Cloned sugar makes debut
IN a first for FNQ, agronomists from Mossman Agricultural Services have planted cloned sugar cane tissues at a farm just north of Wonga Beach.
Tissue culture plants are a quick and easy way to maximum propagate new varieties for release. ‘‘It takes less plants to make more cane,’’ is how MossAg’s Claire Bailey summed up the exercise. Not only that, but it delivers a more consistent control of stock quality and it’s extra clean in terms pest and disease.
Sugar Research Australia (formerly BSES Limited) has developed this technology and it has been available for a number of years. However, it is only in the past two years that there has been a large uptake of tissue culture plants in the north.
Sugarcane tops are selected from a ‘‘mother plot’’ source - one which has been hot water treated for two years in a row.
Healthy tops with three nodes (growing points) are cut, and leaf samples are taken for DNA sampling to ensure the variety is correct. They are then labelled, bagged and kept cool.
From the cool room they are sent to the lab where they begin the cloning process. Using the ‘‘active growing points’’ which are found in the juvenile parts of the top and the nodes, they are divided and grown in sterilised culture until they are at a stage where they can be distributed to a nursery.
The nursery separate the cultures and grow them on in trays or jiffy pots, and after three to four weeks they are hardened off and ready for collection. These tissue cultures plants were grown at Mission Beach Foliage.
The plants were hand planted in a predrilled furrow (with fertiliser) just a bit shallower than normal stick planted cane. Tissue cultured seedlings need to be managed differently to conventionally cane. They are more sensitive to moisture stress which means early on they need to be watered so that a yield penalty does not occur. Herbicide management is a little different too, given their sensitivity.