Source: The Fiji Times [edited]
Fiji faces a threat from the sugarcane smut disease, says the Sugar Research Institute of Fiji [SRIF]. Acting chief executive officer Prema Naidu says the disease, which has reached Australia, is a major threat to Fiji's sugar industry.
"All the sugar-growing countries in the world have smut, except Fiji which is the only country where it hasn't been found as yet," said Mr Naidu. "The threat is looming large and the potential is that its spores can be wind blown and are likely to come into Fiji."
He said SRIF formed a committee with [the] Biosecurity Authority of Fiji to monitor the disease. "Smut spore detectors are now placed at all ports of entry. We haven't found any smut spores as yet, but we remain vigilant."
[byline: Anish Chand]
[Sugar cane smut caused by the fungus _Sporisorium scitamineum_ is considered the most serious disease of the crop. Yield losses of up to 100 per cent have been reported for susceptible cane varieties, due to both loss of plant mass and severe reduction of sucrose content. Symptoms may include brittle leaves, severe stunting of plants and a black whip-like structure emerging from the central core of meristematic tissues. The whip contains spores covered with a thin membrane, which ruptures easily to release the spores. Disease development is favoured by warm, humid conditions.
The fungus is highly contagious. Spores can be spread by wind, water, insect or human activity and with contaminated materials (plant debris, agricultural machinery). Smut spores can survive for many months in dry soil and plant debris. Disease management may include removal of inoculum by phytosanitary measures (burning of infected cane fields), crop rotation and fungicides. Use of clean planting material is essential, hot water treatments of cuttings for propagation are being used. Smut resistant cane cultivars are available for different regions.
Related species in the genus cause covered (_S. sorghi_) and loose (_S. cruentum_) kernel smuts of sorghum.
Cane smut symptoms:
Smut infected cane plant compared to healthy:
Information on sugar cane smut:
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2017.00778/full (biocontrol) and
_S. scitamineum_ taxonomy and synonyms: