Cloned su­gar makes de­but

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Shane Ni­chols

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.

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