Biodeterioration of harvested sugarcane in Jamaica

  • R.H. Tilbury

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The microbiological, physical and chemical changes which occur instored, harvested sugarcane were studied in Jamaica and the United Kingdom.The degree of deterioration was proportional to time of storage, and wasrevealed by a statistically significant reduction in sucrose content.Other symptoms included a fall in pH, and increases in reducing sugars,dextran, viscosity, and microbial count. Cut cane was universally infectedwith Leuconostoc mesenteroides, which reached a maximum count of 107 to 108organisms per ml. juice within. 3 to 4 days of harvest. Counts of othermicroorganisms were generally insignificant, except for occasional lactobacilli.A new dextran-forming species was named Lactobacillus confusus.Microorganisms isolated from deteriorated cane were screened for theirability to cause deterioration of a sterile, synthetic cane juice. L. mesenteroides strains were the most deteriogenic, but attempts toreproduce the symptoms of "sour" cane by inoculation of this organism intocut cane were only partially successful. L. mesenteroides was present in the soil and the epiphytic flora of the stalk. The principal vector of infection appeared to be the cutters' machete, especially in wet weather. Cane harvested by a chopper machine deteriorated more rapidly than hand-cut whole-stalks. Economic losses due to deterioration of harvested cane were estimated to be 9.2% of the initial recoverable sugar for the 1969 crop at Frome Estate, Jamaica. Dextran content was a useful indicator of cane biodeterioration. The dextran content of mill juices was correlated with rainfall, and significant correlations were obtained between dextran content and viscosity of mill syrups and the amount of sugar lost in final molasses; it also caused the formation of elongated crystals. Attempts to control sour cane by chemical and physical methods were unsuccessful, and it was concluded that the only solution is to mill cane within 24 hours of harvest. A novel method for removal of dextran from mill juices by enzymic treatment with dextranase was developed and patented.
Date of AwardNov 1970
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorH.O.W. Eggins (Supervisor)


  • biodeterioration
  • harvested
  • sugar cane
  • Jamaica

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