Leifsonia xyli subsp. xyli (sugarcane ratoon stunting disease)
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- Risk of Introduction
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- List of Symptoms/Signs
- Biology and Ecology
- Seedborne Aspects
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Detection and Inspection
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Leifsonia xyli subsp. xyli (Davis et al. 1984) Evtushenko et al. 2000
Preferred Common Name
- sugarcane ratoon stunting disease
Other Scientific Names
- Clavibacter xyli Davis et al. 1984
- Clavibacter xyli subsp. xyli Davis et al. 1984
International Common Names
- English: ratoon stunting of sugarcane
- Spanish: enfermedad del raquitismo de las socas; rachitismo de la caña de azucar
- French: rabougrissement de la canne à sucre
Local Common Names
- Brazil: raquitismo da soquerira
- CLABXY (Clavibacter xyli)
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Bacteria
- Phylum: Actinobacteria [phylum]
- Class: Actinobacteria
- Subclass: Actinobacteridae
- Order: Actinomycetales
- Suborder: Micrococcineae
- Family: Microbacteriaceae
- Genus: Leifsonia
- Species: Leifsonia xyli subsp. xyli
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
DescriptionTop of page
See also Bradbury (1991).
DistributionTop of page
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 12 May 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Congo, Democratic Republic of the||Present|
|Congo, Republic of the||Present|
|Côte d'Ivoire||Absent, Eradicated|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Present|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Present|
|United States||Present, Localized|
|-New South Wales||Present|
|-Rio de Janeiro||Present|
|French Guiana||Present||Original citation: Feldman et al., 1997|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Economic Importance High
Seedbrone Incidence Not recorded
Seed Transmitted Not recorded
Seed Treatment None
Overall Risk Low
Notes on Phytosanitary Risk
Quarantine restrictions on the disease exist in most sugarcane production areas throughout the world. However, there are no known races or other pathogenic variants of the bacterium that might increase the risk of introduction in regions where the disease already occurs, although the possibility of such variants cannot be ignored. Quarantine procedures that combine heat treatment of seed cane to eliminate the pathogen and appropriate diagnostic techniques can greatly reduce the risk of introduction. The widespread distribution of the disease can be largely attributed to international shipment of infected cuttings (Steindl, 1961; Dean, 1974).
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Chloris gayana (Rhodes grass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Chloris virgata (feather finger grass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Cynodon dactylon (Bermuda grass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Cynodon plectostachyus (African stargrass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Echinochloa colona (junglerice)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Eleusine indica (goose grass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Eragrostis cilianensis (stink grass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Imperata cylindrica (cogon grass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Megathyrsus maximus (Guinea grass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Melinis minutiflora (molasses grass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Melinis repens (natal redtop)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Paspalum dilatatum (dallisgrass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Paspalum urvillei (Vasey grass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)||Poaceae||Main|
|Setaria parviflora (knotroot foxtail)||Poaceae||Unknown|
|Urochloa decumbens (signal grass)||Poaceae||Unknown|
Growth StagesTop of page
SymptomsTop of page
Diseased stalks of some cultivars may exhibit internal discoloration, but these symptoms are often ephemeral. In mature stalks, vascular bundles at the nodes may become discoloured. The intensity of discoloration may vary among cultivars from one time to another, ranging from yellow, orange, pink, and red to reddish-brown. This may be viewed by slicing longitudinally through a node with a knife and examining the fresh cut for discoloured vascular bundles in the shape of dots, commas, or short lines. Discoloration does not extend into the internode. Similar nodal symptoms may be caused by insects or other pathogens, but usually extend throughout nodes, instead of being confined to the lower portion of nodes, or extend into the internodes. Juvenile stalk symptoms may be observed in some cultivars by longitudinally slicing through 1- to 2-month-old stalks. The symptoms appear as pinkish discoloration just below the apical meristematic area and may extended downward as much as a centimetre.
List of Symptoms/SignsTop of page
|Leaves / necrotic areas|
|Leaves / wilting|
|Stems / internal discoloration|
|Stems / internal red necrosis|
|Stems / stunting or rosetting|
|Whole plant / dwarfing|
|Whole plant / plant dead; dieback|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The pathogen systemically invades plants through the xylem. It has been detected in most vegetative parts of sugarcane where mature xylem exists. It was recovered readily from mature stalks and the leaf sheaths and lamina of the lower leaves of infected plants, but not from the midrib and lamina of upper leaves (Teakle et al., 1975). Large populations existed in mature stalks, and smaller populations were found in the growing point, leaf lamina, leaf midrib and leaf sheath (Bailey, 1977).
