Ratoon stunting disease threatening cane crops

Cane alert: Ratoon stunting disease on the increase

Cropping
INDUSTRY RISK: Ratoon stunning disease (RSD) is threatening commercial cane crops.

INDUSTRY RISK: Ratoon stunning disease (RSD) is threatening commercial cane crops.

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Ratoon stunting disease has been found to be on the increase in both commercial cane crops and in nursery cane.

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MORE ratoon stunting disease (RSD) is being found in commercial cane crops and in nursery cane in 2018 than in previous years, raising concerns about the impact the disease is having on the industry.

According to Sugar Research Australia (SRA) the disease causes significant economic losses but has no external symptoms. This is because it is spread through diseased planting material and on machinery, meaning it is vital that growers and contractors maintain their vigilance, especially with planting and harvesting now in full swing in many areas.

RSD is recognised as one of Australia’s major sugarcane diseases and continues to cost the industry through lost production.

Dr Andrew Ward.

Dr Andrew Ward.

SRA biosecurity leader Dr Andrew Ward said SRA’s RSD diagnostic lab was detecting more RSD in samples in 2018 than in previous years, including in cane that was to be used as planting material. He urged growers to arrange with their local productivity service organisation to have their planting material tested for RSD.

“Planting represents a significant expense for growers and disease-free planting material lays the foundation for high yielding crops,” Dr Ward said.

“Harvest is also a high-risk time for RSD to hitch a ride on machinery, spreading the disease between blocks, farms, and even districts.

Cane knives, harvesters, plant cutters, planters and stool splitters should all be routinely sterilised between blocks on the same farm and between farms. - Dr Andrew Ward, SRA

“However, good farm hygiene can greatly reduce the risk. Cane knives, harvesters, plant cutters, planters and stool splitters should all be routinely sterilised between blocks on the same farm and between farms.

“Dirty machinery is risky machinery. If RSD infects a crop, yields will decrease and it can be a long and difficult process to reduce its impact. It is far easier to avoid the problem in the first place.”

Dr Ward said recent improvements in the RSD test had revealed the disease was more widespread than previously thought.

“This reinforces the need for stringent hygiene, as well as ensuring that planting material is being sourced from a clean source,” Dr Ward said.

“Growers need to maintain close contact with their local productivity services organisation for sourcing RSD-free planting material.

“There is also information on variety response to RSD in the online variety support tool QCANESelect, available via the SRA website.

“Although some varieties respond differently to the disease, growers are urged to note that no variety can be considered immune and the key planks of prevention are around clean planting material and good farm hygiene.”

CLICK HERE for more information on RSD, including an extension booklet with more information on equipment sterilisation and developing a clean seed management plan. 

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