Journal of Sustainable Bioenergy Systems, 2012, 2, 43-48 Published Online September 2012 (
Impact of Sugar Industrial Treated Effluent on the Growth
Factor in Sugarcane—Cuddalore , India
Usha Damodharan, M. Vikram Reddy*
Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Pondicherry Central University, Pondicherry, India
Email: *, *,
Received May 7, 2012; revised June 10, 2012; accepted June 17, 2012
The present study focused on evaluating the impact of application of sugar industry treated wastewater effluent on Sug-
arcane growth comparing at two experimental farms, one irrigated with the effluent and the other with bore well water,
over a period of 11 months (March 2010 to January 2011).The result indicated a significant increase in growth pattern,
plant height, shoot diameter, number of leaves and nodes, and biomass of the saplings that was irrigated with the efflu-
ents compared to that irrigated with bore well water. The growth parameters showed close relationship with the nutrient
contents of treated industrial effluent and bore well water, the former being characterized by relatively higher pH, elec-
trical conductivity (μs/cm), total suspended solids (TSS), sulphate, biochemical oxygen demand, chemical oxygen de-
mand, nitrate and phosphate, and heavy metals—Cu, Pb, Cd, Zn and Mn (mg/l) compared to that of bore well water,
indicating profound influence of nutrient rich sugar industry effluent on the plant growth. Higher biomass in sugarcane
saplings resulted with irrigation of the effluents compared to that irrigated with the bore well water.
Keywords: Industrial Effluent Irrigation; Bore Well Water Irrigation; Sugarcane; Growth Pattern; Biomass
1. Introduction
Emerging trends of agricultural automation, and re-
claimed and treated industrial effluent irrigation over
stresses the agricultural land resources through their ex-
cessive micro element contamination [1]. Rising trends
of using the waste water (industrial effluents) for irriga-
tion has the advantage of pollution removal where the
pollutants are partly taken up by the plants and partly
transformed in the soil without causing any damage. In
many parts of the world, treated effluents have been suc-
cessfully used for irrigation, and researchers have recog-
nized its benefits [2]. In the Mediterranean countries,
treated wastewater is increasingly used in the areas with
water scarcity, and its application in agriculture is be-
coming important to water supplies. The potential for
adverse health impacts of irrigation with wastewater has
been addressed in a number of earlier studies. Effective
and appropriate wastewater treatment processes can re-
duce the health hazards associated with wastewater use.
However, [3] the treated effluent coming through stabi-
lization ponds or conventional treatment plants followed
by maturation ponds or sand filtration may be free of
pathogens. In India as referred by [4], the significant
positive correlation between the growth of the saplings
Casuarina equisetifolia and the nutrient quality of mu-
nicipal sewage has been reported. In Greece, the possi-
bility of wastewater reuse for irrigation of vegetables has
been studied by Kalavrouziotis [5]. Several earlier stud-
ies have shown the advantages and disadvantages of us-
ing wastewater for irrigation of various crops. The reuse
of treated wastewater is a good option for increasing wa-
ter supplies to agriculture. One of its benefits is the
plant’s use of the water’s nutrients and therefore, a re-
duction in the pollution load that wastewater contributes
to the water and land resources [6]. However, depending
upon its sources and treatments, industrial wastewater
may contain high concentrations of nutrients and toxic
heavy metals and the reclaimed industrial wastewater
application may create undesirable effects in soils, which
may lead to bio-accumulation in plants and pose a health
risk for human beings.
In effluent-fed agriculture, nutrients flow from waste-
water into the plants accelerates and improves the crop
production, and eventually it may lead to the reclamation
of effluent water as an added advantage. Many economi-
cally important vegetables and flowering plants can util-
ize the major nutrients (NO3-N, NH4-N and H2PO4/
HPO4-P) for their growth from the nutrient—rich waste
water upon proper management or suitable amendments
[7]. This concept may be applied as a method for eco-
*Corresponding author.
opyright © 2012 SciRes. JSBS
logical treatment of wastewater but there is also a risk of
accumulation of the heavy metals within the edible parts
of the plant that can create metal toxicity in the human
body when they are consumed. This accumulation de-
pends directly upon the concentration of heavy metal in
wastewater, so the feasibility of implementing this eco-
tech for wastewater reclamation massively must be cau-
tioned of heavy-metal accumulation in leaf and crops.
