Saccharum spontaneum (wild sugarcane)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Saccharum spontaneum L.
Preferred Common Name
- wild sugarcane
Other Scientific Names
- Imperata spontanea (L.) P. Beauv.
- Saccharum aegyptium Wiild.
- Saccharum biflorum Forssk.
- Saccharum canaliculatum Roxb.
- Saccharum insulare Brongn.
- Saccharum palisotii Tausch
- Saccharum propinquum Steud.
- Saccharum punctatum Schumach.
- Saccharum semidecumbens Roxb.
International Common Names
- English: serio grass (Australia); thatch grass; tiger grass; wild cane
- French: canne sauvage (Mauritania)
Local Common Names
- : pit-pit
- Bangladesh: kash
- Cambodia: ampeon pixy
- Egypt: boos; boos el-gezzair; boos giddawi; ghazar
- Indonesia: glagah; tobioe
- Japan: wase-abana
- Madagascar: fary
- Myanmar: thekkaygyee; thetkiakyn
- Pakistan: kahi
- Philippines: bobang; bugang; gigbau; sidda; talahib
- Thailand: phong
- Venezuela: cana uba
- SACSP (Saccharum spontaneum)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
S. spontaneum is a perennial, polymorphic grass species believed to have originated in India. It is present across southern Asia, east Africa and to the Mediterranean. S. spontaneum is often considered a weed in its native range and has been introduced outside of this range for use in sugarcane breeding programmes. This species can grow up to 5 m in height and reproduces both vegetatively, from a large network of rhizome and by producing thousands of wind dispersed seeds. S. spontaneum has the potential to become a serious invader of cultivated land, often resulting in its abandonment. It has been shown to reduce the productivity of a number of crop species including wheat, tea, rubber and sugarcane, for example. In addition to this, S. spontaneum is a host to a large number of pests and diseases which may acts as a reservoir enabling spread into adjacent crops.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Cyperales
- Family: Poaceae
- Genus: Saccharum
- Species: Saccharum spontaneum
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
S. spontaneum is a tropical grass species believed to have played a key role in the evolution of cultivated, or ratoon sugarcane (S. officinarum). The chromosome number ranges between 2n = 40 and 2n = 128. Biotypes with smaller chromosome numbers are typically distributed in north India, whilst those with higher ploidy levels are distributed in eastern India and further south in Indonesia. Biotypes with 2n = 60 to 70 were described by Panje (1970) as the most diversified, rhizomatous and weedy types.
The many forms of this polymorphic species are commonly grouped into two subspecies, subsp. spontaneum from tropical and warm temperate Asia with leaf blades narrowed to the midrib towards the base and the ligule triangular; and subsp. aegyptium which occurs across tropical Africa, south to Malawi and north to Syria, which has lamina to the base of the leaf, and a crescent-shaped ligule (Clayton and Renvoize, 1982).
DescriptionTop of page
S. spontaneum is a perennial grass with slender culms, 100-200 cm tall, growing in stools or forming continuous cane-brakes and usually exhibiting vigorous rhizomatous tillering. Culms remain green, grey, ivory or white, hard, but very pithy and often hollow in the centre, varying in diameter from 5 to 15 mm; often rooting at the nodes, internodes usually long and nodes always thicker than internodes. Culms produce long, silky white panicles, 50-60 cm long. Spikelets 3-4 mm long, surrounded by hairs which are 3-6 times their length; glumes long, pointed with ciliate margins, lemma very small or lacking; palea of same size as lodicules. Leaves narrow-lanceolate, involute, with long hairs at base; ligule short. The stomata on the abaxial leaf surface are located in the veinal grooves and are covered by a spine-like silicaceous structure.
DistributionTop of page
S. spontaneum is believed to have originated in India in areas with moderate, but prolonged, dry periods (Panje, 1970). It is now distributed widely in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, growing at an upper limit of 1800 m. Its range extends from the slopes of the Himalayas in Northern India to the equatorial regions of South-East Asia. Biotypes have been recorded from Turkestan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Iran extending to the northern and eastern regions of Africa (Anon., 1972). It is also found in Southern Europe and Australasia.
