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Full text of "A primer on the cultivation of sugar cane. Elementos sobre el cultivo de la caña dulce en Filipinas .."

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OF ' 









Perito en Agricultura Tropical. 






, I I 5 



Letter of transmittal 4 

Introduction 5 

Location of the farm 5 

Soil conditions , 6 

Soil fertility 7 

Preparation of the soil : 9 

Breaking the soil 9 

Selection of seed cane 11 

Planting 12 

After-treatment 12 

Harvesting the crop 14 

Management of stubble 14 

Drainage and irrigation 15 

Conclusion 17 

Supplement: Growing sugar cane in Hawaii :. 18 



SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith, and to recommend for 
publication as a Farmers' Bulletin, the manuscript of a paper on "The 
cultivation of sugar cane." 

The importance of the sugar industry to these Islands can hardly be 
overstated. At the present time it furnishes all the sugar required for 
domestic consumption and a surplus for export, which, in 1900 amounted 
to 143,719,971 pounds valueu at $2,397,144, and, with the exception of 
hemp, this industry gives employment to more of our rural population 
than any other branch of agriculture. Diminished cane areas, dimin- 
ished crops, and diminished profits entail suffering in the rural districts 
that extends far beyond the landed proprietor or owner of a sugar estate. 
Abandoned cane fields and idle mills throughout the Archipelago indicate 
a depression of such magnitude as to render it incumbent upon this 
Bureau to do everything in its power to remedy these conditions. 

The causes producing the present depression in the sugar industry, 
other than those resulting from the prevailing financial conditions and 
excessive rates of interest on mortgage loans, are to be found both upon 
the farm and in the mill. The present practices plainly indicate a lack 
of knowledge of certain fundamental principles in cane cultivation, and 
the purpose of this paper is to place before the cane grower in compact 
form the elementary information essential to the success which lies 
within his reach. 


Expert in Tropical Agriculture. 

Chief, Insular Bureau of Agriculture. 



Upon most modern estates the manufacture of sugar is carried on in 
connection with the growing of the cane, but this is not always the case, 
and cane growing alone may be profitably followed by those who have no 
milling plant, but who must deliver their crop to the nearest crushing 
mill. 1 The conditions for profitable returns are exceptionally favorable 
upon these Islands; the climate can not be surpassed, the cane soils are 
unequalled, there is abundant water supply, the facilities for transporta- 
tion by water are unusually good, while the difficulties of land transpor- 
tation will be quickly overcome by the successful planter. It must be the 
aim of the cane grower to produce upon a given area the maximum of 
both tonnage and quality in order to secure the greatest profit. This can 
only result from a judicious selection of land, both as to location and soil, 
a careful selection of the most productive varieties of cane, and the 
highest class of tillage and management of the growing crop. 


The essential feature for the consideration of the grower who does not 
design to crush the cane himself lies in the accessibility of his farm to a 
mill. The measure of this accessibility will be determined entirely by 
the cost of transportation, which will depend on the condition of existing 
roads; the cost of construction of new ones, or of tramways; or the 
availability of waterways for more distant carriage. This last in these 
Islands is so valuable a means of transportation that it can be utilized for 
the extension of cane growing into regions that otherwise could not be 
made available. 

Most modern sugar mills are now equipped with unloading facilities, 
and by the aid of special labor-saving contrivances effect the discharge of 
cars, carts, and boat loads of cane with remarkable ease and celerity. 
These are all contributory factors to "accessibility" and are, therefore, 
mentioned in this connection. 

The next feature that commands attention in the selection of a sugar 
cane farm is the suitability of the soil for the designated purpose. It 
has been contended that sugar cane can be made profit-paying upon any 

x This is the general practice in New South Wales, where the numerous holdings 
are, as a rule, small in area. The cane is purchased from the planters, principally 
by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, whose various crushing mills and refin- 
eries are fitted with machinery of the most modern character. 



land, when the rainfall is sufficient and the other climatic conditions are 

It is also conceded by the many authorities responsible for this conten- 
tion that there are many requisites necessary to bring unsuitable lands 
to a state of productivity; and that, except in regions where the needed 
supplies are cheap and plentiful, it is inexpedient to attempt their recla- 
mation to sugar growing. In the Philippines, lands exceptionally well 
fitted for the growing of sugar cane are so abundant that there seems to 
be no valid reason for the selection of those that can only be reclaimed to 
this use by tedious and costly processes. 

In determining the suitability of the soil, we have, as a matter of first 
consideration, its physical or mechanical condition. 


