- Agriculture, Forestry & Soils
- Field crops, grasses, plant fibers, spices, tree crops, herbs
Gravois, Kenneth Sugar Research Station, LSU AgCenter, Louisiana State University, St. Gabriel, Louisiana.
Last reviewed:October 2019
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Saccharum officinarum, a stout, perennial member of the grass family characterized by two-ranked leaves and a many-jointed stalk; the source approximately 70% of the world's annual sugar production. Sugarcane (also spelled sugar cane) [Fig. 1] originated in New Guinea about 8000–15,000 BCE. The crop was later moved by humans westward into Southeast Asia and India and eastward into Polynesia. The original sugarcanes, so-called noble canes, probably evolved from a wild ancestor, Saccharum robustum. Saccharum officinarum clones were selected by humans for high sucrose content and low fiber content, making them soft enough for consumption, while clones of S. robustum were selected for higher fiber content, making them suitable for building and fencing. S. officinarum was hybridized with wild species, especially S. spontaneum, in Asia, giving rise to new clones that were variable in morphology and ecological tolerance and that extended the distribution of sugarcane into the subtropics.. Two additional species, S. sinense and S. barberi, are recognized in botanical literature. See also: Chromosome; Cyperales; Grass crops; Plant; Poales; Sugars (sweeteners); Sugar crops; Sugars (sweeteners)
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