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Cane and the Cuban Soil

The tropical weather patterns, and the adaptability of the Cuban soil, facilitated Cuba's dominance in the sugar industry. A particular benefit was found in the "ratooning" factor.

There were two methods of growing sugar cane; crops could be grown from "seed cane," or from "ratoons." Using seed cane, a shallow furrow was plowed across the field and overlapping canes planted. The other way, after the cane had been cut, the roots were left in the ground and from them sprang fresh shoots or "ratoons." The larger number of successive crops that could be grown this way meant great savings in labor and thus a lower overall cost. In Louisiana, for example, a seed-cane crop was followed by one ratoon crop (or a crop of stubble cane as it was called there), and the third year a crop of soybeans or cowpeas was planted to restore the fertility. In Cuba the land could be profitably ratooned for eight or ten years-and in some regions for as many as twenty.

Most cane is grown on land between 300 to 1,000 feet in elevation, and "the location of Cuba on the outer margin of the tropics gives it an ideal climate for growing sugar cane," wrote Helen M. Boyer in Economic Geography (July, 1939). In fact, Cuba's combination of geography, soil make-up and climate, are the perfect formula for growing cane.

Azucar
Bitter Memory of Cuban Sugar, Part 1 of 2 |
Cane and the Cuban Soil | The Economic Seasons |
On the Colono System

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