Provision of improved varieties and pathology services for the Ord Sugar Industry : final report CTA043
This project was established to introduce and evaluate new sugarcane varieties into the Ord River Irrigation Area (ORIA), and to provide advice on pathology issues relating to the ORIA. Cultivars in the ORIA currently are old (introduced in 1980 or before) and it is believed that newer varieties bred since then could provide improved productivity and profitability for the ORIA industry. Varieties were initially chosen for introduction to the ORIA based mostly on commercial performance in north Queensland. They were transferred to the ORIA via a three to four year process that aimed to reduce the risk of inadvertently introducing important diseases present in Queensland but which are not present in the ORIA. Professional pathology advice was provided in supervising this process and ensuring plant material was apparently disease free at various points in the process. Pathology related advice was also provided to Agriculture Western Australia staff and growers on specific crop management matters in the ORIA throughout the project. The directions taken in this project were greatly impacted on by the discovery of smut disease in the ORIA in 1998. This was the first time this disease had been found in Australia. It has a potentially devastating effect on productivity of susceptible varieties. The environmental conditions in the ORIA are highly favourable to smut infection, and a high level of resistance is required in cultivars for sustainable production. It was very fortunate that three cultivars in the ORIA at the time of the outbreak were resistant, and this enabled the industry to maintain productivity levels much better than it otherwise would have. However, in 1998 little was known about the relative smut resistance of most Australian varieties. As testing for smut resistance proceeded in the next few years in Indonesia by BSES (through BSS214) and by the CTA043 project team in the ORIA, it became apparent that around 80% of varieties from Australian breeding programs were too susceptible to smut to be grown commercially in the ORIA.