Ever since 1751, when the Jesuits first introduced sugarcane in southern Louisiana, this sweet crop has been an integral part of our economy and culture. Today, the sugarcane industry contributes $2 billion to the Louisiana economy! The sugarcane harvest has just started in southern Louisiana and it is not uncommon to find huge sugarcane fields completely engulfed in flames prior to the harvest. We just saw this today as we drove to and from the beautiful plantation homes northwest of New Orleans. There are a number of reasons why sugarcane farmers burn their harvest every year at this time before cutting it down. First of all, it rids the canes of their leaves which are razor sharp and get in the way of harvesting. Secondly, the ashes created will be excellent fertilizer for this type of soil. Third, the smoke and flames rid the field of the snakes, rats, and other unpleasant critters. And finally, perhaps most importantly, the heat liquefies the sap (also called sweet water) within the bamboo-like stick of the sugarcane, therefore making it easier to extract when you bring it to the sugar mill. One of the beautiful things about the sugarcane harvest is that every part of the cane is used, nothing is wasted. After getting the Molasses from the sweet juice, loaded with rich minerals, you are left with the fibrous bagasse which is used to make sheetrock-like construction panels.
It’s Harvest Season for Louisiana Sugarcane!
Dec 4, 2014 | History