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: 23 Nov 2020
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Egypt||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Ethiopia||Present||CABI (Undated)||Original citation: Froman & Persson, 1974|
|Ghana||Present||Clayton and Renvoize (1982); Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Kenya||Present||Clayton and Renvoize (1982)|
|Malawi||Present||Clayton and Renvoize (1982)|
|Mauritius||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Sudan||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020); CABI (Undated)|
|Tanzania||Present||Clayton and Renvoize (1982)|
|Uganda||Present||Clayton and Renvoize (1982)|
|Afghanistan||Present, Localized||Native||Holm et al. (1997)|
|Bangladesh||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|India||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|-Andhra Pradesh||Present, Widespread||Caius (1986)|
|-Bihar||Present, Widespread||Sen (1981)|
|-Gujarat||Present, Widespread||Caius (1986)|
|-Haryana||Present, Widespread||Balyan et al. (1993)|
|-Himachal Pradesh||Present, Widespread||Caius (1986)|
|-Jammu and Kashmir||Present||Cope (1982)|
|-Karnataka||Present, Widespread||Sastry et al. (1980)|
|-Kerala||Present, Widespread||Caius (1986)|
|-Madhya Pradesh||Present, Widespread||Sen (1981)|
|-Maharashtra||Present, Widespread||Caius (1986)|
|-Odisha||Present, Widespread||Caius (1986)|
|-Punjab||Present, Widespread||Caius (1986)|
|-Rajasthan||Present, Widespread||Sharma and Tiagi (1979)|
|-Tamil Nadu||Present, Widespread||Caius (1986)|
|-Uttar Pradesh||Present, Widespread||Sen (1981)|
|-West Bengal||Present, Widespread||Thakur (1984)|
|Indonesia||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Iran||Present||Holm et al. (1997)|
|Israel||Present, Localized||EPPO (2020)|
|Japan||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Jordan||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Malaysia||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Myanmar||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Nepal||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Pakistan||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Philippines||Present||EPPO (2020); CABI (Undated)|
|Sri Lanka||Present, Widespread||Holm et al. (1997)|
|Syria||Present||Clayton and Renvoize (1982)|
|Thailand||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Vietnam||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Greece||Present||CABI (Undated)||Original citation: Koumpli-Souvantzi, 1991|
|Puerto Rico||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|United States||Present, Localized||EPPO (2020)|
|-Hawaii||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Australia||Present||Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
|Papua New Guinea||Present||Henty (1969); Holm et al. (1997); EPPO (2020)|
HabitatTop of page
Besides agricultural land, S. spontaneum is common along river banks, roadsides and railroads, on waste ground and along the banks of lakes and ponds (Holm et al., 1997). It is able to grow on fertile (to approximately 5 m tall) and poorer soils (to about 3 m tall) (Roxburgh, 1971). It is usually most aggressive on heavy, moisture-retentive soils, however, it also grows well on sandy soils (Sen, 1981; Balyan et al., 1997).
Habitat ListTop of page
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
S. spontaneum is a serious weed of cotton, pearl millet, sorghum, sugarcane, rice, forage crops, horticultural gardens and plantation crops such as tea and coffee in tropical and subtropical climates.
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Ananas comosus (pineapple)||Bromeliaceae||Main|
|Arachis hypogaea (groundnut)||Fabaceae||Other|
|Camellia sinensis (tea)||Theaceae||Main|
|Corchorus olitorius (jute)||Tiliaceae||Other|
|Gossypium hirsutum (Bourbon cotton)||Malvaceae||Main|
|Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)||Solanaceae||Main|
|Oryza sativa (rice)||Poaceae||Main|
|Pennisetum glaucum (pearl millet)||Poaceae||Main|
|Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)||Poaceae||Main|
|Sorghum bicolor (sorghum)||Poaceae||Main|
|Triticum aestivum (wheat)||Poaceae||Main|
|Zea mays (maize)||Poaceae||Other|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
S. spontaneum is a perennial species capable of propagation vegetatively or from seed. Vegetative propagation is from rhizomes and stem fragments, as each node has a root band with one or two rows of root primordia (Artschwager, 1942). Seed production is very variable; in the Philippines, Pancho (1964) recorded a mean of 12,800 seeds/plant, Datta and Banerjee (1973) working in India quoted mean seed production as 3042 seeds/plant. Dispersal of seeds by wind is aided by the callus hairs which form a parachute mechanism; sometimes a small number of seeds may become entangled to form a woolly mass which may be transported large distances (Sharma and Tiagi, 1979). In India, germination and emergence occurs in June/July after the first showers of the rainy season; adult plants bear flowers by the end of the rainy season. It does not form a persistent seed bank. The optimal flowering induction photoperiod for most biotypes is 12.5 hours. In irrigated cropping systems emergence may be as early as April. Maximum growth in terms of dry weight accumulation occurs in the temperature range 22-34°C.
