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Sugar cane grows exceptionally well in the deep muck soils of Florida's Everglade Agricultural Area (EAA), south of Lake Okeechobee. Ample rainfall and tropical temperatures during summer months create ideal growing conditions, and the moderate winters are perfect for harvesting.
Planting takes place from September through January. Cane seeds, produced in white or reddish plumes at the tops of mature cane stalks are too small to be planted directly in the field. Instead, stalks are harvested from mature fields and cut into short 20-inch segments then placed in furrows and covered with soil. Sprouts from the cane stalks emerge two to three weeks later.
After 10-12 months, the sugar cane is ready for harvest. All of Florida Crystals' fields are mechanically harvested, using combine-like machines that slice the cane stalks just above root level. The cut cane is then transferred to trailers and taken to the mill for processing.
Sugar cane is typically grown for three years, then the fields are rotated with rice. Rotating sugar cane with rice restores the soils fertility, kills unfriendly burrowing nematodes and provides a rich habitat for many species of wading birds.