Fight steps up against cane virus
AN outbreak in New Guinea of a sugar cane virus now entrenched in Asia has put Australian researchers on high alert.
Sugar Cane Streak Mosaic Virus (SCSMV), which can cut crop yields by 20 to 30 per cent, has become entrenched in parts of Indonesia.
It has been on the list of threats for Sugar Research Australia for some time but the new case in West Papua, so close to our borders, means SRA researchers are upping their efforts to understand the disease.
“We’ve taken the view that we need to know what is beyond our shores and identify the most important threats and then do the necessary research so that if it was to ever enter our country we would be equipped to deal with it,” said SRA principal researcher Rob Magary.
Of great interest to the researchers is to explore how our local varieties of cane would react to the disease, how the virus spreads, and how to quickly diagnosis it.
“We’ve got a project in Indonesia on this threat so we can work out our response,” he said.
It includes the development of management strategies aimed at limiting damage and loss of income.
At the first sighting on our shores SRA would like to know the chances of eradicating it at the point of infection.
Mr Magary said the virus had only been identified in the ’90s.
In some parts of Asia, 100 per cent of crops were affected by it.
Indonesia wants to expand its sugar industry and one of the new sites is West Papua.
The stakes are high for an industry in which margins are tight.
“If we lost 20 per cent of our yield it would mean the difference between profit and loss,” Mr Magary said.