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Major diseases of sugarcane and their control

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Fungal Diseases

Fungal Diseases of Sugarcane

Sl.No Disease Causal organism Symptoms Mode of spread
1. Redrot, Colletotrichum falcatum Went If disease-infected setts are planted they result in failure of germination or death of germinated settling. In seedling stage the infected plants show yellowing in leaf and subsequently plants dry singly or in clump. In highly susceptible varieties mid rib lesions are observed after summer rains. In the later stage the red rot infected canes show dull red to brown shades on the rind/nodal regions and during severe infection pinkish sporulation can be seen on rind and leaf scars. When the infected canes are split open, the internal cane tissue show red discoloration with whitish patches. Later, pith cavities are formed with greyish mycelial growth of the fungal pathogen in it. The pathogen primarily spread through infected setts and crop debris surviving in the soil. The secondary infection occurs through flood water, rain splashes and irrigation water.
2. Smut, Sporisorium scitamineum (Syd.) M. Piepenbr., M. Stoll & Oberw Syn: (Ustilago scitaminea In the smut infected plant whip like structure comprising of central host tissue surrounded by a thin layer of black teliospores covered by a thin silvery white membrane is produced from the growing tip or lateral buds. During the course of time, the white membrane disintegrates and the spores are readily dispersed by wind and rain. As the main shoot is affected many side shoots are produced and in those shoots also whips are produced causing bushy and grassy appearance of clumps with an abnormally high number of small stalks and whips. Primary spread is through infected setts and secondary infection occurs through wind-blown teliospores disperse from the whip.

Fungal Diseases (contd..)

Fungal Diseases of Sugarcane....

Sl.No Disease Causal organism Symptoms Mode of spread
3. Wilt, Fusarium sacchari The symptom appears on 4-5 months old plant as gradual yellowing and drying of leaves and cane. Plants become completely dry and die leaving hollow stalks. In the infected cane inter-nodal tissues shrink and boat shaped cavities are formed due to loss of moisture. Internally internode tissue turn to dark-purplish or pinkish or reddish brown in colour. The wilt fungi are weak soil borne pathogens and the disease severity is aggravated by certain biotic or abiotic factors. The primary spread is through infected setts, soil borne pathogen inoculum and also infected debris. The secondary spread occurs through wind, rain and irrigation water.
4. Pineapple disease: Ceratocystis paradoxa The infected sugarcane setts rot and result in poor germination and drying of young sugarcane shoots at emergence leaving lot of gaps in the field. When split open internodal tissues of infected setts appear reddish and pineapple smell noticed due to production of ethyl acetate. Later stages of infection show blackish internodal tissues due to the production of chlamydospores distributed between vascular bundles. Water stagnation after planting or deep planting favour incidence and severity of the disease. Matured crop also exhibits the disease symptoms in the field. Here also severe water stagnation, lodging of canes and damages by certain biotic or abiotic factors favour the disease expression. Through soil borne conidia and chlamydospores and through irrigation water.
5. Rust: Common rust- Puccinia melanocephala;
Orange rust- Puccinia kuehnii
Small, elongated, yellowish spots are noticed on both the sides of the leaf surface. The spots increase in size and turn to reddish to brown/ orange brown to yellow brown and become pustular on the lower surface of the leaves. In case of severe incidence, numerous lesions occur on individual leaves, giving them drying appearance. Transmission is by wind and rain water splash.
6. Pokkah boeng / Top rot: Fusarium sacchari/ F. proliferatum spp. In the pokkah boeng phase, the disease exhibits characteristic twisted top in affected canes with different types of leaf malformation. In the top rot phase, the disease is characterized by rotting of spindle leaf. Most of the pokkah boeng infected canes generally recover from the symptoms, but top rot phase never recover from the damage. In the acute phase wilting of plant is noticed, which is characterized by yellowing and drying of leaves and stalks. Primary spread is through infected seed cane and left over infected debris. The secondary spread is through wind, rain and irrigation water.

