Out of the 16,500 Ha of land under sugarcane cultivation in the entire factory area of the south, Omnicane Agriculture owns and manages some 3,000 hectares of land under sugarcane cultivation and around 2,800 hectares harvested annually, Omnicane produces about 225,000 tonnes of sugarcane yearly.
In agriculture, two distinct periods are considered, the crop and intercrop seasons. These occur from June to December, and from January to June respectively.
- The intercrop season is the period where most of the replantation programmes and field maintenance are carried out.
- The crop season concerns the harvest and the crushing of cane by Omnicane Milling Operations.
Sugar is made in the leaves of the sugarcane plant and is stored as a sweet juice in its fibrous stalks. Once planted, the sugarcane crop remains in the field for about 6 to 7 years. Only 12 % of the sugarcane is replanted yearly.
Before cane varieties are selected for cultivation, recommendations from the MSIRI are analysed and the varieties are chosen according to the percentage of early, middle and late maturers as well as the type of soil, climatic conditions and susceptibility to pests and diseases.
Sugarcane is a deep-rooted plant and germination is favoured by a soil environment that has been thoroughly prepared. The main objectives of land preparation are to:
- destroy old cane stubbles
- reduce soil compaction thus improving aeration
- optimise drainage networks
- level the land
- remove rocks
- improve access roads to facilitate traffic
Sugarcane is grown from setts or cuttings that are dropped into furrows. It takes 25,000 cane setts to plant 1Ha of land. Planting is a semi-mechanical process whereby trucks bring the setts to the fields and field workers drop the setts, so they lay horizontally, in the furrows. Machines then cover the furrows with top soil.
Sugarcane requires a substantial amount of water to grow to an optimal size and to produce rich stalks. 25% of the sugarcane fields are irrigated by pivot, dragline or drip irrigation. The other 75% depends on rainfall.
When sugarcane is ready for harvesting it stands about 2 metres tall, this occurs between 14 and 18 months after planting, for the short and long seasons respectively. The harvest takes place between June and December when rainfall is less frequent and the plant's sugar content is at its highest.
Traditionally, the cane was burnt before harvesting to remove leaves and other trash which impeded harvesting and milling. It is now common for sugarcane to be harvested green rather than burnt. Green harvesting allows for the recycling of nitrogen in the plant by leaving trash cuttings in the field. This also keeps the humidity in the soil and reduces the use of herbicides as weeds are significantly decreased.
At Omnicane, 65-70% of the harvesting is done mechanically using specialised industrial equipment. Manual harvesting takes place mainly in areas that are inaccessible to machinery.
During the entire process, rigorous pests and insect control is carried out to ensure that no fields are contaminated or spoilt. The use of resistant varieties of cane also helps to maintain the level of disease to an insignificant threshold.
Good Agricultural Practices
We have a dedicated team of employees who work together to guarantee adequate field planning, land preparation and sustainable planting techniques.
We have adopted good agricultural practices in our operations such as the implementation of effective drainage systems, planting the best cane varieties according to the recommendations of the Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute (MSIRI), and the adoption of the principles of Integrated Pest Management. Management of sugarcane diseases and pests relies essentially on biological control, cultural practices, sound sanitation, use of disease-free planting material and the judicious utilisation of agrochemicals. We also aim to devise weed management strategies to reduce the use of herbicides, and adopt appropriate trash management practices to improve soil fertility and manage pests and erosion.