With a possible exception of tobacco, there is no staple agricultural 
crop where the physical condition of the soil plays so important a part as 
it does in the growing of sugar cane. It is a plant that, by virtue of its 
great size and rapid growth, not only draws heavily upon the fertility of 
the soil, but its shallow root system and restricted area for each plant 
demands that the mechanical condition of the soil be such as to facilitate 
in every way the full exercise of the root's functions. In all regions and 
in all sugar-producing countries, a strong, deq), nrgilaceons, or slightly 
calcareous soil has always been found best fitted to meet these require- 

In the sandy, sedimentary, alluvial soils along the sea coast, or in rich 
mountain valleys, heavily charged with the humus in which the cane 
rejoices, phenomenal crops are often taken, but for long-continued crop- 
ping and with a minimum of restoratives the soils first mentioned are 
those which have longest stood the crucial test of time. 

Such lands as these abound in the Archipelago and often extend for 
miles along the lower and easily cultivated foothills, and these today 
offer more inviting fields of operation than many of the apparently more 
alluring valley lands along the coast. 

The land chosen must not be less than one foot in depth, but that will 
be sufficient, provided the substratum on which it rests is permeable to 
water. The perfect permeability of the subsoil is a sine qua non for the 
perfecting of the cane, for stagnant water at the roots is a more danger- 
ous menace to success than long-continued drought. It is this peculiarity 
that clearly differentiates valley lands suited to cane growing from those 
adapted to rice, an aquatic grass, whose roots thrive in the same soil as 
the cane, but which must be underlaid by an impervious subsoil that will 
retain water throughout the growing season. 

Nevertheless, the planter need not be discouraged who finds his shallow 
top soil underlaid by a formidable bed of clay. In most cases it will be 
found full of stones, bits of tufa or volcanic scoria, and, unless it lies per- 


f ectly level with the water table close to the surface, is at times suscep- 
tible to the free and rapid percolation of water. 

It is suggested to the prospective cane planter who is unfamiliar with 
the physical character of the subsoil, that he dike a small experimental 
plot of land, making his dikes as nearly waterproof as possible, and then 
observe the behavior of the land subsequent to one or two torrential rains, 
noting the tardiness or rapidity with which the water disappears. If, 
after a two-inch rainfall upon soil previously wetted through, the water 
remains standing for more than two or three hours, a complete and com- 
prehensive system of cfrainage is essential before putting such lands into 


Fertile soils can nearly always be assured in what are known as "virgin 
soils," and such are at present in almost unlimited quantities in these 
Islands. It may seem paradoxical to say that on a narrow sea zone, 
densely peopled by a race who have been engaged in agriculture for 
generations, virgin lands are more abundant than in what we call a new 
country within temperate latitudes. Strictly speaking, such is not the 
fact, but within the tropics, land that has once been cultivated and then 
allowed to lapse, so quickly reverts to its primitive condition that in a 
very few years it effects what would require a generation to accomplish 
in a northern climate, and to all practical intents becomes once more 
virgin land. Such lands are more valuable in some respects than the 
undisturbed soil of the primeval forests. Their reclamation to cultiva- 
tion is more cheaply effected, while the rapidity with which the processes 
of growth and decay progress in the tropics, are assurance of a liberal 
supply of the humus, the one fertilizing agent of all others most vital to 
the highest perfection of the sugar cane. 

In some tropical forest regions the remains of decaying vegetation are 
so great that they are sometimes present to an almost injurious excess. 

On such soils, as also occasionally upon truly virgin sedimentary river 
bottoms, the cane develops to a size and with a luxuriance that is phe- 
nomenal; yet in this abnormally excited growth it frequently becomes 
gorged with unassimilated alkaline salts, prejudicial to sugar making, 
difficult to eliminate and depreciative of the market value of the cane. 

But the quasi virgin land that has only the accumulated vegetable 
detritus of a few years, offers a happy medium for the growth of a strong, 
vigorous cane, rich in the precious saccharine matter that crystalizes 
freely, and that always commands the highest price in the sugar mills of 
the world. Under the question of soil fertility, it is pertinent to inquire 
if some practical suggestion can not be made whereby the equilibrium of 
the humus in the soil, in relation to its mineral elements may be con- 
stantly maintained. 

A piece of land by the irrefutable logic of good money returns may 


have demonstrated its superiority for growing cane; it may teem with 
the elements of soil fertility, yet in a few years the humus is depleted, 
and the cane and its value rapidly begin to deteriorate. There can be no 
middle course the exhausted humus supply must in some way be 

Humus, as we know, serves a two-fold purpose one, purely mechani- 
cal in its effects, rendering stiff soils pervious to the aeration and mois- 
ture without which perfect root action can not be maintained ; the other, 
the added fertility which it supplies. It is rich in available nitrogen, 
without which, and notwithstanding a surfeit of "other fertilizing agents 
in the soil, there can be no successful issue to a cane crop. 

The two materials known to common agricultural uses that most 
nearly approximate humus in their action are stable or barn manures and 
cotton seed meal. Both these substances are not only rich in nitrogen, 
but both, while undergoing decomposition in the soil, exert mechanical 
influence analogous to that of humus. 

In countries where cotton is grown and farm stock housed or corralled, 
one or both of these invaluable .^nts are easily obtained, and no difficulty 
is experienced in growing a succession of cane crops and in preserving 
continuously normal soil conditions. In these Islands we are practically 
excluded from the consideration of either, for cotton is not produced in 
commercial quantities, and, outside of a few large cities, the stall feeding 
of farm animals is unknown, and consequently the use of barnyard 
manures is out of the question. In this extremity there is no alternative 
for the cane grower but to lay down his cane fields every third year to, 
say, cowpeas, vetches or some leguminous crop that will compensate for 
the more direct fertilizers that he is unable to procure. As a result, one- 
third of his sugar fields will be annually unproductive of sugar; never- 
theless, there is little doubt that eventually the farmer will be enriched by 
the operation. These renovating crops can first of all be partly cut and 
cured for forage, and will afford assured maintenance for the stock that 
is an indispensable condition to the profitable working of the farm. 
Stock so fed, if not immune, will at least be far less susceptible to epi- 
demic diseases than those allowed to roam at large over pastures where 
the herds have previously been decimated by disease. 

In addition, the yard feeding of his cattle will necessarily result in the 
accumulation of manures that, if properly protected from leaching by 
rains, will place at his command one of the best means for maintaining 
continued productivity. In the end, after the saving of the forage, there 
still remains the stubble, which, when plowed under, acts as humus, while 
the deep-rooting legumes have not only subsoiled his land, but have 
stored up while he slept an abundant supply of the nitrogen in the cheap- 
est available way. 

A practice in some places in the Islands is for planters to "rest" their 


cane lands every alternate year. Such rests, it may be remarked, are 
quite as "tiring" to the land as its continuous production of cane. The 
rest does not last long enough to restore the growth that would in time 
renew it, nor is it even fallow plowed, which would at least greatly 
improve its mechanical condition. The "rest" is simply idleness, produc- 
tive of ill rather than benefit. 


If the land is what we now understand to be virgin soil the brush and 
timber will be cut closely to the ground, 1 any wood required for fuel 
removed, and the remaining tops and branches, when dry enough, gath- 
ered in small heaps and burned. Large fires are to be avoided, as the 
smoldering embers are apt to ignite and burn out much of the precious 
humus in the soil. It is on this account maintained that all trash should 
be removed and burned outside the plantation limits. Nevertheless, if 
the fires are kept small in size, the loss from this source will be inconsid- 
erable, and hardly great enough to compensate for the extra cost of 
handling, or for the potassic salts lost by the removal of the brush from 
the ground; but, most important of all, the scattering and burning of 
the brush not only kills and facilitates the subsequent removal of the 
stumps, but helps to dstroy the larvae of pernicious insects that abound 
in most forest lands. 

The grubbing of the stumps can not be profitably undertaken till the 
rains have thoroughly wet down the soil, and then small roots are easily 
taken out with a grub hoe, while larger ones, that are well charred, may 
be easily removed by carabao. 

It is only the largest stumps that should be left to decay. This process 
is so rapid in this climate that their early extirpation is an easy matter. 
Unless of extraordinary density of foliage, a few standing forest trees are 
seldom detrimental to field crops. To this the sugar cane is a notable 
exception. It rejoices in full, free, and unbroken sunlight at every stage 
of growth, and the greater its intensity and long continuance the greater 
the assurance of a good yield of sugar. 


The proper initial preparation of the soil presents probably the gravest 
difficulty with which the cane planter on these islands must contend. The 
lack of animals and implements adequate to open up and aerate the soil 
for all the depth to which it may be traversed by the cane roots, is indis- 
pensable to success, and further on, the only solution of this problem that 
now seems feasible will be presented. Where the initial preparation of 

'The writer has lately observed some interesting experiments in clearing, where 
the brush was topped at three to four feet from the ground. The supposition is 
that, in the process of grubbing, the standing butts can be used as levers for the 
expeditious and easy eradication of the stumps. 


the soil has been thorough there is little subsequent occasion for the use 
of implements of heavy draft. A few years ago the deep subsoil plow and 
the turning of the land for a foot or fourteen inches was considered essen- 
tial. Now, the investigations of chemistry have demonstrated that the 
available, i. e., the readily assimilated plant food, is that which lies close 
to the surface, and that the deep burying of this surface soil and its 
replacement with elements not yet sufficiently disorganized to serve as 
plant food contained in the under soil is wasteful of both energy and 
material. As now understood, deep plowing serves only a mechanical 
purpose, and no more than to guarantee porosity and a free aeration of 
the underlying beds. 

The subsoil plow has, therefore, been generally consigned to the things 
of the past (except for uses not pertinent to this subject) and it is regret- 
table to have to recommend its resurrection for some existing conditions 
in this Archipelago. These conditions are mainly found upon the clay 
cane lands, where for many years the soil has been lightly skimmed with 
a small plow for a depth of t^o or three inches, and at this depth the soil 
is crusted with a polished, impermeable floor, which is the reverse of what 
is desired, and which must be broken up and pulverized if these lands are 
to be made remunerative. That they bear unprofitable crops is no cause 
for surprise. The real cause of surprise is that they produce even half a 
crop of cane, and that they still do this speaks volumes for the wonderful 
adaptability of the climate and the remarkable fertility of the land itself. 
On such lands as these there seems no escape from the operation of the 
subsoiler, as no other implement will quite penetrate and open up this 
artificial hardpan. Upon virgin land any good, deep breaking plow will 
answer, although the modern disc plows that turn a furrow of any desired 
depth are preferred. In this plow, the rotating disc, instead of sliding 
along the furrow, leaving a compact bottom, releases the farmer forever 
from the perplexing question of future subsoilings. This disc plow, and 
the double-mold-board plow for the economical building up of beds and 
opening out drains, are the only heavy draft implements required for the 
cultivation of cane. All subsequent tillage is prosecuted with light draft 
disc harrows and cultivators of easy manipulation, and should properly 
be considered under the head of "crop cultivation'' rather than that of 
soil preparation. In stiff soils the disc plow can not be used with less 
than three good American horses or mules, and it is doubtful if it could 
be well operated in such lands with fewer than six carabaos. At this 
time, when the sugar districts of the Islands have been almost depleted of 
their live stock, it seems inopportune to recommend the doubling up of 
draft animals by the use of heavy machinery. Still, it should be remem- 
bered that these plows throw a furrow slice of twenty to twenty-four 
inches, and will readily and properly prepare four to five acres in a day, 
which is more than six carabao will imperfectly accomplish in the same 
time with the small plow now in general use. 


The question of the application of these useful implements to the 
preparation of cane lands, therefore, resolves itself into a question of 
motive power, and to the judgment of the farmer, who must decide if a 
possibly smaller acreage placed in a perfected condition does not offer 
greater inducements than a larger acreage illy prepared and fraught with 
prospects of crop failure. 

Under the, existing live stock conditions, no other suggestion can be 
made at this time than that given above of doubling up the available 
farm animals until the required motive power is secured, and it is recom- 
mended with the assurance that the farmers gains from a smaller, well- 
handled acreage will more than compensate for the loss of acreage that 
this concentration of power implies. 

In preparing valley land for planting, some provision must be made for 
times of food that does not apply to uplands. After the first heavy plow- 
ing the land is to be fined down with a good harrowing. If the soil is of 
free, open texture and handled at the time when still moist but not sticky, 
the common form of sectional harrow will do good work. If inclined to 
be cloddy the disc harrow will reduce the soil to the best condition of any 
tool in common use. The land is then to be laid off in 5-foot beds, the 
middles between them being opened up with a double-mold-board plow. 
In valley lands that have been kept in the best condition, it is here that 
the only occasion should arise for the -use of the subsoil plow for the 
purpose of deeply opening up these middles, which will serve the double 
purpose of drainage, and of supplying soil for the elevation of the beds. 
The depth or shallowness of these furrows will be governed by the suscep- 
tibility of the land to overflow. 

In many tropical regions, and in most of the Philippines, the cane beds 
are only made 3% to 4 feet apart, but where the highest skill is exercised, 
and upon good soils the 5-foot planting should yield a tonnage equally 
large and at a great saving of expense in both labor and seed cane. 


