Growers on alert after sugarcane smut find



THE recent discovery of sugarcane smut disease on a Queensland farm has Clarence Valley canegrowers on alert.

The discovery of a single smut whip in a canefield in the Isis district near Childers prompted a coordinated response between the Queensland canegrowers association, Government and the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations.

Chairman of the Queensland canegrowers association, Alf Cristaudo, said the immediate response had been to implement a smut contingency plan developed by BSES in 1998.

"This will involve determining the extent of the Childers outbreak and how it might have originated," he said.

NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative agricultural services manager Rick Beattie said there had never been an incident of sugarcane smut on the east coast of Australia before the Childers find.

"We don't believe that sugarcane smut disease would be in NSW at this stage," Mr Beattie said.

"A fair percentage of our sugar varieties show good to intermediate tolerance to sugarcane smut disease."

First discovered in Australia in the Ord River District of Western Australia in 1988, sugarcane smut is a disease caused by a fungus that is easily identified by a whip-like structure, containing a mass of spores at the top of a stalk or shoot.

These spores are easily spread by wind, soil, machinery, vehicles or clothing.

Plants affected by sugarcane smut disease exhibit stunted growth and a thin grassy appearance, which can result in yield losses of 40 per cent or more.



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