Research into exotic disease and pest threats to Saccharum germplasm in Australia and neighbouring countries.
A five-year project was funded by ACIAR to gain further information on the exotic diseases and pests that threaten the Australian sugar industry and Saccharum germplasm in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. In this paper, we examine the results from surveys and research into specific pests and diseases, and we explore the most important threats that face the Australian sugar industry. Some of the major outcomes from surveys include spread of several major diseases east from Java into more eastern islands in the archipelago, the widespread distribution of symptoms similar to Ramu stunt around PNG, the lack of major pests and diseases in northern Australia, and the first record of some minor pests within the region. Major research outcomes include the development of protocols for screening sugarcane varieties for resistance to sesamia stem borer, a preliminary test for screening sugarcane for Ramu stunt disease, much better information on sugarcane mosaic diseases present across the region, and improvements in the sugarcane smut screening technique used in Indonesia. Training outcomes were significant with quarantine officers in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea being instructed in the recognition of important sugarcane pests and diseases. Individual scientists from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea also benefited from training in Australia.