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The Biology of the Saccharum spp. (Sugarcane)

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Version 3: May 2011

This document addresses the biology of the Saccharum spp. hybrid which is grown as commercial sugarcane, with particular reference to the Australian environment, cultivation and use. Information included relates to the taxonomy and origins of Saccharum spp. hybrid, general descriptions of its morphology, reproductive biology and biochemistry, biotic and abiotic interactions. This document also addresses the potential for gene transfer to occur to closely related species. The purpose of this document is to provide baseline information about the non-genetically modified (GM) parent organism for use in risk assessments of GM Saccharum spp. that may be released into the Australian environment.

Sugarcane is a tall growing monocotyledonous crop that is cultivated in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, primarily for its ability to store high concentrations of sucrose, or sugar, in the stem. Modern sugarcane cultivars that are cultivated for sugar production are founded on interspecific hybrids between S. spontaneum and S. officinarum (Saccharum spp.). Sugarcane is an ancient crop. Its use as a garden crop dates back to around 2500BC. At present it is grown as a commercial crop primarily in South America (Brazil), North/Central America (USA, Mexico), Asia (India, China, Thailand) and Australia. Sugarcane in this document refers to the Saccharum spp. hybrids as described above.

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