The cane used for seed should always be well ripened and selected from 
such stools or "ratoons" as from mill tests show the most sucrose and the 
highest purity. Careful selection for a few years, and the reservation of 
a portion of the plantation for nursery purposes, will enable the planter 
to maintain his seed cane at a high standard of excellence. The varieties 
used here seem to be confined to the green and yellow sorts, of probable 
Javanese origin. These canes, though rich in sucrose, are generally small 
and insufficient in tonnage yield per acre. Further, and whenever there 
is a steady decrease in size from lack of proper cultural methods, the 
deterioration is accompanied with a relatively greater increase of fiber 
that, in its turn, represents another loss at the mill. The many useful 
striped, rose and purple canes, that have contributed to bring Hawaii to. 


the front as the most prolific and profitable sugar region in the world, 
have not, so far as can be ascertained, been planted in these Islands. * 

Exhaustive tests have definitely established the fact that the upper 
two or three feet of the cane the part least valuable at the mills is 
well suited to seed purposes, and that no sugar 'deterioration has occurred 
from its long-continued use. These tops can be all used, except the 
extreme tips, which are sometimes inclined to "arrow/' 


As soon as the ground is prepared a shallow furrow or trench is opened, 
down the center of the bed with a double-mold-board plow, and the cane 
laid down in the trench, the end of one piece touching the next through- 
out the whole row. It is the custom, here and in Hawaii, to cut the cane 
into single nodes a few inches long, and drop them at close intervals in 
the furrow. Such a practice undoubtedly assures a stand from every 
joint, but if the land has been brought to a fine condition of tilth, and the 
whole of the cane is in intimate Contact with the soil, every joint in the 
piece should break into bud. It will also be seen that the process is more 
expeditious and labor saving. 

Previous to planting, the seed cane should be soaked for two hours in 
lime water of the strength of 2 pounds of slaked lime to 1 gallon of water. 
This is recommended for the destruction of the eggs of pernicious insects, 
but in every instance a rigid scrutiny of the seed cane should always be 
made, and any piece that has been attacked by borers should be rejected. 
As a remedial measure, I would place more faith in a soaking of the cane 
in well diluted carbolic acid ; but, in view of the fact that the lime dress- 
ing furnishes at once to the young plant an always-to-be-desired and 
necessary element of fertility, this time-honored custom of all countries 
may be generally adopted. 

In this country the trench for planting may be shallow, and the soil 
covered back with a light plow or disc harrow. Where irrigation is not 
to follow, or where rainfall is so great that the water-carrying capacity of 
the middles is apt to be overtaxed, all subsequent plowing or tillage 
should be towards the cane row, with the end in view of having it always 
above water. 


The cane, when planted, if followed by good rains or by irrigation, 
should begin to sprout within a week of the time it is wetted down, and 
this is the time when the progressive farmer has recourse to the so-called 
mineral fertilizers for the increase of crop and the maintenance of soil 

1 Through the commendable enterprise of Capt. G. P. Ahern, Chief of the Fores- 
try Bureau, an importation of these Hawaiian canes was recently made to this 
country, and efforts will be made, by their rapid propagation, and further intro- 
ductions, to effect future distributions of the same to planters. F. L. S. 


equilibrium. Aside from the humus and the means of providing for it 
that has already been discussed, there are two essential ingredients of soil 
fertility that exist in all rich lands, but upon which the sugar cane makes 
extraordinary drains, and the application of these in the most available 
forms not only meets with an assured response in a marked increase of 
crop, but is a guarantee of a continued state of soil fertility that leaves 
the farm capital always unimpaired. These ingredients are phosphoric 
acid and potash, and there are apparently no insuperable obstacles in the 
way of obtaining either. The former is probably to be had from the 
many deposits of bat guano that exist in the Archipelago, and wherever 
these deposits are found in caves, or have been protected from rain they 
are almost certain to be rich in this valuable element. If the planter is 
remote from any such source or from any known phosphate deposits, 
there seems to be no alternative than its purchase and importation from 
the Sandwich Islands or the United States. 

These salts are more useful in the form of acid phosphates, and are 
commercially known as "superphosphates" and carry from 10 to 20 per 
cent of soluble phosphoric acid, and their cost is always based wholly 
upon the prcentage of the acid they carry. In any event, the amount 
required is small (200 to 400 pounds per acre) and at any reasonable cost 
it should be obtained. 

The supply of potash does not appear to be of such pressing concern 
with the cane planter. Not only, if his land has been cleared and burned 
over, there has been returned a considerable supply of this element, but 
the indications are that most of the sugar lands of the Islands are already 
rich in potash. Without recourse to a chemical analysis, there is a simple, 
practical test whereby the farmer can determine this question for him- 
self. Let him select two, or three, or more small plats typical of as many 
different soils as the farm shows, and lay them down for two or three 
years to different kinds of lucerns and clovers, giving them no manuring 
whatsoever. If the growth from these plats is luxuriant, and they only 
suffer from causes directly attributable to long-continued drought, he 
may reasonably conclude that his land is provided with enough potash to 
meet all the requirements of cane growing for many years. 

