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Barbados is testing a new super
sugar cane variety that promises increased yields and lower overheads.
The trials are taking place at the century-old West Indies Central Sugar
Breeding Station in St George where Dr Tony Kennedy is developing the
high- sugar, high-fibre cane - a combination scientists had previously
thought to be impossible.
"What I've been doing is selecting varieties initially for total
sugars only, but what I noticed inadvertently is that we maintained an
enormous variation for fibre. The fibre ranged from 19 per cent to 10
per cent and sucrose between 27 per cent and 31 per cent," explained
"It used to be thought that you could not have both high fibres
and high sugars because they are antagonistic in a way because the plant
makes energy and divides it between fibre, which is cellulose made of
the same stuff as sucrose (carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen), or it makes
sugar and stores it. As it turns out there are genotypes for a genetic
material quite capable of doing both and we have them in the field here".
Sugar cane varieties so far have either had high sugar and low fibre
or the opposite, or a lower percentage balance of the two.
President of the Barbados Sugar Technologists in Agriculture, Senator
Keith Laurie, said this was a welcome development.
He said that all fibre ended in bagasse which was used as fuel to power
90 per cent of the energy used by sugar factories.
"With less fibre the fuel balance becomes critical. If you upset
the balance by reducing fibre content you may run out of fuel and we have
no supplementary fuel in Barbados," said Laurie.
Director of the station Dr P. Seshagiri Rao, said that the Groves, St-George
institution private-sector organisation founded 113 years ago, had accumulated
the world's largest sugar cane gene bank that makes it possible to create
any type of sugar cane for any purpose. - wether for sugar, molasses,
soft drinks, alcohol, or wood production. Place the order, give them a
minimum of five years and they will mix and match genes to create sugar
By Terry Ally, from the Daily Nation - Barbados