Sugar Crops Icon

January 31, 2022

Sugar is an important part of the human diet. For many farmers, sugar crops are an essential source of income.

Sugar is also used in the production of alcohol, which has many medicinal and industrial uses.

Fermented sugar juice is used to prepare vinegar, and the residual materials from vinegar production are used to make yeast. Sugar foods come in many forms according to the type of sugar crop and the degree to which it is refined.

For example, besides refined sugar, there are several forms of liquid and solid molasses (gur), brown sugar or country sugar, sugar syrups, as well as many other types of sugar sweeteners.

The most well-known sugar crops include:

  • sugar cane
  • sugar beet
  • sweet potato, which has two varieties:
    • sweet juice potato (sháṋkálu)
    • sweet potato (miśt́i álu, rángálu, shakkarkand)
  • date palm (khejur)
  • Indian palmyra
  • tál, which has two varieties:
    • South Indian (ash coloured)
    • North Indian (with three seeds, two seeds or one seed)
  • gol
  • Indian olive (mahuá, mahul)

There are other sources of sugar which are not very commonly used because they are not commercially viable. For example, fructose or fruit sugar, obtained from fruits such as grapes, and sugar obtained from the red sweet variety of African yam, are good sources of sugar. The sweet root of the African red yam is a staple food for many people in Africa, especially during famine. It has been introduced into India and has many interesting qualities.

Research should be done on these and other sugar crops to make them commercially viable. Research should also be done on commercially viable sources of sugar to increase their yield. High yield varieties of sugar crops should always be grown if they are available.

Sugar Cane

Sugar cane is a member of the grass group.

The long canes are simply peeled and chewed to extract the sweet juice. Mechanical methods of extracting the juice are also used.

Previously, sugar cane was sown in Kárttika. But now, early varieties can be grown in the month of Phálguna, which is its ideal planting month.

The cuttings must be brought from at least 20 kilometres away or the crop will be prone to pests and disease. Solid molasses or gur may be prepared from sugar cane.

Country sugar can also be made, as well as sugar candy.

Research should be done on the early varieties of sugar cane, which take 5-6 months to grow, to see if the cane can be grown in a shorter period of time.

Also, sweet varieties of sugar cane should be grown wherever possible. Good varieties are available from Coimbatore, Fiji and Mauritius.

Sugar Beet

Sugar beet is a root crop. During World War 2, the sugar supply to Germany from Mauritus and India was blocked, so sugar beet was used as a substitute for sugar cane.

Elephantum potato (khámálu) and elephant root yam (ol) have more food value than sugar beet, but they take longer to grow.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potato is a creeping tuber. It can be planted among many other plants, including fruit trees. It grows very well with bamboo because it can climb the bamboo poles.

It has 2 main varieties:

  • sweet juice potato (sháṋkálu)
  • sweet potato (miśt́i álu, rángálu, shakkarkand)

Where sweet potatoes are grown, the land may also be used for bamboo, sugar cane, banana and papaya.

The early variety of sweet potato should be grown from Áshvina to Agraháyańa. The late variety from Paoś to Phálguna.

Almost any space between two other plants can be used to grow sweet juice potato from the month of Áshvina to Phálguna.

A good quality solid molasses can be produced from sweet juice potato. Dehydrated sweet potato powder can also be made.

Date Palm (Khejur)

Several palms produce juices which can be converted into sugar.

Solid molasses (gur), country sugar and half concentrated juice (used as a beverage) can all be prepared from date palm.

The Bengal variety of date palm is not good as a food, but it is excellent for producing plant juice from which we can get good quality solid date palm molasses (khejur gur) and date palm sugar (chini).

The juice produced on our farming projects should not be used for preparing fermented juice (khejur tadi).

Date palm molasses is 125 times more substantial than refined sugar. For diabetics, refined sugar is more harmful than molasses.

Indian Palmyra

Indian Palmyra is another palm which produces sweet juice for making sugar. Sugar, solid molasses, hard molasses (bheli gur) and refined molasses (khadesri) and many other products can be made from the Indian palmyra tree. Half concentrated palmyra juice in an airtight tin can be produced for sale. Sugar candy can also be made.

To plant the Indian palmyra tree, make a waist deep pit and fill it up with an equal mixture of soil and compost. Plant the seeds or seedlings.

After some time, when the soil goes down, fill it up again with soil. If the plant dies, replace it with a larger seedling. The same technique can be used to plant banyan. Indian Palmyra is to be planted alternately with banyan as a riverside plantation.

Tál

There are two varieties of tál according to colour:

  • South Indian – ash colour
  • North Indian – found in Howrah, Midnapur, 2´ Parganas, and Patna. The North Indian variety may be divided into 3 types:
  1. one seed – top reddish, pulp reddish, not good for eating
  2. two seeds – half red, half black, red pulp
  3. three seeds – black on top, red pulp

The 3-seeded tál is called doma tál or hadi tál. It is found in the Howrah, Midnapur, 2´ Parganas and Patna districts. No special soil preparation is required for tál. It grows in normal soil, although wet, alluvial soil is best.

In Howrah and Midnapur districts, solid molasses is made from it. Fermented juice (tadi), not solid molasses, is usually made from the Patna variety. Solid molasses, fermented juice (tadi) and yeast can all be made from tál. It grows within 15 miles of either side of the Ganges, but tál cannot be grown in Gaya.

Gol

Solid molasses and other sugar products can be prepared from gol, but it will not grow successfully in Ánanda Nagar. It needs saline soil.

In the past, Calcutta and the surrounding localities were a salt water swamp, like the Sundabans. This was caused by a flood which inundated the region with salt water. As a result, many gol trees grew in Calcutta and the surrounding area.

Salt Lake was named after the salty water in eastern Calcutta, and Gol Park derived its name from the many gol trees that once grew in southern Calcutta. Now gol trees are mainly confined to the Sundabans.

Indian Olive (Mahuá, Mahul)

Indian olive is important both as an oil crop and as a sugar crop.

The source of sugar in Indian olive is the flowers, from which solid molasses is made, and this can be refined into sugar. The dehydrated flowers can also be made into flour.