Sharma and Tiagi (1979) recognized three distinct biotypes: a xerophilous type, which occurs on dry sandy soils; a hygrophilous type found in wetlands and swamps; and an intermediate type found on loamy soils.
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
There is some indication that the pathogenic fungi Sphacelotheca rottboelliae can use S. spontaneum as a host (Waterhouse, 1994). It has been reported from Maharashtra, India, as occurring on farm weeds, but its importance is not known. Since this weed is a close relative of sugarcane, it is likely that any natural enemies (especially arthropods) will also attack the crop and be classified as pests.
ImpactTop of page
When it is allowed to become established on cultivated land, S. spontaneum may become a very serious weed, sometimes resulting in the abandonment of infested land. It occurs in almost all rainy season crops in India, causing most severe losses in productivity in tea, sugarcane, cotton and sorghum. In Thailand it causes yield reductions in forage crops, and it is a serious weed of pastures, pineapple and sugarcane in the Philippines. It is also a common weed of sugarcane in Bangladesh. In Indonesia, it affects the productivity of rubber and tea, and in Laos and Nepal reduces rice productivity (Holm et al., 1997). The weed is also believed, in some instances, to have allelopathic effects on crops. Amritphale and Mall (1978) noted that leachates from rhizomes and roots inhibited root and shoot growth of three wheat varieties. In Jammu and Kashmir, India, it has been reported to contain hydrocyanic acid when in the green condition, and can be therefore poisonous to livestock. S. spontaneum also acts as an alternative host for many insects and diseases of economic importance. These include sugarcane top borer (Scirpophaga excerptalis), Asian corn borer (Ostrinia furnacalis) and the white mite of sugarcane (Schizotetranychus spp.).
UsesTop of page
S. spontaneum is a coarse grass, is not favoured by cattle and is generally only grazed in times of scarcity. It has, however, been reported as good fodder for goats and camels (Thakur, 1984) and suitable for the production of silage (Komarov et al., 1963). Its extensive rhizome network makes it a very efficient binder of soils, and hence, particularly useful for controlling and preventing soil erosion. It provides good thatching material and is also used in the production of ropes, mats and brooms. Pulp of S. spontaneum is suitable for wrapping, writing, printing and for the production of grease-proof paper. Its slow rate of decomposition makes it an excellent mulching material (Wapakala, 1966). Numerous medicinal uses have been described in the Philippines (Pancho and Obien, 1983), and young shoots are boiled and eaten with rice in Indonesia (Uphof, 1968).
S. spontaneum is a key species in the evolution and development of cultivated sugarcane (S. officinarum), and remains a valuable breeding resource. One of the biotypes of S. spontaneum may be crossed with S. officinarum to create a high-yielding variety which is resistant to adverse climatic conditions (Anon., 1972).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
- Host of pest
- Miscellaneous fuels
- Gene source for disease resistance
Human food and beverage
- Beverage base
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
The crop, S. officinarum, differs in having much broader leaves, usually at least 2-4 cm wide, and the axis of the panicle glabrous to pubescent (compared to hirsute in S. spontaneum). The most distinguishing characteristics of S. spontaneum are stout stems, toothed leaf margins, whitish midrib and its large, plume-like panicel with numerous fine, white hairs at the base of the spikelets. These silky hairs are absent in sugarcane. There are a range of Erianthus species in south Asia with considerable superficial similarity to S. spontaneum, but these mostly differ in being tufted, without rhizomes, and having the spikelets awned. Detailed keys are provided by Bor (1979).
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.
Deep ploughing is effective for the control of this weed (Mendoza, 1979). In the Bundelkand regions of Uttar Pradesh, India, a specialized plough known as the 'Bakhkhar plough', capable of cultivation to a depth of 26 cm is used to control S. spontaneum. Soil inversion during the months of May and June when the temperature is very high in northern India can help to exhaust food reserves in the rhizomes either by drying or by following inversion with irrigation to encourage regeneration. Regardless of timing, an annual deep cultivation will help to reduce the vigour and spread of this species by systematically interrupting the development of the underground reproductive system.
