Growing Sugarcane for Bioenergy – Effects on the Soil

A.E. Hartemink

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper


An increasing area of sugarcane is being growing for the production of bioenergy. Sugarcane puts a high demands on the soil due to the use of heavy machinery and because large amounts of nutrients are removed with the harvest. Biocides and inorganic fertilizers introduces risks of groundwater contamination, eutrophication of surface waters, soil pollution and acidification. This paper reviews the effect of commercial sugarcane production on soil chemical, physical and biological properties using data from the main producing areas. Although variation is considerable, soil organic C decreased in most soils under sugarcane and, also, soil acidification is common as a result of the use of N fertilizers. Increased bulk densities, lower water infiltration rates and lower aggregate stability occur in mechanized systems. There is some evidence for high leaching losses of fertilizer nutrients as well as herbicides and pesticides. Eutrophication of surface waters occurs in high-input systems. Sugarcane cultivation can substantially contribute to the supply of renewable energy, but that improved crop husbandry and precision farming principles are needed to sustain and improve the resource base on which production depends.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings 19th World Congress of Soil Science, Brisbane, Australia, 01 - 06 August, 2010
EditorsR.J. Gilkes, N. Prakongkap
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Event19th World Congress of Soil Science, Soil Solutions for a Changing World, Brisbane, Australia -
Duration: 1 Aug 20106 Aug 2010


Conference19th World Congress of Soil Science, Soil Solutions for a Changing World, Brisbane, Australia


  • sugarcane
  • soil degradation
  • acidification
  • fuel crops
  • leaching
  • losses from soil
  • pollution
  • biobased economy


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