The historical and future contribution of crop physiology and modeling research to sugarcane production systems
Lisson, S and Inman-Bamber, NG and Robertson, MJ and Keating, BA, The historical and future contribution of crop physiology and modeling research to sugarcane production systems, Field Crops Research: An International Journal, 92, (2-3) pp. 321-335. ISSN 0378-4290 (2005) [Refereed Article]
International sugarcane farming practice has been significantly influenced by crop physiology research, both directly, and indirectly via process-based, simulation growth models. These models not only operationalise our basic physiology understanding but also serve to identify knowledge gaps and priority research areas. This paper explores the integration between basic field research, model development and application and on-ground impact. It explores the historical mutual dependency between basic sugarcane physiology research and model development through a brief summary of the key sugarcane models and the seminal published field and controlled-environment studies on which they are based. Examples are given of applications of this understanding and modelling capability that have led to, or have the potential to lead to, significant impacts on sugarcane farming system design, practice and policy. These include the benchmarking of potential yields to guide industry expansion, marketing and to optimize management practice; the scheduling of irrigation practice; analysis of the likely risks and benefits of investment in on-farm water storages and the subsequent identification of best-bet designs; and the forecasting of crop yields via integration with climate forecasting tools. Examples are also given of the combined use of field experimentation and modelling to dispel and/or clarify historical rules of thumb/folklore. Finally, the paper identifies current gaps in our understanding of sugarcane physiology and the potential applications and impacts to be gained from an improved understanding in these areas. These include; an enhanced understanding of the ageing process, sucrose accumulation, water stress physiology and the physiology of water retention in stalks.