‘Sugar beet a better alternative to sugarcane for farmers’

According to experts, sugar beet can be grown in less nutritious soils with minimum input.

According to experts, sugar beet can be grown in less nutritious soils with minimum input.   | Photo Credit: File Photo

The Union government will promote the cultivation of sugar beet, instead of sugarcane, to increase farmers’ income by reducing the cost of cultivation and increasing yield.

This will also achieve other objectives such as economic use of water, extending crushing season of sugar factories, and providing fodder for cattle and compostable biomass to farmers, say scientists of S. Nijalingappa Sugar Institute in Belagavi — the agency chosen for research and extension of the project in the State.

“The crop is already being widely cultivated in parts of Punjab. We want farmers in Karnataka to adopt it,” said R.B. Khandagave, director of the institute.

According to him, the crop takes only five months to grow, compared to the one year that sugarcane takes before it can be harvested. Sugar beet also needs relatively less water. It produces foliage that can be used as fodder for cattle and can be used for composting after harvesting. The farmers will benefit from its cultivation as the cost of cultivation is lower than that of sugarcane, and the sugar yield 1-2% more, he said. Sugar beet can be grown in less nutritious soils with minimum input.

“Usually, sugar factories crush cane only six or seven months a year. The rest of the year, they need to pay salary to their permanent employees who are without work. This time can be used to make sugar from sugar beet pulp. We will help farmers with the varieties and cultivation practices,” said Ashok Dalwai, CEO of the National Rainfed Area Authority, who is coordinating the project. Sugar factories have to make minor changes to their machinery to produce sugar from beet. The government will help them get the necessary technical know-how, he said.

He also said that the government would start an extension programme to popularise the crop. “We will organise field visits and interactions for farmers with scientists to clear their doubts,” he said. The authority has tied up with the Nijalingappa Sugar Institute in Karnataka and the Vasantdada Sugar institute in Maharashtra to popularise the crop and develop different strains of it.

An interaction with trainers, officers and farmers was held at the sugar institute in Belagavi on Thursday. Scientists from agriculture universities and Agriculture Department officers participated.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 5:55:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/sugar-beet-a-better-alternative-to-sugarcane-for-farmers/article30706630.ece

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