Seedborne AspectsTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually invisible|
|Leaves||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually invisible|
|Roots||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually invisible|
|Seedlings/Micropropagated plants||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually invisible|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches||Yes||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Fruits (inc. pods)|
|Growing medium accompanying plants|
|True seeds (inc. grain)|
ImpactTop of page
Assuming a high disease incidence and a susceptible sugarcane clone, several other factors are important in the severity of yield losses. Moisture stress can increase yield reduction from the disease in susceptible cultivars (Rossler, 1974); heavy losses can occur when sugarcane is grown under dryland conditions and growth is checked by prolonged dry weather (Egan, 1970). Yield reductions are sometimes greater in successive ratoon crops, possibly because of increased disease incidence (Steindl, 1961; Bailey and Béchet, 1986). The presence of other diseases, such as sugarcane mosaic potyvirus (Steib and Chilton, 1967; Koike, 1974), may increase reductions in germination and yield caused by ratoon stunting disease. Weak, diseased crops may invite weed infestation and, thus, be subject to further yield reduction as a result of competition with weeds.
DiagnosisTop of page
The pathogen is extremely fastidious in its nutritional requirements and can only be grown in axenic culture on special media such as the SC medium (Davis et al., 1980). The following procedure can be used for primary isolation of the pathogen in culture:
- select and excise a portion of stalk containing an internode that is free of damage due to insects, cracks, etc. and thoroughly wash it with soap and running water to remove grime
- surface disinfest the internode by submersion in 70% ethanol for 1-2 min, then dipping into 95% ethanol, and finally flaming
- aseptically excise a 2-3 cm section of the internode, place it into a 50-mL, conical centrifuge tube, and centrifuge it at 1000-4000 x g for 1-5 min to extract sap
- use the sap to inoculate SC medium, and incubate the inoculated medium aerobically at 29°C for 2-3 weeks.
The bacterium is aerobic, non-motile, Gram-positive, non-spore-forming, non-acid fast, catalase-positive, and oxidase-negative.
Pathogenicity tests for routine identification are rarely conducted because of the long incubation period (usually at least 3-6 months or longer) required for symptom development or detection of the pathogen in the host plant. However, in some situations it may be desirable to inoculate sugarcane with the pathogen. Crude juice from infected plants can be used as inoculum and is often a more convenient source of inoculum than pure cultures of the pathogen. However, the quality of crude juice inoculum is difficult to control and the use of such inoculum involves the risk of spreading other pathogens. Sugarcane can be inoculated by dipping freshly cut ends of single node cuttings into a suspension of the pathogen. Cuttings are then planted and developing plants are examined for internal symptoms or the presence of the pathogen after an appropriate incubation period.
Serological methods have been developed to detect L. xyli subsp. xyli (Gillaspie, 1978; Harrison and Davis, 1990; Wu et al., 1990). Considerable sensitivity has been obtained by using fluorescent-antibody staining to detect bacterial cells with epifluorescence microscopy. Staining of the bacterium in dried extracts on glass slides was at least tenfold more sensitive than phase-contrast microscopy for detection (Harris and Gillaspie, 1978). At least another tenfold increase in sensitivity was obtained when the bacterium was first stained while still suspended in sap extracts and then concentrated on membrane filters by filtration before observation (Davis and Dean, 1984). The latter method can also be used to estimate the pathogen population size and was named the fluorescent-antibody direct-count on filters (FADCF) technique (Davis, 1985).
Although not as sensitive, more rapid serological assays have been developed. An ELISA was investigated for detection of L. xyli subsp. xyli; however, problems with non-specific reactions were encountered (Gillaspie and Harris, 1979). A modified ELISA procedure, referred to as the evaporative binding enzyme immunoassay (EB-EIA), was developed (Croft et al., 1994). A tissue-blot enzyme immunoassay (EIA) was developed to enumerate vascular bundles in cross-sections of sugarcane stalks which have been colonized by the pathogen; this technique can also be used for diagnosis (Harrison and Davis, 1988). A dot-blot EIA was also developed to detect the pathogen in sap extracts. Both the dot-blot and tissue-blot EIA involve the deposition of pathogen cells either from extracts or directly from plant tissue, respectively, onto nitrocellulose membrane filters before serological detection with an indirect EIA.
Cloned DNA probes have been developed for the pathogen (Chung et al., 1994). The sensitivities of detection reported for the DNA probes was approximately equal to that reported for the FADCF technique but less than those reported for the various EIAs. A tissue-blot DNA hybridization technique (Pan et al., 1998a) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) procedures have been reported for the sensitive and specific detection of the pathogen in sugarcane (Pan et al., 1998b; Fegan et al., 1998).
Detection and InspectionTop of page
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Cultural Control and Sanitary Methods
Planting healthy cane can be used to control ratoon stunting disease. Sanitation is important in keeping healthy cane from becoming infected, because L. xyli subsp. xyli is easily transmitted mechanically.
Seed cane can be monitored for freedom from the disease using appropriate diagnostic techniques. In Australia and South Africa, phase-contrast microscopy has been used to screen thousands of samples annually for L. xyli subsp. xyli (Egan, 1980; Bailey and Fox, 1984). Continued vigilance in the selection of seed cane over several years has resulted in a reduction in the incidence of ratoon stunting disease in both plantings for seed cane production and commercial crops.
Seed cane can be heat treated to help prevent the spread of L. xyli subsp. xyli from one geographic area to another and to control ratoon stunting disease within areas where it occurs (Steindl, 1961). Hot-water, hot-air, moist-air, and aerated steam treatments have been used (Benda and Ricaud, 1978). Hot-water treatment at ca 50°C for 2-3 hours has been the most commonly used method (Steindl, 1961; Gul and Hassan, 1995). The application of streptomycin and hot-water treatment at 52°C for 30 minutes suppressed disease by 22.6% and increased yields of cane and white sugar by 35.54 and 4.55 t/ha, respectively (Gul and Hassan, 1995). Different cultivars vary in their tolerance to injury by heat. Seed cane from mature plants is usually less affected and generally germinates better after hot-water treatment than that from immature or over-mature plants. Pre-treatment of young, heat-sensitive seed cane to increase germination has been reported to reduce the deleterious effects of hot-water treatment (Benda, 1972, 1978). Seed cane was cut 1-5 days before treatment, pre-treated at 50°C for 10 minutes in hot water, and then treated the following day at 50°C for 2-3 hours. Hot-air treatment, with inlet air at 58°C for 8 hours or at 50°C for 24 hours, may be less harmful to immature seed cane than hot-water treatment and is used in some areas (Steindl, 1961). Dipping seed cane in water at ambient temperatures following hot-air treatment may protect germination. Moist-air treatment at 54°C for 7 hours in a sealed chamber was developed to overcome the moisture loss associated with hot-air treatment (Shukla et al., 1974). Aerated-steam treatment at 53°C for 4 hours uses steam-moistened hot air to reach the necessary internal stalk temperatures more quickly, approaching the treatment time used with hot water (Mayeux et al., 1979).
The two major problems limiting the effectiveness of heat treatment, other than expense, are reductions in germination and lack of complete control. Procedures that have been developed to protect germination in addition to those already discussed include treating seed cane with fungicides or other chemicals during and after heat treatment, careful selection of seed cane for treatment, and leaving leaf sheaths over buds during treatment. Proper functioning of the heating unit and temperature control system and proper loading of the heat chamber can favour both germination and control of ratoon stunting disease.
Under practical conditions, however, heat treatment is often not completely curative for ratoon stunting disease (Damann and Benda, 1983), and germination rates of treated seed cane may be reduced. Moreover, the expense involved in heat treatment is prohibitive. Consequently, heat treatment is often used to establish pathogen-free nurseries which are then used to supply planting material for commercial fields. Even so, the quantity of seed cane produced in such nurseries is usually inadequate, and additional sources of relatively pathogen-free seed cane are required. Seed cane from sources with a recent history of heat treatment can be used to fill the void, especially when adequate sanitary precautions have been taken to prevent spread of the pathogen and ensure that the level of the disease is minimal.
Because L. xyli subsp. xyli is readily transmitted by mechanical means, sanitation is important in preventing its spread to healthy plants (Comstock et al., 1996). Precautions can be taken to avoid transmission of the bacterium from one field to another on contaminated agricultural equipment. Sugarcane fields that are believed to be free from, or with a lower incidence of, ratoon stunting disease can be harvested first each day. Implements which have been used in diseased sugarcane fields can be cleansed and decontaminated before entering another field. Hot water, steam, flaming, or chemicals can be used to disinfect implements (Gillaspie and Davis, 1992).
