Rust keeps threatening Louisiana sugarcane

Linda Benedict, Schultz, Bruce  |  11/26/2009 2:34:17 AM

LSU AgCenter entomologist Gene Regan, second from left, discusses insecticides for treating sugarcane borers during the St. Martin Parish Sugarcane Field Day on July 18. Jeff Hoy, plant pathologist, is at left.( Photo by Bruce Schultz)

ST. MARTINVILLE – New sugarcane varieties are increasing yields, but diseases pose a constant threat, farmers were told by LSU AgCenter researchers at a July 18 sugarcane field day here.

Researchers told farmers that developing new varieties is an ongoing effort.

"Trying to stay one step ahead of rust is getting to be quite an ordeal," said Kenneth Gravois, LSU AgCenter sugarcane breeder.

The excellent stubbling ability of the variety LCP 85-384 has not been duplicated in many of the newer lines and varieties, Gravois said. A new variety, L 01-283, with good stubbling ability is being released during 2008.

Jeff Hoy, LSU AgCenter pathologist, said serious brown rust problems could develop with the variety HoCP96-540, currently grown in more than half the state’s acreage. He said rust outbreaks became significant when acreage of LCP 85-384 reached that level.

Hoy said fungicides may be helpful against brown rust, and a Section 18 Emergency Use label was granted for the fungicide Headline for use during the spring.

"I think over time we are going to have a continuing, cyclical problem with rust, and fungicides will help reduce losses during those times," he said.

Orange rust, another rust disease af affecting sugarcane, was found in Florida cane fields during 2007, Hoy said, so that means Louisiana growers could be finding it soon. "We are anticipating it is going to show up this year or the next,"

Hoy said. Hoy said preliminary variety resistance evaluations are being conducted for orange rust in Florida.

Gene Reagan, LSU AgCenter entomologist, said the Mexican rice borer has been found in Chambers County, Texas, near the Louisiana-Texas state line.

Meanwhile, the sugarcane borer continues to be a pest of Louisiana cane growers, Reagan said, and research is showing that early planting could make sugarcane more susceptible to the insect.

Bruce Schultz

(This article was published in the summer 2008 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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