The objectives of sugar cane breeding are:
(a) Increased yield per hectare.
(b) Early maturity or late maturity depending on the area of cultivation.
(c) Resistance to plant pathogens and pests.
(d) Increased sugar (sucrose) content in the juice.
There are three varieties in sugar cane based on the maturing time.
These are – early season, mid season and late season variety Co 1266. An early maturing variety has a higher yield than the norami Col 29. P 12091 and Co 1318, two new varieties produced at Coiambatore and released for cultivation in Punjab area have a better yield than Col 29.
Among the mid season maturing canes, the standard variety CoL9 has been replaced by Co J76 and Co 975. These not only have a higher sucrose content but also resistant to frost. Experimental cultivations conducted a Jullundur; Kheri etc have proved Co 975 to be superior to the other varieties.
In the late season group a new variety Co 1148 (P 4383 x Co 301) has been shown to be better than the regularly cultivated CoJ 46. Co 1148 has many desirable traits like, high yield, late ripening, resistant to frost with moderate resistance to red rot disease. This variety however is not suitable for gur production.
Several other varieties released for cultivation in Punjab viz. Co 62401, Co 74O, P 11996 etc seem to have a higher sucrose content and increased cane output.
The late maturing variety Co 1148 cultivated in the Gurudaspur region has 15.6% sucrose content whereas Co 62401 has 15.9% sucrose content. P 11996 is the highest yielder among the late maturing varieties.
The sugar cane breeding Institute has also developed many varieties (among the late maturing ones) which have sugar content as high as 22 percent.
In addition to the varieties mentioned above which are suitable for cultivation in the plains, many varieties suitable for the sub montane region have also been developed.
Among the sub montane varieties Co 1266 and P 1223 5 have a better yield and a high content of sucrose. Co 1318, P 12235, Co 1266 is early maturing varieties.
Varieties Co 1307 and Co 975 are midseason canes among the sub montane plants. The other varieties are Co-S 245, and Co 1158 has high sucrose content.
The Institute at Coimbatore has also developed many frost resistant and red rot resistant varieties.
The red rot disease takes a heavy toll of the crop in south India. The varieties resistant to frost are Co 1328, Co 975, Co 1148. Co 1244 is red rot resistant. Varieties resistant to smut disease have also been evolved at Coimbatore. These are – Co 290, Co 449 and Co 617.
The sugar cane breeding Institute at Coimbatore has been rendering yeomen service to the cultivation of improved sugar cane varieties with the result, varieties developed at the Institute have been under cultivation in several parts of the world.