field workers sugar cane farm Fiji

Field workers in a sugar cane farm in Fiji. Photo credit: Asian Development Bank (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr

Sugarcane is not only the main source of sucrose but also the world’s most important energy crop with an important role in the global sustainability transition, owing to its high productivity, its concentration in developing and emerging economies and the wide array of commercial products that it can provide.

This chapter describes the diversification of sugarcane production systems into multiple energy and non-energy products, improving economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability. The chapter also explains the evolution of lifecycle assessments, including the entire supply chain from cultivation through end use, which has facilitated continuous sustainability improvements.

The experience in Brazil is used to illustrate how sugarcane has gone from being a single commodity resource to a flexible and diversified renewable resource. The development of modern bio-refineries using sugarcane as feedstock allows for innovative combinations of value-added products and services from both agricultural and industrial sources to insure efficient and effective use of sugarcane resources in support of sustainable development pathways.