Impact of Heavy Metals on Sugarcane

  • D. V. YadavEmail author
  • Radha Jain
  • R. K. Rai
Part of the Soil Biology book series (SOILBIOL, volume 19)


Sugarcane is one of the most important cash crops in the tropics and subtropics, where it is mainly used to manufacture crystal sugar. It is cultivated between the latitudes of 35°N and 35°S. Theoretically, it has the potential to produce 805 t ha−1 wet cane or 470 t ha−1 dry matter. The highest harvestable sugar cane yield achieved so far is close to 58% of its theoretical yield potential, but efforts are in progress to raise this to 100%. Such efforts include the intensive use of fertilizers, irrigation, effluents, sewage sludge, industrial residues, sugar mill by-products, spent wash, pesticides, and herbicides, besides the use of high-yielding cane varieties to increase cane productivity. All of these efforts (except the use of high-yielding cane varieties) make use of sources that contain heavy metals, which means that these efforts result in increasing levels of heavy metals in soils used to grow sugarcane. These heavy metals are absorbed by the growing sugarcane, where they can reach phytotoxic levels.

Therefore, this chapter discusses the effects of heavy metal pollutants in the soil on the growth and juice quality of sugarcane. Various sources (phosphatic fertilizers, sewage sludge, sugar mill by-products, effluents from tanneries, piggeries and swine lagoons, spent wash, fungicides, metal-polluted landfills, brackish water, and polluted soils) lead to the contamination of the ecosystem in which sugarcane grows with metals/ heavy metals. The heavy metal contents in soils, different parts of the sugarcane, cane juice, sugars, and jaggery, along with the effects of these heavy metals on soils and their impact on sugarcane physiological function are also reviewed. The critical load of heavy metals in soil depends on the acceptable total load from anthropogenic heavy metal sources such as deposition, fertilizers, and other anthropogenic sources, below which ecosystem damage is unlikely. The effects-based steady-state and standstill critical load approaches used for heavy metal critical loads calculations and mapping are also described. Remedial measures for heavy metal pollution utilizing the Taguchi method with modified bagasse from sugarcane and a batch technique using bagasse pith both hold promise. Sugarcane also offers the potential for phytoremediation of heavy metal polluted soils due to its outstanding capacity for biomass production. Nevertheless, the metal accumulation and tolerance of sugarcane must be characterized.


Heavy Metal Sewage Sludge Critical Load Sugarcane Bagasse Phosphatic Fertilizer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Crop ProductionIndian Institute of Sugarcane ResearchLucknowIndia
  2. 2.Indian Institute of Sugarcane ResearchLucknowIndia

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