How Sugar is Made...
GROWING & HARVESTING
Commercial sugarcane is planted from stalk cuttings and placed in furrows five feet apart. After approximately 12 months, the mature sugarcane is ready for harvest. Growers average four harvests from a single planting. The harvesting campaign begins in mid-October and runs through mid-March or approximately 150 days.
The Cooperative harvests an average of 600 acres per day during daylight hours. Using a single-row, combine-style harvester, the cane is cut at the base of the stalk, transferred into in-field wagons and loaded in semi-trailers for transport to the processing facility. A typical harvesting unit contains three or four harvesters operating in tandem with six to eight tractors and a string of in-field wagons.
About 70,000 acres are harvested each season, producing more than three million tons of sugarcane.
The Cooperative has one of the largest mills in the world. Operating 24-hours a day during the harvest season, Glades Sugar House grinds as much as 26,000 tons of sugarcane per day. State-of-the-art processing involves separating the natural sugar juice from the stalk then concentrating the juice to produce raw sugar crystals and blackstrap molasses.
Each portion of the sugarcane stalk is used. The fibrous portion of the stalk, called bagasse, is used as a fuel source conserving more than 31 million gallons of fuel oil each year. The annual fuel savings is the equivalent of powering 79,000 households per year.
The molasses is sold primarily as animal feed. One ton of sugarcane produces approximately 220 pounds of raw sugar.