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Oct. 04, 2022

Experts discuss sugarcane breeding and utilization technologies and future R&D direction in the JIRCAS-FFTC online workshop

Experts discuss sugarcane breeding and utilization technologies and future R&D direction in the JIRCAS-FFTC online workshop


The recently held FFTC-JIRCAS online workshop on “Innovations and Networking of Sugarcane Research for Future Sugarcane Industry in the Asian and Pacific Region” last September 15 in which 11 experts from Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, shared the current situation of sugarcane production and its related industries, and their future perspectives on the wide utilization of sugarcane and breeding strategies.

In session 1 which tackled the advancement of sugarcane breeding using interspecific and intergeneric hybrids, presentations and discussion revolved around the broadening genetic background of sugarcane varieties, especially those commercial varieties that have to be more adaptable to adverse environment.

In Japan, after 40 years of interspecific crossing, a commercial sugarcane variety known as “Haruno-ougi,” was developed from Saccharum spontaneum in 2019. This particular variety shows a sugar yield which is 1.5 times higher compared to the conventional varieties. Another collaborative research done by Japanese and Thai scientists shows the Erianthus species and their promising potential as good breeding materials for sugarcane improvement due to their desirable traits. Some hybrids with Erianthus root characteristics were seen as promising breeding materials for improving sugarcane adaptability to adverse environments. The research from Australia also described how to overcome the genuine hybrids’ difficulties between sugarcane and E. arundinaceus through molecular markers and cytogenetics techniques.

Session 2, on the other hand, is a review of the status of sugarcane research and industry. Sugarcane experts from six countries reported the main issues facing sugarcane as a crop and  its related industries in their respective countries. Recently, sugarcane production, in terms of their yield, and quality has been vulnerable mainly because of climate disasters, labor shortages, reduction of sugarcane fields, old milling facilities, etc. There is also a new demand for the utilization of sugarcane and its byproducts for biorefinery and other new products. Future breeding strategies were also discussed, including varietal exchanges with other countries, cultivation method improvement for better sugar production and less carbon emission, breeding of new varieties which are suitable for countries' environment and policy, managing the utilization of the byproducts in the producing chain, and implementing policies and plans to keep the sustainable development of the sugar industry.

Lastly, session 3 covers advancement of utilization technologies of sugarcane. It was reported that from 2021 to 2027, the Thai government will be implementing the utilization of their new economic model, which they termed as BCG which stands for bio-economy, circular economy and green economy to improve their competitiveness. Here, all sugar and its by-products which are used in various industries and will be referred to as bioproducts, will include high-value products like bioethanol, biofertilizers, biomass cogeneration, and animal feeds. With further biomodification to materials like bioplastic or biopharmaceuticals, these products might have an even higher value in the market. For years, Japanese researchers, have been developing technologies to address the problem of global warming. This includes high yielding sugarcane with CO2 capture capacity, and the development of other new innovative by-products using the “inversion process,” “efficient ethanol and ethylene production”, and “torrefaction technology.”

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