In the use of acid phosphates or of bat guano, there is a process that is 
both effective and economical for its application. It may be scattered 
lightly in the furrow at the time of cane planting ; or, if it is used in the 
form of bat guano, and where it is probably in combination with valu- 
able nitrates, a furrow may be opened close to the cane, and the fertilizer 
scattered lightly and evenly along both furrow and furrow slice, and then 
all harrowed down smoothly with a disc harrow. There are drills now in 
common use that are adjusted to deliver commercial fertilizers directly 
where required and in precise quantities; but careful hand sowing can 
be made equally effective. 


It should be remembered in the application of manures of this class 
that they are exceedingly soluble., and the greatest benefit from their use 
occurs at the time when light showers are prevalent. If applied at the 
time when the heaviest and long-continued rains are anticipated, a very 
large proportion of the valuable elements will be leached out of the land 
and carried away in the middles and drains. For the rest, all the subse- 
quent cultivation to be given until the rows are crowded with suckers, 
and the cane ready to lay by and ripen, is a constant but superficial stir- 
ring of the surface with either hoe or cultivator. 

After every rain, or so soon thereafter as the soil will admit of working, 
this cultivation should never cease. It is the keynote of the successful 
issue of the crop, and all the careful soil preparation and soil amend- 
ments that have been bestowed in previous months are largely nullified, 
if a hard, compact crust is permitted to form and remain upon the sur- 
face. When the rows are completely crowded with cane, and the ground 
well shaded, this surface induration will no longer occur, and the planter 
can await the ripening of his crop with the assurance that every hour of 
toil expended upon cultivation wiii oe many times repaid. 


When the cane is ripe, and this is easily determined by the cessation of 
growth and a general deepening in color, it is ready for harvesting. It 
should be cut very close, or even with the ground in this climate, and the 
tops and leaves trimmed off, when it is ready for delivery to the mill. 
The tops are then gathered and buried in trenches of moderately dry soil 
until required for planting. The leaves and trash are gathered and 
burned, or else covered deeply in a furrow made by a double-mold-board 
plow and allowed to decay. Both processes have strong advocates among 
expert sugar growers ; but the process to be most commended will depend 
on circumstances. If there be the slightest evidence of fungus growth, 
or the presence indicated of any sap-sucking or cane-boring insect what- 
soever, there is no option. Every vestige of refuse should be burned. If 
such is not the case and there is, on the other hand, difficulty in obtain- 
ing stable manures or other humus-making ingredients, burying the trash 
will goi a long way toward the maintenance of soil fertility, and is the 
best solution of the question of its disposition. 


At one time three-fourths of all the cane grown on these Islands was 
from stubble crops. Now, by long-continued depletion of the land, in 
many districts it has become necessary to lay down the land to new seed 
cane every year, and this system, despite its wastefulness, seems to be the 
only one that affords planters any assurance of even a half crop. 

Where the lands are not hopelessly exhausted, or facilities are at hand 
for their renovation, there is no excuse for this wasteful policy ; and vir- 


gin land, or land that is maintained in rotation, should be profitably 
handled for the second, or even a third year. The rational method of 
treating the plantation destined to be carried over a second season as 
stubble cane would be as follows: In the process of harvesting, the soil 
will be more or less compacted by the trampling of the cane cutters, by 
the cleaners, and by the carabao used in hauling away the crop. A 
thorough and deep plowing is, therefore, once more necessary, and to this 
must be added a complete forking over of the land in the stubble row 
itself. This may be effected by hand, although there is a machine now 
in common use, known as a "stubble digger/' which has a revolving, cul- 
tivator-toothed attachment that works up the soil effectively and with 
remarkable speed directly in the row, and with a little care, rarely tears 
out a stubble root. From this point on, the manurial treatment and culti- 
vation of a stubble crop is a practical repetition of that given to the seed 
cane crop. This, in fact, would be the outline indicated for continuous 
succession of crops were it not for the difficulties that confront the Phil- 
ippine planter in the procurement of complete fertilizers and which 
imperatively call for a crop rotation, every third year, if he would pre- 
serve the maximum sugar yield for an indefinite time. 

There is no reason why the third or rotation year should be operated 
at a loss, or be given up wholly to soil recuperation. The method prac- 
ticed in Mauritius, Eeunion, and most of the French colonies, would 
doubtless be successful and profitable here. The third year the same 
stubble is grubbed out, the land laid down as usual, and planted to corn. 
When this has made fair growth and begins to "tassel" out, the ground is 
sown broadcast to vetches, cowpeas, or some other quick leguminous soil- 
ing crop. A fair to good crop of corn is usually secured and the legu- 
minous forage is pastured down till the season comes for plowing it under 
and reseeding the land to cane. This pasturing can only be done without 
injury during the dry season, and the farmer who turns carabao in to 
pasture in wet cane lands is inflicting incalculable mischief that will 
take years of reparative treatment to overcome. 


