24 January 2019

Sugarcane and Sustainability

Sugarcane and Sustainability

A new study, co-authored by CTAHR’s Kimberly Carlson, suggests that only one third of global sugarcane production complies with Bonsucro, the leading sustainability standard for sugarcane.

“Voluntary Sustainability Standards Could Significantly Reduce Detrimental Impacts of Global Agriculture,” recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, found that about a quarter of global sugarcane production would need to be abandoned in order to meet Bonsucro’s goals for nutrient and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and yields. The study also found that sugarcane expansion onto low-carbon lands with ample rainfall could help offset these sugar-production losses while meeting sustainability criteria.

Although the study did not specifically discuss sugarcane production in Hawai‘i, the heavy dependence of Hawai‘i’s former sugarcane plantations on irrigation water suggests that it might not have met Bonsucro’s strict water-use requirements.

Kimberly Carlson, PhD, is an assistant professor in NREM. Read the full study.

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