Louisiana sugarcane farmers will have a new sugarcane variety this fall with the release of L 03-371 on May 5.

Developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sugarcane Research Laboratory in Houma and the American Sugar Cane League in Thibodaux, La., L 03-371 is another in a long line of sugarcane varieties that were developed through crossing and field selection in Louisiana, according to Kenneth Gravois, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist.

This variety release is the culmination of a multi-agency effort governed by the “Three-Way” Agreement, a document first signed in 1926, Gravois said.

The cross was made at the LSU AgCenter Sugar Research Station in St. Gabriel in 1998 and the variety was designated L 03-371 in 2003. The “L” indicates that both the cross and early-stage selection were done at the LSU AgCenter’s Sugar Research Station; the “03” indicates the year (2003) of assignment; and the number “371” is a consecutive number between 1 and 499 used by the AgCenter’s sugarcane breeding program for unique variety identification.

“The final stage of the sugarcane breeding program is referred to as outfield variety trials,” Gravois said. “Data from these trials include measures of sugar yield in pounds of sugar produced per acre of land, cane yield in tons of sugarcane produced per acre of land and sucrose content as the pounds of sugar, or sucrose, produced per ton of sugarcane.”

At the same time experimental clones are entered into the outfield variety trials, they are also provided to the American Sugar Cane League for “seed” increase.

“This isn’t actual seed but whole stalks because sugarcane isn’t grown from true seed,” Gravois said. “Stalks from a plant are cut and planted, and the buds along the stalks germinate and grow to produce new plants in a process known as vegetative propagation.”

The American Sugar Cane League provides seed to any sugarcane grower requesting an allotment. Seed cane of L 03-371 will be made available to growers in late summer 2010.

After the seed cane is planted, the sugarcane plants can produce for three to four years before they have to be replaced. The first year is called “plant cane,” and subsequent years are called “stubble” or “ratoon” crops.

In plant-cane through second-stubble crops, L 03-371 had significantly higher sugar yield than HoCP 96-540, the most widely grown sugarcane variety in Louisiana in 2009. The new variety L 03-371 had cane yield values similar to HoCP 96-540 and higher sucrose content.

“The new variety is characterized as having a moderate population of large stalk-diameter stalks,” Gravois said. “And L 03-371 is better-suited to combine harvesting systems because of lodging” — the tendency for plants to fall over.

L 03-371 is resistant to smut, resistant to brown rust and moderately resistant to leaf scald under natural field infection. The new variety also is resistant to sugarcane mosaic virus and sorghum mosaic virus and is susceptible to the sugarcane borer insect.

“Similar to all other varieties grown in Louisiana, this new variety may sustain yield loss in stubble crops from ratoon stunting disease,” Gravois said. “To realize the maximum yield potential of L 03-371, healthy seed cane, free of ratoon stunting disease and other systemic diseases, must be planted.

“L 03-371 should pay big dividends in the future for Louisiana’s sugarcane growers and raw sugar processors.”