There are two subjects pertinent to the matter under consideration, 
that will be made the subject of future bulletins, and that can only be 
briefly touched upon in this paper. They are drainage and irrigation. 
The former is indispensable to attaining a maximum of success upon the 
littoral lowlands of these Islands, and ultimately a comprehensive system 
of drains will control every well-equipped and well-managed plantation 
in the Archipelago. The evil effects of stagnant water have been already 
pointed out, and the indispensable necessity of deep, broad, middle ditches 
and laterals, for the rapid diversion of storm waters, has been insisted on 
elsewhere. These middles and laterals, however, are but makeshifts 
offered for the immediate amelioration of water-logged cane fields until 


they can be otherwise properly reclaimed. Open drains, to be efficacious, 
must be constantly kept clean and in repair. This entails constant labor 
and a very considerable and unnecessary sacrifice of land. Stone-filled 
drains made of broken stone of graduated sizes are expensive, and in time 
are apt to become clogged with fine silt. Tile drains will be the final 
recourse,, and the excellence and abundance of the clay and the skill 
shown by the Filipinos in its manipulation are additional reasons for 
advocating their use. The financial condition of the planters at this time 
justifies a recourse to the expedients previously mentioned, and the hope 
is expressed that the profits arising from a better scheme of cane growing 
may eventually enable them to place their fields in the highest and most 
profitable condition. 

It is well known that a perfect system of tile drainage is almost a guar- 
antee against the evil effects of drought. To those who lack full compre- 
hension of the subject it appears paradoxical that a system primarily 
designed to dispose of surplus water in the soil will, at the same time, act 
as an agent for its restoration. Such is the case, however, and, on the 
principle that nature abhors a vacuum, there can be no evaporation of the 
surface waters without a supply constantly being drawn from below to 
replace it. Further, this, like ail ^ater that is in motion, is pure, sani- 
tary, and drawn upwards through the cane roots in just such quantities 
as they can appropriate with the greatest benefit, and in dry seasons, 
unless in excess, never flows to waste in the drains. It is, in short, the 
auxiliary to the planter in the valley, that irrigation is to the cane grower 
on the uplands. 

The uplands promise to be of long-enduring value, and, ultimately, 
more profitable than the valleys. The abundant water supply that pre- 
vails in all the districts where sugar is now grown, is available for the 
reclamation of immense areas to this purpose. Here the planter has posi- 
tive and complete control of the situation. He is free from the ever- 
recurring possibility in tropical countries of disastrous flood or inunda- 
tion, while the danger of protracted drought need not be considered as an 
element of crop failure. His control, in short, is so perfect that he can 
apply moisture at the times when it is most beneficial, and withhold it 
completely as his crop approaches maturity, when continued rain or mois- 
ture would increase the sap in the cane, at the sacrifice and loss of the 
sucrose he has patiently striven to elaborate. 

Large areas of these uplands are frequently quite level, or with a gentle 
slope towards the sea, and consequently present ideal conditions for the 
ready distribution of irrigating waters. Some of the most valuable lands 
are, however, more or less undulating, and although susceptible to irri- 
gation, the successful manipulation of the water requires attention to 
some simple engineering problems, which are, however, too extensive for 
treatment at this time. 



In conclusion, it may be said that the rational treatment of sugar cane 
involves that it be forced, and forced constantly, from the day the cane 
first sprouts till it is ready to lay by and ripen. This forcing process can 
hardly be overdone, and involves an adequate water and food supply, and 
such constant tillage and forcing as will enable it to assimilate every par- 
ticle of the food and water given. A check of any kind is fatal to the 
fullest measure of success, and the cessation of the functions of growth 
for only a few days means the elaboration of starch and fiber in lieu of 
the sucrose we are after. 

In common with every other form of vegetable life, vigor and luxu- 
riance of growth affords more general immunity from the attacks of pre- 
dacious insects or fungoid growths, and a consequent saving from the 
losses which these entail. 


[Extract from a report on the agricultural resources and capabilities of Hawaii, by William C. 
Stubbs, Ph. D., published in Bulletin No. 95, United States Department of Agriculture, Office of 
Experiment Stations.] 

The dominant crop in Hawaii is sugar. * * * Few places in the islands 
where cane can be grown at all will yield less than 30 to 40 tons per acre * * *. 

The table-lands surrounding the Islands at elevations of from 20 to 500 feet con- 
stitute the chief sugar areas. * There are about 60 plantations on the 
Islands, which yielded in 1898-1899 about 300,000 tons of sugar. These planta- 
tions have about 100,000 acres in cane, one-half of which is harvested every year. 
Under irrigation as much as lO 1 ^ tons of sugar per acre has been the 
average of one plantation * * . 

Table showing expenses per ton of sugar yroivn, and per acre. 

Plant cane. 

Per ton. 

Per acre. 


$0 54 


14. ->() 
2. 05 
37. 18 
7. 85 
15. 25 
3"). 62 
24. 84 
27. 15 

Mule and steam plowing _ 

2 65 

Ditches __ 

Cutting and hauling seed _ _ 

Preparing and planting 


Watering _ _ 

Hoeing and weeding 


Cutting and hauling cane 

Pumping expense _ __ _ 

Sundry accounts (rent, interest, and all other expenses) 

Manufacture _ _ 






Plant cane : 

Total yield of cane (tons) 117,835 

Yield of cane per acre (tons) 78.9 

Purity of juice (per cent) 87.07 

Amount of cane required to produce 1 ton of sugar (tons) 7.71 

Total production of sugar (tons) 15,289.5 

Yield sugar per acre (tons) 10.24 

On the leeward side of the Islands, where irrigation is practiced, the land is 
broken with steam plows to a great depth. Rows are laid off at 5-foot intervals 
with very deep double-mold-board plows. Into these deep furrows the tops of the 
cane are dropped in a continuous row, the soil is drawn in lightly with hoes, and 
a shallow stream of water sent over the buried tops. In six to seven days a con- 
tinuous stand of young canes is obtained. For the purpose of economizing water 
the rows are laid off as nearly on a level as possible, and an open furrow for irri- 
gating is maintained during, growth. After each irrigation, hoes draw in from the 
adjoining ridges small quantities of soil in order to conserve the moisture applied. 
Save irrigation and its incident hoe work and the trashing of cane, no other cul- 
tivation is given. A contract is usually made with a head Chinaman to irrigate 
and trash the cane from planting to harvest at so much per ton of cane harvested. 
The contract is usually for 100 acres, the company furnishing the water. Con- 
tracts are also made by the ton for the cutting and delivery of the cane at the 
sugar house, the company furnishing the cars and engines. The breaking of the 
land and the planting of the cane is usually done with hired labor. 

On the rainy or windward side of the islands the conditions require entirely 
different methods from those just described. The lands are broken in a similar , 
manner but less deeply, and the tops are planted in an open furrow and covered. I 
When the plants are large enough, the work of cultivation begins, which is usually 
done with plows, cultivators and hoes. This cultivation is continued until the 


canes are sufficiently advanced to "lay by." Every operation is similar to the best 
practice in the cornfields of the West. Here reliance is placed entirely upon the 
rainfall for furnishing the needed moisture to canes. Sometimes the rainfall is 
excessive, at others deficient. Severe and protracted droughts which occasion great 
loss to the planters occur at rare intervals. As a rule, however, the rainfall is 
ample for good crops, and the extra expense of irrigation is avoided. Hence fre- 
quently the windward plantations are just as good dividend payers as the leeward 
estates, though the yields per acre are much less. Trashing of cane is practiced 
here as on the leeward side. In both instances the dead leaves are piled up between 
the rows, where they remain until after harvest, when they are burned. "Ratoon- 
ing" or "stubbling" is not largely practiced. Only first-year ratoons or stubbles 
are cultivated. Whenever, in the judgment of the manager, these will not produce 
30 tons of cane per acre they are plowed up and the land replanted. Just here is 
one of the secrets of the large success attending sugar growing on these islands. 
Two-thirds, if not three-fourths, of the area each year is in plant cane. In Cuba, 
Porto Rico, and other tropical islands cane is permitted to run for six to even six- 
teen years, with the unavoidable result of annually diminished acre yields, and a 
low average sugar output. Sugar planters elsewhere are disposed to doubt the 
accuracy of the large published yields of Hawaii. Let them consider their own 
enormous yields from plant cane, and then apply such results to their entire plan- 
tations before they begin to question outputs obtained in these islands. It is true 
that irrigation upon fresh lands, upon the warmer leeward sides, in a climate 
almost perfect for maximum growth, has greatly increased the average output of 
Hawaii, but the carrying of the largest portion of the crop as plant cane is unques- 
tionably the main cause of the large yields. This is evidenced by the yield obtained 
on the rainy or windward side of the Islands, which are much larger than those 
obtained in Cuba and other tropical countries, even though much below the returns 
of the irrigated plantations on the lee side of the same islands. 

The cane when harvested is delivered to the sugar mills by wagons drawn by 
oxen or mules, by rail, with horses or steam, by water flumes sometimes crossing 
deep gulches, and by trolleys. Plantations use either one of the above methods, to 
suit their peculiar environments. 

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