Native to the tropical regions of South Asia and Melanesia, sugar cane belongs to the tall perennial true grass genus, Saccharum, of the family Poaceae. In terms of production quantity, it is the world’s largest crop. Over time, sugar cane species were interbred and the major commercial cultivars are now complex hybrids.
The crop has tall, fibrous stalks with distinctly jointed internodes. These are rich in sucrose and can reach heights of between two and six metres. The sucrose is extracted in mill factories to be processed into sugar or fermented to produce ethanol. The world’s sugar consumption is derived from sugar cane for 80%, with the remainder made from sugar beet. As a tropical and subtropical crop, it requires plentiful rainfall for a period of more than six months per annum. It does not tolerate severe frosts.