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Home > Agronomic Practices > Planting Material
Planting Material

Sugarcane is vegetatively propagated for commercial cultivation. Different kinds of planting materials viz., cane setts; settlings and bud chips are used for raising sugarcane crop.


Cane Setts

Stem cuttings or sections of the stalks are called "setts" or seed pieces. Each sett contains one or more buds. Always use fresh, genetically pure, pest and disease free setts as seed material. Generally, three bud setts are used for planting throughout the world, while in some areas two-bud setts are also used.

Three Bud Sett (Source: Verma, 2004)


Experimental evidence shows that germination percentage of 3-bud setts is higher than the setts having more or less than 3-buds. The middle bud of a 3-bud sett has the highest germinating capacity followed by top end bud and the bottom end bud, respectively (Verma, 2004). The middle bud has an advantage in germination because, as a non-terminal bud having nodes on either side, its moisture resources are better protected than those of the terminal buds.


Middle bud showing the highest germinating capacity in 3-Bud Sett

(Source: Verma, 2004)


Germination capacity of single-bud sett is very poor due to loss of moisture from cut ends on either side. Further the plants arising from single-bud setts also lack vigour and yield low as compared to those from three-budded setts. Thus the preference given to three-budded setts over single-bud setts is partly based on germination capacity and partly on initial vigour of the germinated plants and cane yield.


If whole cane stalk is planted without being cut into setts, usually few buds at its top end germinate and the lower end buds remain inactive due to top dominance. The effect of top dominance is eliminated when stalk is cut into pieces.



Cane setts with roots and shoots are known as settlings. Settlings can be raised either in nursery beds or in polythene bags. Single node settlings are used as a planting material in spaced transplanting technique of raising sugarcane crop.


Single bud settling (Source: Verma, 2004)


Bud Chips

Little portion of stem with one bud is known as bud chip. Bud chips are used to raise settlings in nursery. They were found to produce a good crop when transplanted in main field. The principal advantage of bud chips is substantial saving in seed material. Seed requirement is reduced to less than one ton per ha. Adopting the following procedure raises settlings from bud chips:

  • Prepare the bud chips from whole cane using a sharp edged knife in such a way that each bud has a little portion of stem
  • Plant the bud chips on raised nursery beds adopting a inter-row spacing of 7.5 cm at the rate of 300 buds/m2
  • Alternatively nursery can be raised in polybags of 15 cm x 10 cm size
  • Fill the polybags with homogeneous mixture of equal quantity of soil, sand and well rotten compost
  • Plant the bud chips in polybags with the bud facing upwards and cover with soil mixture to avoid drying of the bud
  • Bottom of the bags should have holes to facilitate drainage
  • Ensure regular watering of bags or nursery area
  • Settlings are ready in 5 - 8 weeks for transplanting in the main field
  • Under good management conditions establishment of transplanted seedlings in the main field is high (90-100%)



Raising of Seed Cane Crop

The normal practice in many parts of the world is to use commercial crop of sugarcane for seed purposes. Characteristics for good seed are seldom taken into consideration. Many growers do not care for seed quality and many of those who do, select the seed only at the sett cutting and planting stage. This is not enough. If a grower wants to be sure of getting good and disease free seed cane he should raise the seed crop separately. This crop should be kept completely free from pests and diseases by constant field scouting from the very beginning.


Moreover, seed quality is not merely a matter of pest and disease freedom. Seed has to be in high water content and of good nutritional status. Neglect in raising good seed crop is one of the major defects in sugarcane cultivation all over the world. (In the picture above: Bud Chip)


Use of sugarcane seed from the commercial crop has been responsible for rapid multiplication of a large number of diseases like red rot, wilt, smut, ratoon stunting and grassy shoot which adversely affect the cane yield and quality. It is, therefore, raising of healthy and vigorous sugarcane crops for seed purpose is essential and recommended.


