As fieldmargin grows, more and more sugar cane producers are contacting us to help them improve their record keeping.
Sugar cane is a tall grass that is used for sugar production. Sugar cane is grown in warm tropical areas of the world, with Brazil, India, Thailand, China, and Australia as the leading global producers of sugar cane.
As well as providing the world with 3/4 of its sugar, cane also has the potential for producing the biofuel with the lowest carbon footprint in the world: sugarcane ethanol. To learn more about this, have a look at this post.
The commercial unit size can vary greatly and communication with advisors for regulation purposes and mills for processing is very important. This has inspired us to put together an article about how fieldmargin can help improve record-keeping for the sweetest of crops.
Sugar Cane Production
Sugar cane has a long growth cycle and needs high temperatures and the right water supply. The crop takes approximately 12-18 months to mature fully. During this time, maintaining the required moisture level, accurately measuring the amount of fertilizer, and responding to pests, weeds, and diseases are all critical for efficient growing.
There was a bit of background … now how can fieldmargin help sugar cane production!
Mapping field areas and recording varieties of sugar cane grown
With fieldmargin you have a mobile app to map your field areas and check field sizes from your phone. Once you have drawn a field on the app, you can view field details by tapping it on the map or selecting it from the field list. Knowing the size of your field will help you to determine how much seed cane you need to buy, and how much capital you will need. Ensure you acquire the best variety of cane to match your land available.
“We use Fieldmargin to easily check field sizes, which allows us to easily plan planting layout as well as accurately calculate the amount of seed necessary”
– Kim Hein, sugar cane producer, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.
Sharing details with extension support and advisors
As part of the sugar industry, there are bursary opportunities available. You also need to share details for regulations.
When you set up and create a fieldmargin farm you can invite others to join and share information. You can invite people to join your phone via email or WhatsApp. All your farm data is automatically synced to the cloud and available on all your team’s devices.
Soil Sampling Records
The success of producing sugar begins with healthy soil.Most soil with good aeration, drainage, and fertilizing is suitable. But it is important to understand the type of soil you are working on and learn how you can take steps to improve it. You can use notes on fieldmarign to keep digital records of the soil sampling that you do. This means that the soil information can easily be accessed on your mobile.
One example of soil preparation for sugar cane is the addition of Lime. Lime should be incorporated into the soil 3 to 6 weeks before planting, this can be done by ploughing or harrowing the field. The amount to apply is based on the soil analysis results.
You can use fieldmargin to record how much lime you have applied. In the example below you can see how field jobs was used to record the amount as part of the field history for records.
Recording planting details of your cane
Sugar cane can be grown from seed or from cuttings. For commercial cultivation it is mostly produced from cuttings transplanted at 2-3 weeks.
Most sugar cane farms have multiple fields – all at different stages of production to ensure that there is always cane available to supply the mill. This means that tracking planting dates of the crop in each field is very important.
Using the mobile app to record sugar cane planting
With planting jobs you can keep a record of when crops have been transplanted. The job can easily be produced as a reports, job sheet and shared also with any advisors.
Use digital maps to track crop age and growth stage
With fieldmargin you can record what is in each of your fields, see them colour coded on the map and get totals for each of your usages. This means you can mark out the year and variety clearly.
Your farm records are grouped into Farm Years. This means that you can switch between views of cropping for different years to check on rotations. You can read more about this in our rotations guide here.
You can also add in photographs as a record of crop progress
Add a photograph to a located pin on your digital farm map. Tag someone and they will receive a notification. Find out how to add photographs to located notes here.
Stop weeds spreading
Weeds attack sugar cane right after it has been planted and can suffocate young shoots before they even have a chance to grow. This means that integrated weed management is critical during the early stages of plant development.
Fortunately for farmers, crops, as they grow tall, can defend themselves against weeds by blocking their access to sunlight. However, while the plants grow, it is necessary to monitor the condition of the fields and eradicate weeds as soon as possible.
Use Field Health imagery to watch vegetation growth remotely
You can remotely observe the sugar cane crop during its early growth when it is at a high risk of weeds using Field Health.
Field Health imagery shows the vegetation level of each field. If the image shows red there is low plant growth, if the image shows green there is high plant growth.
During early crop growth, if the image shows more green areas in the field that are different from normal at the early stages of plant development, this could indicate a problem, such as weeds.
In the image below you can see a problematic area that has uneven sprouting. Using the imagery you know where to go in the field, saving you time and potentially increasing your yield. You might even save money on chemical if you can stop the problem before it spreads.
Record any chemical use use
Sugar cane producers work with programs such as the Smartcane Best Management Practice (BMP), to make sure that the use of pesticides is safe. This includes the risk of contamination of water bodies, soils, and fields close by.
You can use spray jobs on fieldmargin to keep a record of what has been sprayed and calculate how much product you need.
When you make a spraying job on fieldmarign the products you use are linked to the pesticide database. This means that you can store the product number for any audits you might have.
Recording fertilizer details
To grow healthy sugar cane plants, you will need to provide constant access to nitrogen, potassium, sulfur, and, to a lesser extent, phosphorus and zinc.
Requirements for various elements change as the crop grows. This means that you need to add different amounts of fertilizer depending on the stage of plant growth and the quantity of the element in the soil.
