Representatives from Louisiana sugarcane mills heard results from researchers at the LSU AgCenter Audubon Sugar Institute during a factory operations seminar at the AgCenter Sugar Research Station on April 26.
Each spring, researchers from the institute provide the sugar mill management teams their latest research findings that are helpful in the mills’ operations.
Photo: Dr. Sonny Viator, LSU AgCenter (photo by Johnny Morgan).
Some of the topics discussed at the meeting included size-dependent quality of Louisiana bagasse, crystal size analysis, the 2017 molasses survey and a cold-tolerance update.
"Each year, we bring the staff from the 11 mills in to hear the latest research findings and to ask questions,” said Sonny Viator, interim director of the Audubon Sugar Institute.
During his welcome to those in attendance, AgCenter associate vice president Wade Baumgartner explained how important sugarcane is to the state’s economy.
"Sugarcane is the No. 2 row crop in the state, second only to soybeans,” he said. "Sugar comes in behind forestry and poultry, but wood is too hard to eat, and I believe sugar tastes better than chicken.”
Jim Simon, general manager of the American Sugar Cane League, said it’s always good for the industry to interact with the research community.
"We realize the importance of the work done at the Audubon Sugar Institute for the sugar industry,” Simon said. "It takes everyone working together because you can’t have a mill without a grower, and you can’t have a grower without a mill.”
Since 2001, the institute has been analyzing molasses provided weekly by each of Louisiana’s raw sugar factories. These results are used to calculate the purity of the molasses.
Charles Schudmak, chief operations officer of the Cora Texas sugar mill and president of the American Sugar Cane League, said this meeting provides information that the mills can’t generate themselves.
"Audubon is providing critical research as well as sampling and providing us with analytical results that we’re not capable of running in our laboratories,” Schudmak said. "Their work makes us more efficient and increases our capacity.”
"The crystal size analysis is one thing that we can’t generate ourselves, and this is very valuable information for us,” he added.
AgCenter economist Mike Salassi said the AgCenter is currently hosting the 2018 Sugarcane Production School.
"This school, begun in 2017, is designed to educate young farmers in the sugarcane industry about all aspects of the sugarcane business, with the goal of making them better farm managers,” Salassi said.
The school is led by Salassi and AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois.
"Participants meet for two days per month over five months,” Salassi said. "Topics covered include sugarcane agronomy, soils, weed control, entomology, labor, production economics, milling operations, and other aspects of sugarcane production and milling in Louisiana.”