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Sugarcane is the common name of a species of herb belonging to the grass family. The official classification of sugarcane is Saccharum officinarum, and it belongs to the family Gramineae. It is common in tropical and subtropical countries throughout the world. It can grow from eight to twenty feet tall, and is generally about 2 inches thick. Several different horticultural varieties are known, and they differ by their stem color and length (Anonymous, 1998).

The common sugarcane has been cultivated since ancient times. The most widely used form of cultivation is by stem cuttings, since many varieties do not produce fertile seeds (Microsoft, 1994). According to Helen Boyel, (1939) this is one of the many species of plants that would not survive without human intervention. It is a very easy, and profitable plant to grow, but does not naturally reproduce very effectively.

The sugarcane was one of the first "cash crops" of early colonial America. It grew plentifully in the southern states, and was a major source of income for many plantations. It is grown readily in the United States in Hawaii, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico. The countries that produce the largest amounts of sugarcane are Brazil, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Mexico, India, and Australia (Microsoft, 1994).

Sugarcane cannot be easily harvested by machine, so for centuries it has been harvested by hand, using large machete like blades. For this reason sugarcane fields have very large amounts of farm hands, and are a major source of employment throughout South America, Central America, and even the Caribbean. In early America, when the plant was readily harvested, it was a major source of slavery in the south. However, with the advent of abolition, it was found that sugarcane could be imported cheaper than it could be grown (Microsoft, 1994). This is why the sugarcane industry in the United States has diminished so sharply since the Civil War.

The primary use for sugarcane is to process sugar, which can then be used in an infinite number of products. The type of sugar produced by sugarcane is called sucrose. This is the most important of all the sugars. Sucrose is used as a sweetening agent for foods and in the manufacture of cakes, candies, preservatives, soft drinks, alcohol, and numerous other foods. Although the use of sugar in the human diet is controversial, sucrose supplies about 13 percent of all energy that is derived from foods (Escalona, 1952).

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