Cedric Mboyisa

There have been a number of milestones since the establishment of the South African Sugar Technologists’ Association (SASTA) nine decades ago.

SASTA was founded in 1926 but only held its first congress the following year (1927). “SASTA has continued to promote excellence through technological advancement since hosting the first congress in 1927. There have been many technological advancements in the South African and global sugar industry in the past 90 years and SASTA has shared these significant discoveries with their delegates through congress,” says Sumita Ramgareeb, Chairman of the 90 th SASTA Congress Organising Committee.

This is what the then SASTA President Tim Murray had to say about the organisation in 2001: “SASTA’s mission continues to facilitate the sharing of advances in technology among a wide audience of both practical people and decision makers, and in this way contribute to the competitiveness of the local industry as an international player in the world of sugar”. 

According to the SASTA Constitution, the Association exists to promote the interchange of scientific knowledge of, and the discussion and investigation of technical problems related to, the production and processing of sugarcane products. Furthermore SASTA promotes the improvement in the accuracy and standardisation of methods of factory chemical control, and encourages and assists in the improvement of the technical knowledge (and skills) of people involved in the industry.

Here is a report from the inaugural congress and some interesting papers presented and discussed at previous SASTA congresses in the last 90 years:

Report of the Committee on the Handling of Cane from Field to Crusher – presented by Mr EP Masters. Among others, it dealt with the cutting, loading and (wagon) transportation costs of the cane. It was said the upkeep of wagons was usually very high. The tramline system was recommended for use while small growers were advised to use ox or mule transport for their cane. The cane offloaders used at the time included Derrick with grab, slings or chains, and rakes. It was pointed out that further experimental work was needed in terms of cutting machines.
Sugarcane Diseases in South Africa – authored by APD McClean, a government mycologist. The mosaic and streak diseases posed a threat at the time. They stunted and retarded the growth of the cane. One of the ways to control these diseases was growing of > tolerant varieties.
The Sugarcane Varieties of Natal – presented by A McMartin. This paper was about which cane was best suited for the province. It detailed a number of varieties introduced to Natal before the establishment of the Experiment Station. Varieties of complex hybrid constitution were more resistant > to disease.
Investigations on > Sugarcane Breeding in Natal by PGC Brett – the season before had been successful for cane breeding and an unprecedented amount of seedlings raised to be planted in Experiment Station fields. It was a good season despite the drought. Temperature was an important factor in the process of developing inflorescences.
Milling and Overall Performances by TH Fourmond. This paper put the extraction of sucrose and its recovery under the microscope. It determined that two factors governed the process… cane fibre body and juice purity. Fourmond advocated for the introduction of formulae, based on crystallisable sucrose, in the chemical control to express efficiencies of > sugar mills.
Some Aspects of Factory Operation at Tongaat Sugar Company Factory by GG Carter, WS Graham and BSTC Moor – The paper focused on several operations (such as trials with an ultrasonic electrode cleaner, juice retention in clarifiers and > pan boiling) at the factory and solutions to some problems thereof.
Results from Glyphosate (herbicide) used as a Ripener at Felixton by AN Mills. The use of glyphosate proved to increase profitability and assist management. The results also showed large ripening responses from cane treated early and late > in the milling season.
Mill Settings and Extraction by A Wienese. It spoke to the link between the mill settings and extraction. Then an extraction model was presented. The model took into consideration aspects such as separation efficiency, reabsorption coefficient and imbibition efficiency. It was concluded that the model could be used in two ways – as a diagnostic tool and to predict outcome of milling process.
Genetic Mapping in Sugarcane: Prospects and Progress in the South African Sugar Industry – presented by JM Barnes and AE Bester. The genetic mapping of SA cane cross AA40 initiated to identify genetic markers of important traits (such as resistance to diseases, sucrose accumulation and fibre body). 
Evaluation of Hydrogen Peroxide at Huletts Refinery: Preliminary Results. Authored by CF Mbanjwa, N Deppa and K Pillay. The results showed the chemical could be used to remove colour in the fourth boiling sugar (during refining process) even at very low concentrations (15 ppm).