Embanking and flooding of infested areas can reduce infestations where these occur in localised pockets in the field (Thakur, 1984). Harrowing twice before soyabean sowing followed by one hand weeding 20 days after sowing is effective for control in soyabean. Under low rainfall conditions, a double-wheeled hoe may be used for inter-row weed control (Tiwari and Kurchania, 1990).
A number of mulching techniques have proved successful for the control of S. spontaneum. Covering the soil surface with black or white polyethylene sheeting after removing above-ground parts, either by herbicide or cultivation, for a period of three to four months prevents regeneration of plants (Balyan et al., 1993). The stacking of pearl millet or sorghum stubbles after cutting of the weed to ground level can also aid control.
The stale seed bed technique may be used to encourage S. spontaneum to emerge in the months of April and May by applying frequent irrigations. Emerged populations may then be treated with pre-seeding herbicides, and crops sown two to three days later.
Integrated weed management is successful for perennial weeds such as S. spontaneum where tillage and management practices allow competition in favour of crops. In infested areas, competitive crops such as pearl millet or sorghum should be grown instead of cotton or soyabean.
A number of herbicides have been successful in controlling S. spontaneum in different cropping systems. These include: pre-emergence application of oxyfluorfen followed by oxyfluorfen + paraquat (Ghosh and Ramakrishnan, 1981); haloxyfop-methyl + fluazifop-butyl (Tiwari and Trivedi, 1985); Tiwari and Kurchania, 1990; Tewari et al., 1991), bromacil or dalapon (Mendoza, 1979); amitrole or glyphosate (Amrithphale and Mall, 1981) and atrazine (Mann and Chakor, 1993).
In Indonesia, glyphosate controlled S. spontaneum without harming young tea plants (Sanusi, 1979). In the Philippines, glyphosate was effective in non-cropped areas and during fallow periods in pineapple cropping systems. Fluazifop-butyl applied twice at 3-month intervals was effective without any phytotoxicity to pineapple (Sison and Mendoza, 1993).
ReferencesTop of page
Amritphale D; Mall L, 1978. Allelopathic influence of Saccharum spontaneum L. on the growth of three varieties of wheat. Science and Culture, 44:28-30.
Anon., 1972. The Wealth of India. Raw Materials. New Delhi, India: CSIR Publications & Information Directorate, Vol. IX.
Artschwager E, 1942. A comparative analysis of the vegetative characteristics of some variants of Saccharum spontaneum, USDA Technical Bulletin 811. USA, USDA.
Balyan RS; Malik RK; Singh SM; Pahwa SK, 1993. Effect of mulching and volume of glyphosate spray on the control of tigergrass (Saccharum spontaneum L.). Integrated weed management for sustainable agriculture. Proceedings of an Indian Society of Weed Science International Symposium. Haryana, India; Indian Society of Weed Science, Vol. III:240-243.
Balyan RS; Yadav A; Malik RK; Pahwa SK; Panwar RS, 1997. Management of Perennial Weeds. Bulletin, Department of Agronomy. Hisar, India: CCS Haryana Agricultural University.
Bor NL, 1979. The Grasses of Burma, Ceylon, India and Pakistan (excluding Bambuseae). Dehra Dun, India: R. P. S. Galot, International Book Distributors.
Caius JF, 1986. The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of India. Jodhpur, India: Scientific Publishers.
Clayton WD, 1980. Sorghum Moench. In: Tutin TG, Heywood VH, Burges NA, Moore DM, Valentine DH, Walters SM, Webb DA, eds. Flora Europeae, 5, Alismataceae to Orchidaceae (Monocotyledones). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 265.
Cope TA, 1982. 143. Poaceae. In: Nasir E, Ali SI, eds. Flora of Pakistan. Karachi, Pakistan: University of Karachi.
Datta S; Banerjee A, 1973. Weight and number of weed seeds. Proceedings of the 4th Asian-Pacific Weed Science Society Conference. Asian Pacific Weed Science Society, 1:87-91.
EPPO, 2014. PQR database. Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization. http://www.eppo.int/DATABASES/pqr/pqr.htm
Fröman B; Persson S, 1974. An Illustrated Guide to the Grasses of Ethiopia. Assella, Ehiopia: Chilalo Awraja Development Unit.
