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Comparative Performance of Sugarcane Bagasse and Black Polyethylene as Mulch for Squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) Production

Webber, Charles L. III, White, Paul M. Jr., Spaunhorst, Douglas J., Petrie, Eric C.
Journal of agricultural science 2017 v.9 no.11 pp. 1-9
Cucurbita pepo, agricultural sciences, allelopathy, boilers, burning, carbon nitrogen ratio, crop production, field experimentation, fruits, grinding, heat, heat sums, organic mulches, plastic film mulches, polyethylene, raw sugar, soil microorganisms, soil pH, squashes, steam, sucrose, sugarcane, sugarcane bagasse, temperature, vegetable growing, Louisiana
Louisiana processed 11.7 million mt of sugarcane in 2016, producing 1.47 million mt of raw sugar and an estimated 3.5 million mt of bagasse. Sugarcane bagasse is the fibrous material remaining after removing the sucrose, water, and other impurities (filter mud) from the millable sugarcane. Typically, Louisiana sugarcane mills burn a portion of the bagasse to heat boilers to steam power the mill for grinding and sugar processing. The balance of the bagasse is stored at the sugar mill where it accumulates in immense piles. Research was conducted in 2015 and 2016 to investigate the use of sugarcane bagasse as a natural mulch for vegetable production. The field experiment compared sugarcane bagasse mulch, black plastic mulch, and no mulch (control) for suitable mulching treatments for squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) production. The black plastic mulch produced significantly greater marketable fruits/plant, fruit number, and total yield (kg/ha) across years compared to the sugarcane bagasse mulch. The sugarcane bagasse mulch and the no mulch control were not significantly different for these same parameters. Black plastic also produced heaver fruit (g/fruit) than the sugarcane bagasse mulch and the control in 2015. The black plastic mulch produced greater yields due to the greater cumulative growing degree days (CGDD) received compared to the sugarcane bagasse mulch and no mulch control. The sugarcane bagasse mulch tended to mitigate temperature extremes by serving as a soil insulator. Future research should investigate the potential deleterious impact, if any, of the sugarcane bagasse on soil microbes, C/N ratio, soil pH, and allelopathy, which might adversely influence cucurbit growth.