Sugarcane is an important cash crop of the country cultivated over about 5 million ha area including both sub-tropical and tropical regions. Sub-tropical region contributes more than 55% area of the sugarcane, however, cane yield and sugar recovery (%) are lower in comparison with tropical India.
Co 0238 (Karan 4) is a high yielding and high sugar content variety, derived from the cross Co LK 8102 x Co 775. This variety was evolved at the Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Regional Centre, Karnal and released by the Central Sub-committee on Crop Standards, Notification and Release of Varieties during 2009 as an early maturing variety for commercial cultivation in North-West Zone (NWZ) comprising the states of Haryana, Punjab, Western and Central Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.
Co 0238 was evaluated at 7 locations under the AICRP (Sugarcane) during 2006-08 in NWZ. It ranked 1st for cane yield (81 ton/ha), 2nd for sugar yield and 5th for sucrose content (%). In comparison to CoJ 64, a well known early maturing variety of NWZ, it showed 19.96, 15.83 and 0.50% improvement in cane yield, sugar yield and sucrose % respectively. The jaggery of Co 0238 is of A1 quality with light yellow colour. This variety is moderately resistant to the prevalent races of red rot pathogen.
This variety has spread in the field at a much faster rate as it combines both high cane yield and better juice quality and hence is being preferred by both farmers and sugar industry. Since 2009-10, the area under Co 0238 has been increasing at a faster rate in all the five major sugarcane growing states, viz. Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, UP and Bihar in subtropical India. Though, this variety was released and notified for NWZ, however, it has crossed the boundaries of the zone to reach Eastern UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. During 2015-16, about 20.5% of the total cane area (21,77,802 ha) in North India was covered by Co 0238 (4,47,459 ha). Punjab had the maximum coverage (70% area) followed by Haryana (29%), UP (19.6%), Bihar (6%) and Uttarakhand (8.4%).
There was higher cane yield and sugar recovery (%) in 20 districts of UP due to increase in area under Co 0238 from 72,623 ha (3.1%) during 2013-14 to 1,76,763 ha (8.3%) during 2014-15. The mean cane yield of these 20 districts was higher by 2.7 t/ha in comparison with mean cane yield of 24 districts with negligible area of Co 0238. This resulted in additional cane production of 4.77 lakh tons (2.7 x 1,76,763). As a result, farmers of the UP state would have got an additional amount of 133.56 crores (4.77 lakh tonnes x 2800) as cane price. Hence per hectare profitability of farmers, who cultivated Co 0238, was higher by about 7500/-. Improved sugar recovery of 20 districts due to cultivation of Co 0238 would have led to production of additional 1,575 tonnes (4.77 x 0.33) (approx.) of sugar by the sugar mills in UP. In the process, sugar mills in the state earned additional amount of 3.94 crores (1,575 x 25,000).
Hence in the present scenario, the variety has helped in reducing the losses of sugar mills up to some extent. During 2014-15, Co 0238 has resulted in an additional return of 137.5 crores to the farmers and sugar mills in the UP state alone.
During 2015-16 season, one mill in Sitapur district of UP has recorded the highest sugar recovery (12.1%) on 21st December, 2015, which is the highest ever recorded in sub-tropical India. With the spread of this news of historic impact of Co 0238 on sugar recovery in UP, the ICAR – Sugarcane Breeding Institute is flooded with demands of seed of Co 0238 from many states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. This is a reversal of trend i.e. demand of a sub-tropical sugarcane variety in tropical India, observed for the first time in the history of sugarcane industry in the country.