Vasantdada Sugar Institute is one of the recognized centre under All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on sugarcane since 1986. Under the project various sugarcane varieties are tested for determining their suitability for growing them in various agro-climatic zones of Maharashtra State. Taking into consideration the suitability of the released sugarcane varieties, sugar factories in Maharashtra are provided with the planting and harvesting programme for achieving maximum returns. This section is engaged in collection and maintenance of sugarcane germplasm, development of elite sugarcane varieties through hybridization and undertaking field performance trials under AICRP programme of the selected promising genotypes.
Breeding of new sugarcane varieties combining high cane yield and high sucrose content, which are adapted to the different agro climatic conditions of Maharashtra state is the primary objective of the breeding programme. In order to improve the current sugarcane productivity level of Maharashtra the emerging varieties must have resistance to major abiotic stresses- drought, salinity, water logging and high temperature. High sugared varieties with higher fiber content, high water and nutrient use efficiency and multi-ratooning ability will have to be produced for meeting the projected sugar and energy requirements.
Keeping these objectives in view, the Institute has expanded its breeding activities from the year 2006. A sugarcane hybridization facility was established at Amboli, as Sugarcane Breeding Centre, Amboli (located between 160N and 740E and 590ft above mean sea level with average annual rainfall of 14000mm), in Sindhudurga district of Maharashtra State where good flowering and seed set were observed. Over 1246 clones of sugarcane comprising of basic Saccharum species, related genera, interspecific and intergeneric hybrids, varieties from different states and other genetic stocks were planted to be used as parents in hybridization work. The infrastructure facilities at this center are under construction. To evaluate large number of genotypes, the laboratories at the Institute were also updated with the acquisition of sucrolyser for accurate sucrose determination from large number of samples and a sugarcane cutter- grinder for fiber estimation and juice extraction.
Section has also undertaken the studies on the flowering behaviour of sugarcane varieties at various locations in Maharashtra and has identified Amboli, Dist. Sindhudurg as a suitable place for establishing a Sugarcane Breeding Centre.