India is the original home for Sugar. From Sharkara in Sanskrit to Sugar in English, it has been a long journey of time and space with quite a few intermediaries. Alexander and his troops were amazed by this honey without bees. But it was the Arabs who introduced Sugarcane to Europe and from there the Spaniards took it to the Americas.
Sugarcane or Saccharum is a genus of 6 to 37 species of tall perennial grasses (family Poaceae, tribe Andropogoneae), native to warm temperate to tropical regions. They have stout, jointed, fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar and measure 2 to 6 meters tall. All of the sugarcane species interbreed, and the major commercially cultivated species are complex hybrids.
Sugar occurs in greatest quantities in sugar cane and sugar beets from which it is separated for commercial use. There is no difference in the sugar produced from either cane or beet. Sugar cane, a giant grass, thrives in a warm, moist climate, storing sugar in its stalk. The sugar beet grows best in a temperate climate and stores its sugar in its white root. Sugar from both sources is produced by nature in the same fashion as all green plants produce sugar-as a means of storing the sun’s energy.
Sugarcane is an industrial crop with acreage of about 4 million hectares and production to the tune of 300 million tonnes in India. It provides employment to over a million people directly or indirectly besides contributing significantly to the national exchequer. In commercial agriculture, cane is subjected to various weather conditions and stresses. In the Indian subtropics erratic availability of moisture and frequent occurrence of red rot disease severely impair the productivity of cane. In addition to this, acute water scarcity in many areas would need the development of drought tolerant / water use efficient cane genotypes to sustain the cane industry.