Sugarcane in Texas

Crop Brief on Production, Pests, & Pesticidessugarcane

Crop Briefs were prepared by Dr. Dudley Smith, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and Dr. Juan Anciso, Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Sugarcane Production
  • Texas is the fourth largest sugarcane producer in the U.S. 1.5 million tons are harvested annually on 40,000 acres.
  • Economic impact exceeds $200 million and provides several hundred permanent jobs in a region where employment opportunities are well below the state average.
  • Five or more Aratoon crops@ are grown from the initial plantings.
Insect Pests
  • The Mexican Rice Borer infests 90-95% of all Texas sugarcane. Economic losses of $10 to $20 million occur annually from stunted growth, stalk breakage, and reduced juice quality.
  • Chemical control is limited; once the borer enters the stalk, surface sprays are not effective. Bio-control agents are being researched.
  • Carbofuran (Furadan-a carbamate-targeted by FQPA) is no longer used. Monocrotophos (Azodrin) is no longer registered in the U.S., azinphosmethyl (Guthion-an OP targeted by FQPA) is marginally effective. Two synthetic pyrethroids, cyhalothrin (Karate– evaluated experimentally) and cyfluthrin (Baythroid) are effective against borer species.
  • The Sugarcane Borer is no longer an economic pest due to successful biological control in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. White grubs, yellow aphids, and cane flies are seldom a problem but few insecticides are available for control when needed. Fonofos (Dyfonate) and fensulfothim (Dasanit) are no longer registered.
  • Major diseases include Ratoon Stunting Disease (RSD), leaf scald, rust, and smut.
  • RSD and smut can be prevented by immersing seed cane into hot water (50E C) for two hours before planting. Mosiac, leaf, scald, rust and smut can be controlled through the use of resistant varieties and are not chemically treated. Other Pests
Other Pests
  • Other pests include rats and feral hogs. Zinc phosphide is occasionally used to kill the rats. Feral hogs sometimes have an economic impact.
  • Weeds cause more economic loss in sugarcane than all other pests combined. Weeds cause loss of tonnage in field, reduced sucrose recovery in the mill, and shorter ratoon life. Weeds reduce light, rob nutrients, and serve as reservoirs for numerous insect and disease pests.
  • Most farmers use advanced planning, identify weed targets, and use herbicides to reduce losses. Herbicides constitute 99% of all pesticide use in Texas sugarcane.
  • Mechanical weed control is practiced by all growers but is not a substitute for herbicides. The crop is cultivated 3 to 5 times a year, in addition to herbicide use. Tillage includes 1 to 2 preplant operations and 3 to 4 cultivations in plant care and each ratoon crop.
  • Atrazine is under special review; USEPA may impose dramatic label changes. Atrazine is applied on 100% of total acreage, an average of 1.4 times per season, and makes up 52% of the total herbicide use.
  • Ametryn (Evik), another triazine herbicide, makes up 24% of all herbicides and is used for postemergence control. Pendimethalin (Prowl) and trifluralin (Treflan) are soil applied and used on 95% of the cane acreage.
  • All of these herbicides are important since options for weed control are limited .
  • Insect pests are not as severe in Texas as in other cane-growing regions.
  • Crop breeding will continue to provide disease resistance.
  • Herbicides are essential to sustain yields. Hooded sprayers, GMO lines, and new chemistry are potential options for future use.
  • For latest information regarding these issues and status of risk assessments visit and
Crop Briefs is an information series developed by Texas A&M AgriLife of the Texas A&M University System on critical pest problems and pesticide needs for Texas agriculture. This effort is supported by the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers, and other commodity groups. Dr. Dudley Smith, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and Dr. Juan Anciso, Texas AgriLife Extension Service prepared these reports August 2000 using information from numerous sources. Departmental Report SCS-2000-01.The information given herein is for educational programs only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station is implied.

Educational programs conducted by Texas A&M AgriLife, Texas A&M University, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level race, color, sex, religion, handicap or national origin.

Comments are closed.