarcane Head of Syngenta.

New facility

On Wednesday, Syngenta opened a facility for developing the technology.

The company has so far spent $100 million on this 42-hectare campus that houses facilities for producing germplasm, greenhouse treatment, producing sugarcane for seed purpose and treating seeds with chemicals.

“The Plene technology incorporates solutions to herbicides, insecticides and for deriving higher production,” Mr Bachner said.

The technology involves the company producing seedlings from sugarcane, picking the right variety suitable to an area, developing it further in its germplasm laboratory and then putting it through various stress in the greenhouse.

The sugarcane is put through the same process again before it is grown for seed purpose.

Once harvested, the cane is cut in small pieces and then treated with chemicals, turning the cane red in colour.

It is then handed over to the customer for planting on the field.

“In normal circumstances, about 20 tonnes of sugarcane are used for planting on acre with the cane being 40 cm in size. However, in the case of Plene, only two tonnes of sugarcane will be needed and the size of the cane will be 25 cm,” Mr Bachner said.

Uniform size

The technology is claimed to result in uniform size cane that will be free of disease. Since planting under this technology will be done by machine, it will save labour costs significantly.

“Labour costs are high in Brazil, while laws relating to labour are also stringent. This technology will help us to use labour for other productive purpose rather than for planting,” said Mr Bachner.

In this case, the labour will be trained in handling machines and maintain them.

The machine for planting has been developed in collaboration with John Deree, a US farm equipment firm.

Until 2014, the US farm equipment company holds the right to sell the machine to interested growers.

Mr Bachner said that initial results have shown the technology yielding 168 tonnes of sugarcane on a hectare against 135 tonnes in one instance. In another, the yield was0 134 tonnes against 105 tonnes.

Mr Michael Mach, Syngenta Chief Executive Officer, said that the Swiss-based firm would invest many more millions of dollars to meet growing demand for new integrated solutions in sugarcane production.

(The trip was sponsored by Syngenta.)

mrsubramani@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on June 14, 2012)
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