News and Views

Solving the sugar cane disease mystery

The Queensland Government is contributing $4.15 million this year towards sugarcane research development and extension projects, which includes funding to find a solution to Yellow Canopy Syndrome.

Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Leanne Donaldson said despite significant research efforts by industry over the past three years, the cause of this problem was still unclear.

“The syndrome causes yellowing in the leaves throughout the canopy, impacting on crop growth and reducing yield,” the Minister said.

“It is a concern that there appears to be no current commercial variety of sugarcane immune to the syndrome.

“It’s happening in all regions north of Sarina, and just this week a suspected case has been reported near Maryborough. The severity varies between regions and within regions, but with no obvious link with soil type or weather.

“The estimated impact on yield is generally no more than 15 per cent; however in severe, localised, cases it can reduce yield by up to 40 per cent or more which represents significant dollar losses.

“Sugar Research Australia (SRA) is working closely with collaborators including the Western Sydney University and other laboratories around Australia and overseas on a range of trials to find the cause and a solution.

In 2015-16, the Queensland Government is providing $847,851 of funds to SRA for a series of projects investigating:

  • the cause, and impacts, of Yellow Canopy Syndrome
  • sucrose levels and the links to Yellow Canopy Syndrome and sugarcane productivity
  • the link between Yellow Canopy Syndrome and sugarcane root systems
  • gene sequencing techniques to gain a better understanding of the impact on the plant. This will be critical in identifying management solutions for the Syndrome.

The Minister said trials were underway at a number of sites in sugarcane-growing areas of Queensland.

“This is a research priority for the sugarcane industry, which was worth $1.165 billion in 2013-14.

“We’re providing the necessary support to ensure a workable solution for sugarcane growers and millers so they can grow their industry for the benefit of our state.”

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