Sri Lanka satellite photo

CLICK quick read TABLE
කෙටි ලැඉස්තුව
වෙසෙස් ලිපි
Maps with Sinhala place names
මුල් පිට
Main webpage
Sinhala Technical Terms
සිංහල තෙක්න වදන්
Sinhala Plant names - Ethnobotany
උද්භිද නම් → සිංහල නාම

Na Mala

Naa නා (national tree) මල flower

Sugarcane species in Sri Lanka.

adapted from notes provided by

Dr. Nande Dharmawardana,

ex-Director, Sugar Research Institute of Sri Lanka


Sugarcane is a commercial crop viable in the tropics and subtropics, It is known to be one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world1. Since the inception of the Sugar Research Institute (SRI) of Sri Lanka in 1984, it has collected and conserved over 1200 clones of cane in its germplasm collection at Udawalawe. This includes Nomenclature

Their naming is as follows: All cane hybrids (commercial cane) if imported will have the Country of origin (or breeding station) included in the name. This is a designation convention accepted internationally. For example, the main breeding station in India is "Coimbatore". So all hybrid cane coming from there would have "Co" in front. Thus, for example, one of the old Indian varieties grown in SL is called "Co-775". Now all Sri Lankan hybrids are designated with the "SL" tag. For example one of the common variety now grown by the farmer here is a variety we bred at SRI, and it is called SL 83-08.

Pure canes are all designated Saccharum officinarum or commonly called Officinarum cane. We found during our collection here, that most of the Kalu-Uk (sinhala) types were Officinarum cane.

The Wild cane types imported to SL are : Saccharum robustum, Saccharum spontaneum and Saccharum edule.
The last one, i.e., S. edule is from Fiji. It is called edule because it has a large edible inflorescence like the cauliflower. In fact in Fiji it is sold as a vegetable in the market. It is grown as a vegetable and not for sugar, as it has very little sugar. Similarly wild canes have very little sugar. Collection of wild cane in SL was done during our cane expeditions to the central hills. In sri Lanka we found only Saccharum spontaneum. Biochemical and genetic analysis using RADP (Randomly Amplified Polymorphic DNA) and RFLP (Restricted Fragment Length +Polymorphic Analysis) showed ecotype differences between those collected in the Knucles region and in the Hortain plains foot hills, and in the Deniyaya area. This genetic cluster analysis and collection have now come to a halt, since the early 2000s.

Breeding Programs

As a result of the breeding programmes of the SRI undertaken in the late 1980s, under the direction of Dr. N. Dharmawardana, SL has some good commercial clones. The objectives of the breeding programme was to produce canes having higher yields in sugar and cane, with early, mid and late maturing characteristics which could retain high sugar for longer periods, better agronomic features such as erectness, resisrance to lodging,self trashing,drought tolerance with resistance to pests and diseases. The SRI has also produced two commercial clones by tissue culture. Some aspects of Tissue Culture and resistence to Pathogens is covered in the general review article by M. E. Daub2.
Some good commercial hybrids produced at the SRI in Sri Lanka are as follows:

SL 83-06, SL86-13, SL 88-238, SL 89-1673, SL 71-30,
SL 88-116,SL 89-309,SL 92-4997, SL92-4918, SL 89-2227
SL 91-4295, SL 92-4997, SL 92-5588, SL 94- 3325.
Tissue Culture subclone: SLT 88-238

Current state of the Industry

Extensive and adhoc privatization of the local sugar industry in the 1990 and then again in early 2002, without a regulatory power- structure in the hands of the government, has lead to its rapid decline. This has been followed by short-term profiteering and politics, creating a strong negative effect on the industry and on the research effort. Although a national policy for the restoration and development of the local industry was approved by the Government of Sri Lanka in early 2005, the government has failed to implement any of the major policy initatives in the said national policy. This has lead to the further contraction of the acreage under sugar in recent years and domestic production acounts for less than 10% of the domestic requirements.

Gantale (Kantale) & Hingurana, two  of the four factories producing sugar had to be closed down and the remaining two factories(Pelwatte and Sevenegala) are facing a crisis situation due to lack of cane supplies brought about by poor management and the failure to pass on the profits accrued by the miller to the farmer even though government has allowed local sugar sales at nearly double the world market prices by tarrif adjustments. Although the potential for expansion of the industry exists,as Sri Lanka imports over half a million tonnes of sugar per annum, GOSL has yet to create conditions favourable for its development by enacting a Sri Lanka Sugar Act to regulate the stake holders, viz., the farmer, miller and the government activities.

The unsettled law and order situation and terrorism have also strongly affected regions like Gantale (Kantale), Hingurana etc.


1. Sugarcane, Edited by Glyn James, (Blackwell, Oxford) 2004
2. M. E. Daub, Ann. Rev. Phytopathol. vol. 24, pp159-186,   Online article

Please address comments, suggestions etc., to: