Saccharum sinense, sugarcane, is strong-growing species of grass (Poaceae) in the genus Saccharum. It is originally cultivated in Guangzhou, China where it is still commonly grown. It is a more primitive form of sugarcane with a hybrid origin from wild species of cane. A number of clones exists that are often included in the S. officinarum species as the Pansahi group. The most notable member of which is the Uba variety of cane. They are a perennial plant that grows in erect clumps that can reach up to 5 meters in high and have a red cane with a diameter of 15 mm to 30 mm.
There are two centers of domestication for sugarcane: one for Saccharum officinarum by Papuans in New Guinea and another for Saccharum sinense by Austronesians in Taiwan and southern China. Papuans and Austronesians originally primarily used sugarcane as food for domesticated pigs. The spread of both S. officinarum and S. sinense is closely linked to the migrations of the Austronesian peoples. Saccharum barberi was only cultivated in India after the introduction of S. officinarum.
Saccharum officinarum was first domesticated in New Guinea and the islands east of the Wallace Line by Papuans, where it is the modern center of diversity. Beginning at around 6,000 BP they were selectively bred from the native Saccharum robustum. From New Guinea it spread westwards to Island Southeast Asia after contact with Austronesians, where it hybridized with Saccharum spontaneum.
The second domestication center is mainland southern China and Taiwan where S. sinense was a primary cultigen of the Austronesian peoples. Words for sugarcane exist in the Proto-Austronesian languages in Taiwan, reconstructed as *təbuS or **CebuS, which became *tebuh in Proto-Malayo-Polynesian. It was one of the original major crops of the Austronesian peoples from at least 5,500 BP. Introduction of the sweeter S. officinarum may have gradually replaced it throughout its cultivated range in Island Southeast Asia.
From Island Southeast Asia, S. officinarum was spread eastward into Polynesia and Micronesia by Austronesian voyagers as a canoe plant by around 3,500 BP. It was also spread westward and northward by around 3,000 BP to China and India by Austronesian traders, where it further hybridized with Saccharum sinense and Saccharum barberi. From there it spread further into western Eurasia and the Mediterranean.
This variety of sugarcane is noted for being hardier than other varieties as well as being better adapted to poor soils and dry conditions. It tends to be leafier, with relatively hard thin red coloured canes. The plant does best in temperatures that range between 20 °C – 32 °C but is capable of tolerating ranges from 12 °C – 38 °C and very short periods of light frosts. The plant grows best in well-drained soil with a pH range of 5–6.
The plant is still extensively cultivated in the Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, Yunnan, and Zhejiang regions of China.
Specimens and clonesEdit
Specimens of this cane were sent to Calcutta, India in 1796 from where specimens were sent to Durban, South Africa to help establish the sugar industry there. From Durban specimens were sent to Mauritius in the late 1800s where they adopted the name Uba due to arriving in a water soaked box that had washed off the boxes' original wording "Durban" and leaving only the letters "uba". The cultivation of the heavier yet less valuable Uba variety (due to its lower sucrose content) in Mauritius was instrumental in events that led up to the Uba riots of 1937.
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