Bacterial Diseases

Bacterial Diseases of Sugarcane

1. Ratoon stunting disease (RSD): Leifsonia (Clavibacter) Xyli subsp. Xyli The infected canes become thin and produce shorter stalks and reduction in number of stalks. The disease is aggravated by abiotic stress like water logging and drought. The internal vascular bundles become yellow to reddish with brown dots, commas or short lines at nodal region. Infected cuttings and mechanical transmission through cutting implements / knives.
2. Leaf scald (LSD):, Xanthomonas albilineans The disease exhibits symptoms in two phases: Chronic and Acute phases. Very often the disease may remain under latent phase without exhibiting any symptoms. The disease symptoms include chlorotic (white) stripes/ blights on leaves (Leaf Scald 1), axillary bud sprouting (Leaf Scald 2) and burnt appearance of the leaf tips. Internally the stalk tissues show vascular discolouration both in the nodes and internodes (Leaf Scald 3). Under Indian conditions we do not get typical white (pencil-line) stripes on leaves along the veins; instead we see typical bacterial blights Infected cuttings and mechanical transmission through cutting implements / knives.
3. Red stripe: The disease is caused by bacterium Acidovorax avenae subsp. avenae (Xanthomonas rubrilineans). It is most common in the subtropical region and appears from May and lasts upto November. Affected leaves show parallel red streaks, more prominently on the proximal region of the lamina (Red stripe 1). In severe infections lead to top rot phase of the disease (Red stripe 2) in which the meristem is killed and exhibiting dried spindle and bud sprouting in basipetal manner. Infected cuttings, mechanical transmission through cutting implements / knives and aerial spread.
4. Grassy Shoot Disease (GSD): Sugarcane grassy shoot (SCGS) phytoplasma The disease causes production of numerous, thin, slender chlorotic tillers (grassy shoots) and chlorosis of leaves. The infection causes reduction in leaf size, number, length and breadth of leaf lamina and premature proliferation of axillary buds. The GSD infected clump appears as bushy grass-like growth in vegetative parts of the host plant resulting in the formation of no millable canes or only a few dwarfed canes are produced. The pathogen spreads through infected setts and insect vectors.

Viral Diseases

Viral Diseases of Sugarcane

Sl.No Disease Causal organism Symptoms Mode of spread
1. Yellow leaf disease: Sugarcane yellow leaf virus (SCYLV) / Sugarcane yellow leaf phytoplasma (SCYP) The disease symptom is noticed as yellowing in the mid rib region in the lower surface during 6-8 months stage. During the disease progress, lateral spread of yellow discoloration occurs and necrosis of leaf occurs from leaf tip towards the base and this result in drying of foliage. When disease infection is severe extensive drying of leaves occurs. However the affected cane remain healthy. Severe virus infection also leads to shortening of terminal internodes and this results in bunching of top leaves in the infected canes. The disease is responsible for varietal degeneration in sugarcane. Primary spread by infected cuttings and secondary spread by aphid vectors viz., Melanaphis sacchari.
2. Sugarcane mosaic:Sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV) / Sugarcane streak mosaic virus (SCSMV) Contrasting dark green and light green shades noticed on the leaf lamina due to the varying levels of chlorophyll concentration on leaf blade caused by the virus. The symptoms vary in intensity with cultivar, growing conditions, temperature and strain of the virus. Severe infection causes reduction in cane growth in susceptible cultivars due to reduction in photosynthesis. Primary spread is through infected seed canes and secondary spread by aphids.
3. Leaf Fleck The disease occurs throughout the country. Major symptoms of the disease include appearance of flecks or specks throughout leaf lamina (Leaf Fleck 1). However the flecks are more prominently seen on leaf margins and distal end of the leaf. Gradually, the chlorotic flecks increase in size, turn yellow and reddish. In extremely severe cases entire leaf turns yellow or reddish and symptoms appear close to yellow spot symptoms (Leaf Fleck 2 ). It may be an emerging threat to cane cultivation in the country and its impact to sugarcane productivity needs to be assessed. Severe disease expression leads to premature drying and death of the leaves (Leaf Fleck 3). Primary spread is through infected seed canes and secondary spread by mealy bug Sacccharicoccus sacchari.

