Though the total cultivable area in Tamil Nadu has reduced from 58 lakh hectares to 43 lakh hectares, the only crop for which the area has expanded is sugarcane, K. Ramasamy, Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), said in Coimbatore on Friday.

Inaugurating the biennial workshop of the All India Co-ordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Sugarcane at the university, he said there were reports that some farmers were harvesting record yields in rice in the Cauvery Delta of Thanjavur district.

This phenomenon needed to be studied and the factors that contributed for such high yields, despite drought, needed to be determined.

“It is obvious that the private industry has capitalised on the cotton crop by introducing a new gene and thereby captured almost 95 per cent of the seed market. In a similar manner, sugarcane scientists too need to be innovative in their research ideas so as to exploit the potential of sugarcane crop through improved breeding methods,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

He emphasised the need for greater use of biotechnology tools for improvement of sugarcane varieties.

N. Gopalakrishnan, Assistant Director General (Commercial Crops), Indian Council of Agricultural Research, said that sugarcane was a commercially vibrant crop on which ICAR placed great emphasis through budgetary support, and fundamental and strategic research.

Though nearly 100 sugarcane varieties had been released by AICRP, only 46 had been notified and were available for cultivation by farmers.

He further added that the AICRP needed to dovetail its programmes with the XII Five Year Plan so that viable sugarcane technologies could be taken to the field.

N. Vijayan Nair, Director, Sugarcane Breeding Institute, said that despite deficit rainfall during June 2012, the country would still produce nearly 24 million tonnes of sugar against a requirement of 22 million tonnes, and thereby avoid imports.

A Tamil translation of the book “Experiments on Plant Hybrids” was released by the Vice-Chancellor on the occasion.