What is Green Harvesting?

Green Harvesting is accomplished by using mechanical harvesters to mechanically separate the sugarcane leaves and tops from the sugar-bearing stalk — no burning is required. All modern mechanical harvesters used by developed sugarcane growing nations have the ability to green harvest sugarcane, including the mechanical harvesters used in Florida.

Where practiced, sugarcane trash is either left on the soil to be used as mulch, or it is separated and collected to be utilized along with bagasse (the waste product left over after sugarcane refining) to produce electricity, biofuels, biochar, tree free paper products, cattle feed, disintegrant for medicine and more.

Research on green harvesting has shown that this harvesting method can provide numerous agronomic, environmental, and economic benefits including:

• Reduced soil oxidation and increase in soil matter to combat soil erosion
• Increased nutrient cycling leading to increased soil fertility
• Increased carbon sequestration
• Reduced herbicide and chemical fertilizer costs
• Increased soil water retention thus reducing runoff pollution into nearby waterways
• Reduction of air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
• Increased soil microbial life leading to higher overall biodiversity
• Improved public health in surrounding communities
• Increased feedstock for green electricity, biofuels, and other sustainable products

The Florida sugarcane industry can overcome increased transportation and harvesting costs associated with green harvesting and the handling of extra biomass by:
• Eliminating the policy of penalizing farmers for sugarcane trash delivered to sugar mills for processing along with cane billets
• Investing in the installation of detrashing units which not only separate and collect sugarcane trash from cane billets (to be utilized to create electricity, biochar, or for other economic uses) but also provides for increased milling efficiency and profits
• Investing in baling equipment to collect trash not used for mulch
• Allow time for soils to adapt and benefit from increased nutrients absorbed from trash that can reduce herbicide and fertilizer costs and increase fertility over time
• Managing trash in a manner best suited to Florida’s soil and climatic conditions as recommended by green harvesting experts
• Partner with UF IFAS to develop the breeding of sugarcane cultivars best suited to green harvesting in Florida

Green Harvesting Agronomic Research

Harvest management effects on sugarcane growth, yield and nutrient cycling in Florida and Costa Rica:  http://bit.ly/2qAokg7 

Time for a transition from pre-harvest burning of sugarcane to green cane harvesting in the Everglades Agricultural Area:  http://bit.ly/2dGFPT9 

Sediment and nutrient loading from sugarcane fields in south Louisiana: Effect of residue management:  https://www.jswconline.org/content/74/5/477 

Quantifying The Loss of Nutrients From the Immediate Area When Sugarcane Residues Are Burnt:  https://bit.ly/34rPf06 

Soil aggregation and carbon stabilization in burn and no-burn sugarcane management systems: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0001-37652018000502459 

Green Alternatives to Sugarcane Pre-Harvest Field Burning:  http://bit.ly/2rgcomj 

Growth and yield responses of commercial sugarcane cultivars to mulching in the coastal rainfed region of South Africa:  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02571862.2016.1148787 

Impact of sugarcane trash on fertilizer requirements for São Paulo, Brazil:  http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0103-90162013000500009