🚜 If you fertilizer at the wrong time or in excess, it can result in fertilizer burn. You should also not apply when the field has weeds, this will just increase weeds and the potential for disease and pests.
With fieldmargin, you have sugar cane age data available on the map. This means when you plan out the fertilizer jobs on mobile you have the information you need to hand. With fertilizer jobs on fieldmargin you can have:
- more accurate ordering
- easy access to crop-age
- easy access to soils analysis
💰This can really have a positive impact on the farm’s financial bottom line. In the future, there will even be the option for variable rate application methods as well.
Scouting for disease and recording locations
Sugar cane yield is impacted by many diseases. These vary by country and region and include red rot, grassy shoot, and wilt.
You can use fieldmargin as a tool for recording plant issues during your crop walking. Quickly record issues spotted when field walking, use your phone location to drop a pin or draw a shape, and walk around a problem area.
When you make a note or comment the location, date, and time is saved. You can also tag an advisor in it to ask for advice.
Tracking job progress (such as pruning) with your team
Throughout the season there are lots of jobs involved in sugar cane production. A job you have to complete regularly is pruning. When sugar cane is actively growing, it can spread in various directions. In this case, it is preferable to prune a plant, removing excessively branched side shoots and wilted leaves.
You can use jobs on fieldmargin to track fields that need to be done. When you make a Field job you can attach multiple fields and mark them complete one by one. When a job is completed people that are tagged in it receive a notification.
“The app is really useful because we already have a lot of things happening. As well as a great tool for planning, having fieldmargin for the daily management of tasks has helped in being able to look over what has been done.”
– Bruce Gibson, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa
Monitor weather conditions and irrigations
Keeping an optimal soil moisture level is just as important as light and warmth to grow healthy crops with a high yield. 💧
Sugar cane needs to be watered regularly and has well-drained soil.
During the growing season, the water requirement for sugar cane cultivation is 1500-2500 mm of rainfall (on average 25-50 mm per week). At the same time, too much rain and moisture stop the plants’ growth and can result in lower sugar levels. Too much moisture can also increase fungal diseases, and increase cane rot.
We can’t control the weather but we can help in a few practical ways 👇
Monitor water availability for your crops with rain gauges monitoring sites
You can easily record and analyse rain data in fieldmargin using data on monitoring sites. Instead of using paper or notebooks, you can add readings directly to a phone. The data is saved on the cloud and shared instantly.
Forecasts and past rainfall data (when available) from government monitoring stations can be from very far away from your farm. Having a local rain gauge to measure rainfall drastically improves the accuracy of rain data.
Map out your irrigation
If there isn’t enough rain in your area to grow crops, you’ll have to maintain an irrigation system. Sugar cane is a row crop and can be grown under virtually any irrigation system. The most commonly used are surface furrow irrigation, sprinklers on a grid pattern, centre pivot irrigators, and drip systems.
You can use features on fieldmargin to map out your irrigation system. This means you can accurately measure areas for working out irrigation requirements. This will mean that you can save money by being more accurate when ordering supplies.
“Features have allowed us to monitor workload and progress during larger projects such as clearing land or building new irrigation systems,”
– Liam Highcock, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa
Keep irrigation records
You can record also record irrigation use on your farm with Field Jobs and Comments. When you add a comment the time and date are saved. This can be exported as a report if needed.
Modern (and mobile) harvest records
There are two ways that sugar cane can be harvested – manually or mechanized. With the traditional burning method, there are concerns about the environmental damage from straw burning. In Australia, harvesting has been fully mechanized for 40 years. As well as this, the largest sugar cane producing states in Brazil are committed to achieving full mechanization of production by 2031.
The mechanized harvest – involves a machine extracting the cane as it travels across the field, whilst loading it into a truck. Mechanized harvesting reduces the time of an average harvest by up to three-quarters, from 24-36 hours to only 6-12 hours. This increase in efficiency for the harvest means higher sucrose yields and larger profits for the plantations. It is a more efficient operation to take the cane to the mill.
When sugar cane is harvested, it’s cut just above the root level so new sprouts will grow, ready to be harvested again in 10–12 months. This means that the cane sugar does not need to be re-planted, as only the top of the plant is removed during harvest.
Use Harvesting jobs to keep everyone on the same page
Harvest time can mean lots of new people (contractors, students, seasonal harvest workers) on the farm. Make a plan of what order you will want to harvest in using the Harvesting job.
- Select “Add a field job”
- Set Harvesting as the job type on your Field Job
- Select the fields to be harvested
- Add an output detail
- Add a planned date for harvest
- Tag team members so it becomes part of their to-do list
As you complete the jobs you can also record the yield from the field
Use yield report to compare block efficiency
You can access yield reporting by going to the reporting tab on the web app and clicking on Yield Report. This will show you a table with the yield for each of your fields, grouped by input, and the total yield of each output.
More useful features coming soon! Help us develop an app that is the complete tool.
We love talking to our users about features we can add that will make the app more useful. In particular, we are interested to learn more about how we can help with sugar cane production. Are you interested in a product demo? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
“We have been using fieldmargin since 2019 and the app has been continuously improved with new features making it even more indispensable to our operation. Highly recommended!”
– A. Weaver, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa
You can find more information about reporting with fieldmargin on our website. Farm Reporting, Nutrient Planning and link to the Pesticide Database is a PLUS feature. You can upgrade to Plus here or start a 14-day free trial here.