Chemical ripening of sugarcane is an important component to profitable sugar production in the United States as well as other sugarcane industries throughout the world. Harvesting of sugarcane often begins before the sugarcane reaches the desirable maturity level. This is especially true in the Louisiana sugarcane industry where the window for harvesting is limited because of the risk of freezing temperatures encountered in a temperate climate. Research on the application of chemicals, mostly of herbicide origin, to enhance sucrose accumulation (ripening) or limit flowering to conserve stored sucrose has been conducted for more than 60 yr. The only sugarcane ripener currently registered for use in the United States is glyphosate applied before harvest. The herbicide fluazifop is used as the primary ripener of sugarcane in South Africa. The herbicides glyphosate, fluazifop, and sulfometuron-methyl and the growth regulators ethephon and trinexapac-ethyl are registered for use in Brazil. There is a continuing need to evaluate sugarcane ripeners to increase the utility of currently registered ripeners and to find additional ripeners for use by sugarcane industries. The need for alternatives to glyphosate is especially critical before a glyphosate-tolerant sugarcane can be utilized to improve control of problematic weeds.
Nomenclature: Ethephon; fluazifop; glyphosate; sulfometuron-methyl; trinexapac-ethyl; sugarcane, Saccharum interspecific hybrid.