Crop Improvement Division

“Increase productivity and profitability of the sugar industry through incorporation of better sugarcane varieties for commercial cultivation”

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The Crop Improvement Division (CI) focuses on conventional breeding for the development of sugarcane varieties with the following characters suitable for commercial cultivation under different Agro-ecological regions in Sri Lanka
  • High sugarcane yield
  • High sugar yield
  • Pest and disease-resistant 
The projects, tissue culture of sugarcane varieties, and biotechnology research assisted the non-conventional sugarcane breeding in the creation of genetic variability through the exploitation of somaclonal variation and classification and identification of genetic variability in the development of new sugarcane varieties.

Our Achievements

Number of Varieties Released (up to 2024)

Variety extend of Sugarcane in Sri Lanka (2022)

Divisional Priority Areas...


Germplasm Collection

Collection, conservation, evaluation, and utilization of Saccharum germplasm

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Hybridisation of sugarcane

Hybridisation of sugarcane to develop varieties with high yields, resistance to major sugarcane disease, good ratooning ability, early, mid, and late maturity, and tolerance to drought for rain-fed and irrigated cultivation in different sugarcane-growing areas in Sri Lanka

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Selection of sugarcane clones

Selection of sugarcane clones with commercial attributes, determining proven parents and proven crossing combinations, selecting true hybrids of inter-specific, inter-generic, and backcrosses in the nobilisation of wild species, and generating high-sucrose parental stocks through recurrent selection

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Studying molecular biology

Studying molecular biology of sugarcane varieties to identify genetic relatedness and distinctness among commercial and locally-collected sugarcane varieties (DUS ((Distinctness, Uniformity, and Stability) testing), confirm the identity of varieties and avoid mixing of varieties, identify true hybrids, Identify the existing markers for high-yielding varieties and disease resistance, and to adopt marker-assisted selection (MAS) in the existing breeding program

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Tissue culture

Tissue culture of sugarcane to develop new sub-clones resistant to WLD/GSD and smut from disease susceptible high-yielding varieties produce disease-free planting materials from newly-released varieties for rapid multiplication by in-vitro culture and lateral shoot multiplication under poly tunnel conditions, and to produce in-vitro-cultured materials for varietal exportation

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Ongoing Research Activities..

CI/23/01: Collection, conservation, evaluation and utilization of Saccharum germplasm

The genetic diversity of the sugarcane germplasm collection is enriched for the development of new improved sugarcane varieties with better commercial attributes, such as high cane yield, high sucrose content, resistance to pest and diseases, adaptability to adverse environmental conditions and good morphological characteristics. 
The genetic diversity of sugarcane germplasm is required to be conserved ex-situ for further use, especially in crop improvement.  The Sugarcane Research Institute conserves the Saccharum germplasm collection at the Sugarcane Breeding Station, Enselwatte, Deniyaya, Sri Lanka.  
It is comprised with 1,659 accessions assembled through foreign and local sources such as commercial and near-commercial sugarcane varieties, progenies of inter- and intra- specific crosses and locally collected accessions through local expedition.  
Among the basic Sacchurum species; accessions from S. officinarum, S. spontaneum, the related wild genera; Erianthus spp. accessions and an accession of Miscanthus japonica are maintained. 
Objectives and targets
  • Improvement of genetic diversity of the Saccharum germplasm collection by adding new accessions and conservation of existing sugarcane genetic diversity.
  • Assessment of parental worth in Saccharum germplasm for cane and sugar yields and their components.
    Development of core-collections for directional breeding for high yield, high sucrose content.
  • Evaluation of imported varieties in different sugarcane growing areas in Sri Lanka.
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CI/23/02: Development and selection of new sugarcane varieties

This research project is conducted to increase the productivity by developing and recommending new sugarcane varieties and minimizing the risk of sugarcane crop losses due to biotic and abiotic stress through increasing varietal spectrum in commercial plantations in different sugarcane growing areas.
Parental selection, sugarcane hybridization, and variety selection for good commercial attributes are the major steps in variety development program.
To make sure the superiority of varieties commercially, the clones are selected based on high cane yield, high sucrose content, moderate fibre content, maturity times, ratooning ability, tolerance to drought, wide and specific adaptability, good morphology and milling qualities using selection indices with multiple trait selection criteria in different stages of clonal selection and finally will be tested for wide adaptability for different agro ecological zones.
  • Development of high yielding, early-, mid- and late maturing sugarcane varieties for different sugarcane-growing conditions in Sri Lanka with the characteristics of good ratooning ability, resistant to pest and diseases (WLD, smut and leaf scald), drought tolerance, and suitable for mechanization.
  • Generating high-sucrose genetic stocks to be used as parental clones.
  • Improvement of basic Saccharum officinarum population in breeding attributes and commercial attributes along the selection stages for commercial adoption.

Following steps are involving in sugarcane variety development program.

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CI/23/03: Biotechnological applications for sugarcane variety improvement

Biotechnological interventions hold great promise to address to enhance productivity of sugarcane to improve sugarcane varieties with disease resistance and to improve quality of the crop. These approaches for sugarcane improvement have been applied in Sugarcane Research Institute, Sri Lanka in the areas of tissue culture, molecular diagnostics of sugarcane pathogens, development of genetic maps using molecular markers, molecular testing of plants for variety identification and molecular characterization of various traits.
  • Produce disease-free planting materials from newly-released varieties for primary nurseries and produce in-vitro-cultured materials for varietal exportation
  • Induce genetic variability of selected sugarcane varieties through callus culture technique with artificial mutagens and evaluation of superior genotypes from mutant plant population
  • Evaluation and characterization of sugarcane germplasm accessions using molecular markers to broaden the genetic diversity through directional breeding
  • Minimize the time and resources required for maturity testing by adopting the molecular method for testing maturity.
  • Identification of QTLs for high sugar content in sugarcane and smut disease resistance.
  • Development of marker-assisted selection protocols for high sugar and smut disease resistance
Evaluation of genetic variability of sugarcane varieties through in-vitro mutagenesis in callus culture technique

Gene expression studies related to the sugar content and maturity of varieties ​

Detection of QTL for sugar content and Smut resistance

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CI/23/03: Development and selection of sugarcane varieties for organic farming

This project is initiated to evaluate commercial sugarcane varieties under organic fertilizer and identify suitable sugarcane varieties for organic farming and develop new sugarcane varieties for organic farming system.
  • Selection of suitable sugarcane varieties for organic farming
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Our Staff..

Ms. A.M.M.S. Perera

Research Officer - In Charge

MSc, Crop Science, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

B.Sc, Agriculture, Uva Wellassa University

Research Interest:

  • Food processing
  • Microbiology
  • Sugarcane by-product processing
Mr. K.P. Wickramasinghe

Research Officer​

Research Officer​

Research Officer​

Technical Officer

MSc, Crop Science, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

B.Sc, Agriculture, Uva Wellassa University

Research Interest:

  • Food processing
  • Microbiology
  • Sugarcane by-product processing

Technical Officer