Ghosh MS; Ramakrishnan L, 1981. Study on economical weed management programme in young and pruned tea with oxyfluorfen. Proceedings of the Eighth Asian-Pacific Weed Science Society Conference., 119-125
Henty EE, 1969. A Manual of the Grasses of New Guinea. Botany Bulletin No. 1, Lae, Papua New Guinea: Division of Botany.
Holm L; Doll J; Holm E; Pancho J; Herberger J, 1997. World Weeds. Natural Histories and Distribution. New York, USA: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Komarov VL; Rozhevits R Yu; Shishkin BK, 1963. Flora of the USSR. Leningrad, USSR: The Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
Mann JS; Chakor IS, 1993. Weed control in first ratoon of sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum L.) under rainfed conditions. Integrated weed management for sustainable agriculture. Proceedings of an Indian Society of Weed Science International Symposium, Hisar, India, 18-20 November 1993 Hisar, Haryana, India; Indian Society of Weed Science, Vol. III:192-195
Pancho J, 1964. Seed sizes and production capacities in common weed species of the rice fields of the Philippines. Philippines Journal of Weed Science, 12:75-98.
Pancho J; Obien S, 1983. Manual of Weeds of Tobacco Farms in the Philippines. Quezon City, Philippines: New Mercury Printing Press.
Panje R, 1970. The evolution of a weed. PANS, 16:590-595.
Roxburgh W, 1971. Flora Indica on Description of Indian Plants. New Delhi, India: Today & Tomorrow's Printers & Publishers.
Sastry KSK, 1980. Weeds of Karnataka. Bangalore, India: University of Agricultural Sciences, UAS Text Book Series, No. 2.
Sharma S; Tiagi B, 1979. Flora of North East Rajasthan. New Delhi, Ludhiana, India: Kalyani Publishers.
Tewari AN; Singh V; Dubey RP, 1991. Effect of fluazifop butyl and haloxyfop-methyl on Saccharum spontaneum control in greengram. Indian Journal of Weed Science, 22(3-4):81-82.
Thakur C, 1984. Weed Science. New Delhi, India: Metropolitan Book Co.(P) Ltd.
Tiwari JP; Trivedi KK, 1985. Influence of fluazifop-butyl and haloxyfop-methyl on Saccharum spontaneum L. and Cynodon dactylon Pers. Abstracts of papers, annual conference of Indian Society of Weed Science, 1985, 115.
Uphof J, 1968. Dictionary of Economic Plants. New York, USA: Cramer.
Wapakala W, 1966. A note on the persistence of mulch grasses. Kenya Coffee, 31:111-112.
Waterhouse DF, 1994. Biological Control of Weeds: Southeast Asian Prospects. Canberra, Australia: ACIAR Monograph No 26.
Balyan R S, Malik R K, Singh S M, Pahwa S K, 1993. Effect of mulching and volume of glyphosate spray on the control of tigergrass (Saccharum spontaneum L.). In: Integrated weed management for sustainable agriculture. Proceedings of an Indian Society of Weed Science International Symposium, Hisar, India, 18-20 November 1993. [Integrated weed management for sustainable agriculture. Proceedings of an Indian Society of Weed Science International Symposium, Hisar, India, 18-20 November 1993.], Hisar, Haryana, India: Indian Society of Weed Science. 240-243.
Bor NL, 1979. The Grasses of Burma, Ceylon, India and Pakistan (excluding Bambuseae)., Dehra Dun, India: R P S Galot, International Book Distributors.
CABI, Undated. Compendium record. Wallingford, UK: CABI
CABI, Undated a. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI
Caius JF, 1986. The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of India., Jodhpur, India: Scientific Publishers.
Clayton WD, 1980. Sorghum Moench. In: Flora Europeae, 5, Alismataceae to Orchidaceae (Monocotyledones), [ed. by Tutin TG, Heywood VH, Burges NA, Moore DM, Valentine DH, Walters SM, Webb DA]. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. 265.
Cope TA, 1982. 143. Poaceae. In: Flora of Pakistan, [ed. by Nasir E, Ali SI]. Karachi, Pakistan: University of Karachi.
Sharma S, Tiagi B, 1979. Flora of North East Rajasthan., New Delhi, Ludhiana, India: Kalyani Publishers.
Thakur C, 1984. Weed Science., New Delhi, India: Metropolitan Book Co.(P) Ltd.
Distribution MapsTop of page
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