Sugarcane is not only cash crop for the growers,
but it is main source of white crystal sugar. It also provides grower
with a very good substitute of sugar as ‘gur’ and ‘khandsari’
(brown sugar). Sugarcane tops serve as fodder for cattle, baggage
and leaf trashes as fuel, stubble and roots as organic manure and
crop residues as mulch and compost (Bhatti and Soomro, 1996 and
Khoso, 1992). It may also be kept in mind that sugarcane leaves
are used as substrate for the artificial cultivation of edible mushrooms.
There are many constrain, including the heavy losses, caused by
a number of diseases to the sugarcane crop in Pakistan. More than
50 diseases are reported in sugarcane, fungi, bacteria, viruses
and nematodes cause the most destructive diseases. The losses (due
to the diseases) vary from place to place, depending upon the crop
variety and could not be ignored, neglected and or regretted, because
they also cause variable loss time by time to the crop. These all
diseases are injurious in some areas, in some years and on some
plant parts. All parts of plant are subject to disease and one or
more diseases can occur on virtually every plant and in every field.
All draw attention because of symptoms or signs and generate great
concern because of their effects on the quality and/or quantity
However, the causes, symptoms, transmission, perpetuation and control
measures of different most important diseases of sugarcane, based
on the description by Kamal and Moghal (1968), Hafiz (1986), Ahmad
(1988), Bhatti and Soomro (1996), Bhatti and Jiskani (1996) and
Jiskani (1999) are being summarised here under, for guide line to
the growers, research and extension workers as well as students
(Ustilago scitaminea) Syd.
Symptoms: The affected canes produce long, black
whip-like and coiled or curved shoots, which are covered with a
thin silvery membrane, containing masses of chlamydospores of the
fungus. The smutted shoots may arise from the top of the cane or
from lateral buds. Later on that membrane ruptures and releases
a multitude of spores, which contaminate soil and the standing crop.
In certain cases, the infected plants remain stunted in growth with
increased tillering of little value. The diseased plants are unfit
Perpetuation: The disease is carried over from
year to year by ratooning or planting sets taken from smutted shoots
of cane. Soil borne infection may also takes place, while wind disseminates
Following measures are suggested for prevention as well as control
of the disease:
1) Sets from smutted canes should not be used for planting.
2) Seed-sets should be disinfected either in 0.1%
mercuric chloride or formaline solution for 5 minutes followed by
2 hours covering under a moist cloth. The other effective chemicals
available in market may also be used.
3) Hot water treatment of sets at 52OC for 18 minutes can help
eliminate the internal infection.
4) Smutted plants should be rouged out and burnt before the bursting
of the spores.
5) Ratooning of the diseases crop should be discoursed.
6) Suitable rotations with non-host crops should be practised.
7) Planting should be done in healthy soil.
8) Dry sowing of the crop should be carried out, where disease
9) Autumn planting of sugarcane should be avoided.
10) Use of resistant varieties should be encouraged.
Stem canker (Cytospora sacchari) Butl.
Symptoms: The disease causes wilting of canes.
The affected canes show drying of leaves from top to bottom. The
cane stems are shrivelled with considerable reduction in quantity
and quality of juice. Small black dot-like bodies of disease causing
fungus may develop on bud sheaths and hollow portions of canes.
Sometimes only a few internodes are affected, but whole stool or
only a few canes in a stool may also be affected.
Perpetuation: The fungus remains in diseased canes
or plant debris, which remain lying in the fields after the harvest
of crop. Ratoon crop also helps the disease causing fungus to survive.
The destruction of cane plant debris alone would control the disease
in alkali soils. However, planting disease free sets as well as the
development and use of resistant varieties will be more practicable
and economical control measure.
Rred Rot (Colletotrichum falcatum) Went.
Symptoms: The disease first appears as red bright
lesions on mid rib of leaves and shows itself as drooping and changing
of colour of upper leaves. Withering of the leaves proceeds downwards.
Usually third or the fourth leaf from the top is affected and shows
drying at the tip. The pith becomes red and later on brown. In sever
cases complete destruction of the stools is brought about. When
the infected canes are spilt open they gave out an alcoholic smell
due to fermentation and show-reddened areas.
Perpetuation: The disease is perpetuated from
year to year by planting sets from infected canes and also through
the fungus that remains viable on diseased canes lying in the field
or ratooning of the crop.
Control: Non ratooning and use of resistant varieties
are recommended. Disinfecting of sets with effective and easily
Leaf spot (Helminthosporium spp.)
Symptoms: The disease may be characterised itself
on leaves as small lesions, which gradually enlarge along mid rib
and assure dark red to brown colour. In severe infection, the leaves
become dry affecting photosynthesis.
Perpetuation: The disease perpetuates through the
fungus present in the affected leaves lying in the field and spreads
fresh crop of conidia falling on leaves of adjacent plants.
Control: Collection and burning of leaves or phyto-sanitary
precautions in suppressing the sources of inoculum reduces the incidence
Pokkah boeng (Fusarium moniliforme) Sheldon
Symptoms: Pokkah boeng meaning distorted top in
Javanese. The disease appears in different stages representing development
of chlorotic areas at the basal parts of the lower leaves, development
of irregular reddish specks or stripes and appearance of top rot
followed by total killing. The young leaves may also show pronounced
wrinkling, twisting and shortening, depending upon the varieties
and climatic conditions. In tolerant varieties there may be recovery
of growth, when the conditions improve.
Its causal agent was not established till 1927. It is now present
in many countries, including Pakistan. However, it can not be asked
that how the disease can survive.
Control: Do not use seed sets from diseased plants.
VIRUS (SCMV, Potyvirus group)
Symptoms: Mottling of young crown leaves showing
a definite pattern of alternating dark and light green coloured
patches of varying size and run parallel to the midrib of leaf.
Transmission: Transmitted through mosaic infected sets
and an aphid.
Alternate hosts: Maize and sorghum.
Control: Planting virus free sets and avoid ratooning
of diseased crop.
The other minor diseases of sugarcane reported from Pakistan are:
chlorotic streak virus, ratoon stunting, yellow spot, red stripe,
rust and genetic variegation of leaf and sheath.
1. Ahmad, I. 1988. Fungal Diseases of Sugarcane. In “Plant
Disease Diagnosis Manual, Vol.2”. CDRI, NARC, PARC. Islamabad.
2. Bhatti, I. M. and A. H. Soomro. 1996. Agricultural inputs and
field crop production in Sindh. Agricultural Research Sindh, Hyderabad.
3. Bhatti, I. M. and M. M. Jiskani. 1996. Modern Agricultural Guide.
Agricultural Research Sindh, Hyderabad.
4. Hafiz, A. 1986. Plant Diseases. PARC, Islamabad.
5. Jiskani, M. M. 1999. A brief outline “THE FUNGI”
(Cultivation of mushrooms).
6. Kamal, M. and S. M. Moghal. 1968. Studies on plant disease of
south West Pakistan. ARI, Tandojam.
7. Khoso, A. W. 1992. Crops of Sindh. 5th Edition.