Incidence and economic effects of ratoon stunting disease on the Queensland sugarcane industry : ASSCT peer-reviewed paper
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Ratoon stunting disease (RSD) has had a significant influence on productivity and profitability in the Australian sugarcane industry for at least the last 76 years. There have been few attempts to objectively quantify the incidence and economic influence of the disease across the industry. Most Cane Productivity Service (CPS) groups routinely monitor RSD in plant sources and, in some cases, in commercial crops. Surveys by 12 Queensland CPSs were conducted in 2017- 2020 with sampling of different proportions of commercial crops (5-25% of farms) in each region. The latest molecular technology was adopted to assay samples. RSD incidence varied between 0 and 60% in commercial crops and 0 and 41% in plant source inspections. The data suggest that implementation of the three pillars of RSD management (disease-free seed-cane, equipment sanitation and planting into fallow ground devoid of volunteers) were essential to minimise RSD incidence. Failure to adequately address any one of these pillars often compromised RSD management. An economic analysis suggested that RSD led to an annual loss of $25m in the study areas in the 2019 crop. This is significant, but it is unlikely to be the largest single disease constraint on productivity.