Several drawbacks in using waste water for agriculture
was determined [6]. They reported the problem of soil
salinity, interaction of chemical constituents of the wastes
with the uptake of nutrients and changes in soil property
and micro flora in the agricultural field irrigated with the
wastewater. This necessitates a detailed study before any
specific waste can be used for irrigation for a particular
crop with a particular soil and climate. The objective of
this research work was to study the effects of sugar in-
dustry treated effluent reuse for the irrigation of sugar-
cane crop, comparing two sources of irrigated water and
evaluating their effects on plant growth. Since, crop plants
are increasingly being irrigated with the effluents, an
attempt has been made to study the comparative effects
of sugar industry treated effluents and bore well water on
growth and biomass in sugarcane.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Sampling Location
The experimental sites were located in Cuddalore and
Panruti both from Cuddalore district, Tamil Nadu. The
first experimental plot was located at Nesanur in Cud-
dalore, where the treated wastewater used and the second
experimental plot was located at L.N.Puram in Panruti
where the bore well water was used for irrigating sugar-
cane. Sampling at Nesanur farm and Panruti farm was
undertaken across 5 plots each measures approximately
50m × 200 m and sugarcanes of these plots were meas-
ured every month for their length, shoot diameter, num-
ber of leaves and nodes (Figure 1).
2.2. Irrigation and Fertilization
Flood irrigation method was followed for irrigating both
the sugarcane fields. Effluent Irrigation was scheduled at
two months interval and the bore well water irrigation
was scheduled at six or ten days interval. The actual irri-
gation application rate may be altered in response to
rainfall, soil moisture, and other related factors. An av-
erage of 128 kg/ha N, 63 kg/ha P2O5 and 7 kg/ha K2O
fertilizers were applied in both the fields.
2.3. Physico-Chemical and Heavy-Metal Analysis
The physico-chemical characteristics—pH, electrical con-
ductivity (μs/cm), total suspended solids, 5-days bio-
chemical oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, ni-
trate nitrogen, sulfate, phosphate (mg/l) and heavy met-
als—Cu, Pb, Cd, Zn and Mn (mg/l) of sugar industry
treated effluent and bore well water were analyzed using
following standard methods cited in Table 1 [8]. Water
analysis was done taking three replicates.
2.4. Plant Growth Measurement
The heights, diameter of shoots and number of nodes and
leaves, of each sugarcane sapling in each replicate plot
were recorded every month, and the biomass of each of
the saplings was measured at the end (12 months) of the
experiment (Table 1).
Figure 1. Sampling locations.
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Table 1. Methods for measuring different parameter s used in this study .
Parameters Methods
Stem length and diameter Simple scale measuring method
Number of nodes and leaves Visual counting method
Biomass Wet weight measuring method
Sulfate Spectrophotometric method (APHA, 1995)
PO4-P Stannous chloride method (APHA, 1995)
NO3-N Spectrophotometric screening method (APHA, 1995)
Temperature Partial immersion method (APHA, 1995)
pH Electrometric method (APHA, 1995)
Chemical oxygen demand Closed reflux titrimetric method (APHA, 1995)
Biological oxygen demand 5-day dilution BOD test method (APHA, 1995)
Total suspended solid (TSS) Filtration and thermal evaporation method (APHA, 1995)
Digestion of heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn and Mn) Di-acid digestion method (APHA, 1995)
Estimation of heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn and Mn) Spectrophotometric method (APHA, 1995)
2.5. Statistical Analysis
ANOVA analysis of the data on height of the saplings,
diameter of shoots, number of nodes and leaves of plants
that were grown in industry treated effluent and bore well
water over the 11 month period was computed. Multiple
correlation analyses were computed between the nutri-
ents of the irrigated water and the plant growth.
3. Results
3.1. Water-Quality Parameters
Analyses of water quality parameters such as pH, elec-
trical conductivity, suspended solids (TSS), Biochemical
Oxygen Demand-5, Chemical oxygen demand, nitrate
nitrogen, sulfate, phosphate (mg/l) and heavy metals (Cu,
Pb, Cd, Zn and Mn) of sugar industry treated effluent
and bore well water used for irrigation of sugarcane sap-
lings showed that the average concentrations of each of
the above water quality parameters of treated effluent
were higher than those of the bore well water (Table 1).
The average temperature in the treated effluent and bore
well water were 28.1˚C and 27.0˚C, respectively. The
average pH and that of electrical conductivity and ni-
trates (mg/l) in treated effluent were higher than those of
the bore well water. The average TSS, BOD, phosphates,
nitrates and sulfates in treated effluent were 108, 3100,
35, 7 and 23 folds higher than that of the bore well water,
respectively (Table 2). The COD of treated effluent wa-
ter was higher (19,860 ± 247.85 mg/l) while its concen-
tration was below the detection limit in bore well water
indicating its cleanliness. Heavy metals like Cu, Pb, Zn
and Mn (mg/l) in treated effluent were 150, 48, 352 and
83 folds higher than the bore well water, respectively
(Table 2).