  • Select an upland field for raising seed crop with no soil problems (soil salinity, acidity, waterlogging etc) and adequate irrigation facility
  • Prepare the soil thoroughly and incorporate 20-25 tons/ha of FYM 15 days before planting
  • Provide field channels and field drains to prevent rain water traversing from adjoining field to check spread of red rot disease
  • Select seed material from previously raised seed nursery crop and prepare the setts. Use only sterilized setts to avoid transmission of certain diseases like RSD and GSD
  • Give heat treatment (heat therapy) to eliminate seed borne diseases and organomercurial treatment to protect the setts from soil borne diseases to ensure better germination
  • Adopt narrow spacing of 75 cm to obtain higher yield of setts per unit area
  • Use 25% higher seed rate than normal cane crop
  • Apply higher nutrient dose of 250 kg N + 75 kg P2O5 + 125 kg K2O/ha
  • Irrigate the crop at optimum levels to avoid any water stress during crop life taking in to account evaporative demand of the atmosphere (ETo) and Crop characteristics (Kc) at different crop growth stages
  • Provide weed free environment for better growth of the crop and also to avoid infestation of pests and diseases
  • Adopt field scouting for timely control of pests and diseases
  • Rouge out the affected clumps and plants of other varieties
  • Protect the crop from lodging, binding and propping
  • Crop is ready in 7 - 8 months. Setts obtained from such crop contain healthy and sound buds, higher moisture content, adequate nutrients, higher amounts of reducing sugars, therefore, establish quickly and grow vigorously thus ensuring a good commercial main field crop.


Preparation of Setts for Main Field Planting


  • Harvest the seed crop one day before planting to obtain higher percentage and uniform germination.
  • Prepare the setts always one day before planting by giving sett treatment.
  • Planting material or seed cane should be free from aerial roots and splits.
  • Avoid damage to buds while cutting setts.
  • Change the seed material after every two to three seasons. In case if it is inevitable to use mature cane as seed, the top one-third portion can be used satisfactorily.


Ideal Seed Cane


  • Always use seed cane obtained from a seed crop of 7-8 months
  • Free from disease and pest infestation like red rot, wilt, smut, ratoon stunting disease etc
  • Possesses healthy buds without any damage in handling and transport.
  • Buds with higher moisture content, adequate nutrients, higher amount of reducing sugars and viability.
  • Free from aerial roots and splits.
  • Pure in quality.


Seed Cane Treatment


  • Objective: To protect the crop from soil borne diseases causing pathogens, which usually gain entry into the setts through the cut ends following planting and cause sett rotting and damage to buds, thus affecting germination.
  • Most farmers don't treat the setts before planting which results low plant population per unit area consequently reducing the yield
  • Treat the setts soon after cutting in 0.1% (at 1g/liter) Carbendazim solution for 15 minutes.
  • Three important diseases viz., grassy shoot disease, smut and ratoon stunting disease are carried forward through seed cane material. These diseases lead to progressive decline in yields and degenerate sugarcane varieties. For control of these diseases treat the seed material (setts) with moist hot air at 52°c for 30 minutes.
  • To control termites early shoot borer and scale insects treat the setts in a systematic insecticide viz. Malathion 50EC (at 2 ml/liter) or Dimethoate 30EC (at 3 ml/liter) for 15 minutes.


In the Pictures above: Sett treatment with fungicide against soil borne pathogens + moist hot air treatment of setts against seed borne diseases

In the picture below: Termite damaged setts (Source: Verma, 2004)


Seed Rate

Under drip irrigated paired-row system of planting [(0.6m + 1.20m) x 0.12m], about 60,000 two-bud or 40,000 three-bud treated setts would be required to plant one ha of land. With proper germination of buds, this seed rate is adequate to give a gapless stand and raise a successful crop.


Nearly 10-12 tons of seed cane is required to plant one ha of field. However, it is better always to go by number of setts per ha rather than weight basis as sett weight in sugarcane varies largely with varieties.


Measures to obtain higher germination

Some important yet simple measures to obtain higher uniform plant population are as follows:


  • Using quality setts as seed material obtained from a short seed crop devoid of any primary infection
  • Using preferably two eye bud setts instead of three bud setts as seed material
  • Careful preparation of setts without damaging the buds or setts
  • Using sterilized knives for preparing setts to avoid transmission of root stunting and grassy shoot diseases
  • Planting freshly prepared and treated setts
  • Giving adequate and frequent irrigation's during germination phase
  • Control of weeds through pre-emergence herbicides
  • Seed treatment with fungicide and pesticides


Transplanting Technique


Seedlings are raised in a nursery bed using single bud setts. When the seedlings are of about 6 week old, they are transplanted in the prepared main field.


In the pictures on the right and below (Source: Verma, 2004):


  • Single bud sett nursery
  • Single bud sett settlings from nursery for transplanting in main field
  • Transplanting In main field




  • Saving in the seed cost as the seed requirement is only about 2-3 tons/ha against the normal seed requirement of 10-12 tons/ha.
  • Synchronous tillering leading to uniform growth and maturity of stalk population, which usually gives better yield and sugar recovery.
  • Sufficient time for main field preparation
  • Saving in water and fertilizer
  • Better weed management


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