Other Diseases

Other Diseases of Sugarcane

S.No. Disease Causal organism
1. Gumming disease Xanthomonas campestris pv. vasculorum
2. Red stripe Pseudomonas rubrilineans
3. Eye spot Bipolaris sacchari
4. Leaf scorch Stagnospora sacchari.
5. Ring spot Leptosphaeria sacchari
6. Brown spot Cerspora longipes
7. Brown stripe Cochliobolus stenophilus, Helminthosporium stenopilum
8. Leaf spots Curvularia sp., Helminthosporium sp., Periconia sp.
9. Yellow spot Mycovellociella koepkei.
10. Stalk rot Phaeocytostroma sacchari

Varietal Degradation

Varietal Degradation

Non-fungal pathogens like SCMV, SCSMV, SCYLV, SCGS-phytoplasmas and ratoon stunting bacterium systemically infect sugarcane and over the years the varieties degenerate due to the systemic colonization of these pathogens. Although these viral/ bacterial pathogens cause limited symptoms in the field, continuous vegetative propagation results in enhanced pathogen load that would increase the pathogenic potential to cause disease. Combined infection of two or more viral/bacterial pathogens accelerates the damage to the crop in the field and this is due to infection of one pathogen makes the plant more susceptible to another. In this way, a variety degenerates faster and its potential comes down over the years. The affected canes will be thin and short with loss of vigour. Such poor crop growth is mainly due to accumulated pathogens inside the stalk affecting cane growth and photosynthetic efficiency, which directly results in reduced cane yield and sugar yield.

Disease Control

Disease management technologies developed at ICAR-SBI, Coimbatore

Heat treatment to manage sugarcane diseases

Aerated steam therapy (AST) has been developed at SBI during 1970s and is being used at different sugar factory areas in the country to manage grassy shoot phytoplasmas and ratoon stunting bacterium in the seed canes. Treatment of setts at 50 °C for 1 hour is recommended to inactivate the pathogens reside inside the setts. Seed canes in sugar factory areas are to be heat treated to eliminate / inactivate the pathogens and this address the problem of varietal degeneration in sugarcane due to grassy shoot and ratoon stunting.

Effective sett treatment device to deliver fungicides /bio-agents

Plant Pathology section has developed a portable, rapid sett treatment device for treating sugarcane planting material (setts/ bud chips) with fungicides or antagonistic microbes to protect from fungal diseases. In which the soaking time is reduced significantly and achieved more effective penetration of the chemicals into the sugarcane setts / buds due to reduced pressure created in the treatment chamber. Such treatment resulted in protection of young crop from primary sources of fungal inocula causing red rot, smut and wilt in sugarcane thereby reducing the chances of epidemic build up in the field.

Molecular diagnosis of sugarcane viral, phytoplasmal and fungal pathogens

Developed uniplex-, duplex- and multiplex-RT-PCR based diagnostics to detect sugarcane viruses. Specific primers were designed and PCR conditions were developed to simultaneously detect SCMV, SCSMV and SCYLV, the three important RNA viruses in tissue culture derived seedlings and mother plants. Similarly, PCR assays were developed to detect phytoplasmas causing grassy shoot disease and red rot pathogen. The molecular diagnostic assays were commercialized to tissue culture production units across the country to produce disease-free planting materials in sugarcane

Yellow leaf disease (YLD) management through meristem culture and virus indexing

Yellow leaf disease (YLD) caused by Sugarcane yellow leaf virus (SCYLV) has become a serious threat to sugarcane cultivation in different regions. The epidemic nature of the disease reduced the varietal performance and became a major cause for varietal degeneration. The virus is not amenable for management through conventional heat therapy. To manage the disease, meristem culture combined with molecular diagnosis was developed. This approach has been successful in eliminating the pathogen in the planting material and varietal vigour has been restored under field conditions. Sugar factories have taken up healthy seed nursery programmes using disease-free seedlings supplied from SBI and developed YLD-free nurseries.

Management of red rot using Thiophanate methyl + Pseudomonas sp.

Red rot, major fungal disease in the country can be managed effectively by sett treatment with the fungicide thiophanate methyl either alone or in combination with PGPR Pseudomonas.


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ICAR-Sugarcane Breeding Institute
Sugarcane Institute Rd,
Karumalai Chettipalayam, Veerakeralam,
Coimbatore 641007
Tamil Nadu

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2022-11-29 16:38