3.2. Sugarcane Sapling Growth
One of the ways to reduce the pollution of the receiving
water bodies due to the industrial effluent is its optimum
reuse in irrigation of crops and tree plantations. Our
study revealed that the height of sugarcane during the
first month of the irrigation with treated effluent and bore
well water were 14.25 ± 2.45 and 9.12 ± 1.54 cm, re-
spectively. After four months of irrigation, the height of
the saplings increased 41.4 ± 12.68 and 38.5 ± 18.37 cm,
respectively, whereas after eight months the height of the
saplings increased to 148.12 ± 37.17 and 92.18 ± 14.68
cm in treated effluent and bore well water irrigation, re-
spectively; after eleven months of irrigation and at the
time of harvesting the height of the saplings recorded were
185.15 ± 34.12 and 135.12 ± 21.15 cm, respectively in the
two corresponding sites (Figure 2). ANOVA results of
the plant height grown across the treatments of treated
Figure 2. Variation in the shoot-length of the sugarcane
across the two different treatments.
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Table 2. Mean concentration of physico-chemical parame-
ters, and heavy metal concentration of treated effluent in
relation that of bore well water used for irrigation.
Physico-chemical parameters Treated
effluent Bore well water
Temp (˚C) 28.1 27
pH 8.5 6.5
EC (μs/cm) 1076 164
TSS (mg/l) 432 4
COD (mg/l) 19,860 BDL
BOD (mg/l) 9300 3
Nitrate (mg/l) 36.7 5
Phosphate (mg/l) 14 0.39
Sulfate (mg/l) 107 4.53
Heavy metal concentration
Cu (mg/l) 3.12 0.02
Pb (mg/l) 1.46 0.03
Cd (mg/l) 2.37 BDL
Zn (mg/l) 14.11 0.04
Mn (mg/l) 5.03 0.06
effluent and bore well water being recorded highest in
the former and lowest in the later showed significant dif-
ference in the height of the saplings between and within
the two sites (Table 3). There was significant positive
correlation between the height of the saplings and the
quality of treated effluent in the present study (R2 = 0.74,
p < 0.01). Shoot length increased with the increase of
strength of effluent. The lower height in the saplings ir-
rigated with bore well water were most probably due to
its relatively low nutrient contents.
Our present result showed that shoot diameter during
the first month of irrigation with the treated effluent and
bore well water were 5.13 ± 1.1 and 2.14 ± 0.056 cm,
respectively. After fourth month of irrigation, it increased
to 11.23 ± 2.11 and 7.09 ± 3.45 cm, respectively. After
eight months of irrigation with the treated effluent and
bore well water the diameter of the shoot increased to
15.26 ± 4.13 and 9.38 ± 1.54 cm, respectively and at the
time of harvesting it was 22.34 ± 9.75 and 11.66 ± 3.48
cm, respectively (Figure 3). In order to compare the
variation in the numbers of leaves and nodes that indicate
the physiological age of sugarcane plants irrigated with
treated effluent and bore well water, were counted.
ANOVA Analysis showed that the variations in their
count between the two sites were significantly different
(Table 3). The number of nodes of plants irrigated with
the treated effluent ranged from (2 - 23), whereas in the
bore well water irrigated field it ranged from (2 - 17). The
node number was directly proportional to the strength of
the effluent and it was declined in the bore well water
irrigation (Figure 4). The number of leaf was more with
the increasing strength of wastewater and the variances
in number in relation to different strengths of effluent
were statistically distinct (one way ANOVA, p < 0.05).
The range of leaves of sugarcane irrigated with treated
effluent were (2 - 36), and in the bore well irrigated field
it ranged from (2 - 22) (Figure 5). Similarly, the average
wet biomass of each sapling after 11 months of irrigation
of treated effluent and bore well water were 4.3 and 2.85
kg per sapling, respectively (Figure 6).
Figure 3. Variation in the shoot diameter of the sugarcane
across the two different treatments.
Figure 4. Variation in the number of the nodes of sugarcane
across the two different treatments.
Figure 5. Variation in the number of leaves of the sugarcane
across the two different treatments.
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Table 3. ANOVA analysis of growth of the plants (sugarcane) across two different irrigation treatments.
Source of variation SS df MS F p-value F crit
Height of the plants 3599.522 11 3599.522 4.662467 0.033824* 3.960352
Diameter of the plants 179.9512 11 179.9512 10.52694 0.004061* 4.351243
Number of nodes 3309.183 13 1103.061 11.428797 2.74E 14** 2.718785
Number of leaves 404.6328 13 404.6328 4.921508 0.048642* 4.351243
*p < 0.05, **p < 0.01.
vor and quality. Similar findings were also reported by
[15], in green leafy vegetables. Delayed growth reported
during the primary stage of the sugarcane sapling was
agreed in the previous studies [16]. [17] reported that
higher concentration of effluent causes delayed shoot
growth, seedling growth and chlorophyll content in sun-
flower (Helianthus annuus) and it could be safely used
for irrigation purpose at low concentration. However,
presence of higher concentration of heavy metals in irri-
gated water has been reported to cause adverse effects in
plants [18]. Maximum number of nodes and leaves re-
ported in effluent irrigated sugarcane is probably due to
the higher concentration of phosphate in effluent water,
which is absorbed by the plant and stored for its meta-
bolic process. [19] reported the significant increase in the
sapling height in the treatment irrigated with municipal
raw sewage in the species of Casuarina glauca, Euca-
lyptus camaldulensis and Tamarix aphylla. The avail-
ability of water and nutrients probably had positive ef-
fects on shoot growth [13]. Maximum biomass resulted
in sugarcane saplings irrigated with treated effluent may
be due to its response to the nutritive elements, constant
supply and continuous replenishments of nutrients like
nitrogen and phosphorous from irrigated water and im-
proved soil structure. [13] reported higher growth and
biomass in seedling of acacia and eucalyptus respectively,
which they attributed to the effects of available nutrients,
particularly N in the effluent facilitating leaf initiation
that converted more solar energy enhancing CO2 fixation
and photosynthetic level leading to higher growth and
biomass production. The irrigation with effluent on land-
scape and agricultural fields has the risk of modified soil
chemical and physical properties [11].
Figure 6. Variation of the wet biomass (kg) of the sugarcane
across different treatments.
4. Discussion
During the present investigation, a pattern of pH and
temperature alteration was noticed in both the treated
effluent and bore well water; the maximum value of pH,
indicated the alkaline nature of water, and it is attributed
to high temperature that reduces the solubility of CO2.
Due to the higher concentration of phosphates, sulfates,
nitrates and other organic matters in the treated effluent
showed a highest average value of total suspended solids,
when compared to that of bore well water. In consistence
to the present findings, [9] reported an increased physico-
chemical concentration in treated wastewater than that of
ground water used for irrigation in Egypt. Similarly, [10]
reported increased average values of the water-quality
parameters—TSS, TDS, BOD, COD, pH, NH3, phos-
phates, temperature (˚C) in treated effluents than that of
river water in Kuwait.
Increased growth of sugarcanes irrigated with treated
effluent is associated with the availability of increased
organic matter, and both macro and micronutrients, espe-
cially total and available N in the treated effluent [11]. In
consistence to the present findings, [12], also reported
increased growth density and shoot length in Navel Or-
ange trees irrigated with sewage in Egypt. Similarly, in-
crease in water and nutrient availability through effluent
application influenced the growth of Acacia nilotica [13].
[14] reported that nitrate in waste water is usually bene-
ficial in increasing yields and quality. However, he also
concluded that highest concentration of nitrate also can
reduce the sugar content of crops, which may affect fla-
5. Conclusion
The findings from this study suggest that the irrigation
with the treated sugar industry effluent characterized by
high nutritive value can improve the overall growth of
the sugarcane compared to the bore well water. Further-
more, irrigation with treated effluent minimizes the use
of mixed compound chemical fertilizers, increases the
soil organic matter, improves soil physical and chemical
properties, upgrade soil fertility, and it is helpful for
building good soil ecosystem and sustainable sugarcane
production. These findings conclude that the future per-
spective of treated effluent in agriculture is favorable due
to its effect on increased crop yield and growth, but there
is also a possible accumulation of various nutrients and
heavy metals in soil and in the ground water that may
cause potential problems after long-term reclaimed waste-
water irrigation. Nevertheless, it is suggested that risk
assessment should be conducted prior to effluent irriga-
tion to keep the safe application of wastewater for land-
scape and agriculture and make its reuse safer.
6. Acknowledgements
Mrs. Usha is very grateful to Ecology and Environmental
Science Department of Pondicherry Central University
for providing the laboratory facilities to carry out the
necessary analysis, and to Pondicherry University for
providing the university fellowship. This paper is a part
of the primary author (Mrs. Usha)’s PhD research work.
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