Preventing Pale Stripes on Sugarcane Leaves and Crop Nutrition

Sugarcane leaves with longitudinal pale stripes between the veins, extending from the leaf base to the leaf tip, may indicate an iron deficiency.

The youngest leaves show typical iron chlorosis symptoms, while the older leaves remain green. The complete plant may then become pale yellow to white (bleached).

However, iron deficiencies in sugarcane are rare and levels of 50-250mg/kg of iron in plant tissues ensure good crop productivity. It is most frequent on alkaline and calcareous soils. Overuse of lime can lead to temporary iron deficiency and crops on higher pH soils are more likely to show symptoms.


manganese deficient sugarcane can also show pale stripes between the veins running longitudinally, shown on the youngest leaves first. These stripes generally start from the middle of the leaf and run to the tip. Leaf blades may split or fray in the wind and under severe deficiency the entire leaf becomes bleached.

Symptoms are similar to those for iron, the main difference being that with iron the interveinal striping extends right from the base to the tip of the leaf. Sugarcane appears to be relatively tolerant of high manganese levels in the soil. Manganese deficiency is most likely to appear on highly weathered tropical soils or on alkaline soils.

If in doubt whether it is a nutrition deficiency or disease, please asses through leaf analysis.