Although immunity to infection by L. xyli subsp. xyli is not known to occur in sugarcane, substantial resistance to injury has been found in some cultivars and appears to have a degree of genetic determination (Roach, 1992; Miller et al., 1995). Breeding for resistance to the disease was not a part of any breeding programme until recently, because no practical methods of screening large numbers of clones for resistance to the disease were available. Selection for disease resistance on the scale required in a sugarcane breeding programme is usually made on the basis of a visually assessed parameter of severity or incidence. No such visual parameters exist for ratoon stunting disease. Yield losses have been consistently detectable statistically only in replicated yield-loss trials combined over locations and years. Thus, yield-loss trials are grossly inadequate as a screening procedure on the scale required in a breeding programme.
The tissue-blot EIA and the EB-EIA techniques (see Diagnostic Methods) have been incorporated into sugarcane breeding programmes in Florida, USA (Davis et al., 1994) and in Australia (Croft et al., 1994), respectively, to permit large-scale screening for resistance to ratoon stunting disease. The number of colonized vascular bundles in stalks is measured by the tissue-blot EIA, and population size of the pathogen in sap extracts is measured by the EB-EIA. Both parameters are measures of the extent of colonization of sugarcane by the pathogen and were found to be highly correlated (Harrison and Davis, 1988). In addition to the extent of colonization, the frequency of infection of sugarcane clones can be determined by either method. These parameters are then used as estimates of disease incidence and severity as might be encountered in commercial sugarcane production. The validity of using the estimates of pathogen colonization as a measure of disease severity is based on their correlations with yield reduction due to ratoon stunting disease. The possible negative influence on this correlation of clonal tolerance to the disease has been discussed (Davis et al., 1988b; Roach and Jackson, 1992).
It was hypothesized that disease control might best be obtained by disregarding the effects of the disease on yields and concentrating on lowering the potential for epidemics by selection of clones that are less susceptible to infection and produce less inoculum when infected (Davis et al., 1994).
The application of ammonium sulfate to sugarcane crops resulted in 22.89% reduction in disease caused by L. xyli subsp. xyli and yield increases of 29.09 and 2.91 t/ha, in cane and white sugar, respectively (Gul and Hassan, 1995).
ReferencesTop of page
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Bailey RA, Bechet GR, 1986. Effect of ratoon stunting disease on the yield and components of yield of sugarcane under rainfed conditions. Proceedings of the sixtieth annual congress of the South African Sugar Technologists' Association Mount Edgecombe, South Africa, 143-147
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Bailey RA, Tough SA, 1992. Ratoon stunting disease: survival of Clavibacter xyli subsp. xyli, in field soil and its spread to newly planted sugarcane. Proceedings of the Annual Congress - South African Sugar Technologists' Association, No. 66:75-77; 11 ref
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Hussnain S Z, Afghan S, Haq M I, Mughal S M, Shahazad A, Hussain K, Nawaz K, Pan Y B, Jackson P, Batool A, Irfan A, 2011. First report of ratoon stunt of sugarcane caused by Leifsonia xyli subsp. xyli in Pakistan. Plant Disease. 95 (12), 1581-1582. http://apsjournals.apsnet.org/loi/pdis DOI:10.1094/PDIS-02-11-0137
IPPC, 2006. IPP Report No. JM-2/1., Rome, Italy: FAO.
Marcuz F S, Souto E R de, Vieira R A, Marrafon M A, Barboza A A L, Daros E, 2009. Survey of Leifsonia xyli subsp. xyli incidence in sugarcane plantations of the northwest region of Paraná State. (Levantamento da incidência de Leifsonia xyli subsp. xyli em plantios de cana-de-açúcar do noroeste do Paraná.). Ciência e Agrotecnologia. 33 (special issue), 1935-1939. http://www.scielo.br/pdf/cagro/v33nspe/41.pdf DOI:10.1590/S1413-70542009000700041
Mills L, Leaman T M, Taghavi S M, Shackel L, Dominiak B C, Taylor P W J, Fegan M, Teakle D S, 2001. Leifsonia xyli-like bacteria are endophytes of grasses in eastern Australia. Australasian Plant Pathology. 30 (2), 145-151. DOI:10.1071/AP01003
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Toribio J A, Beramis M, 1989. Some pathological problems of the aerial system of sugarcane in Guadeloupe. (Quelques problemes pathologiques du systeme aerien de la canne a sucre en Guadeloupe.). Bulletin Agronomique (Petit Bourg). 64-67.
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