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While hand or mechanical weeding is still practiced in some countries, interrow herbicides are increasingly being used. A wide range of pests affect the crop. Soil borne pests include cane grub, wireworm and soldier fly. They are often managed on a block by block basis due to economics.
Insecticides are routinely applied to plant cane where there is a history of cane grub attack. Pigs and rats can also cause considerable losses in various parts of the world. Yield losses as high as 60% have been reported in Australia due to Ratoon Stunting Disease (RSD); a disease caused by the bacterium Leifsonia xyli subsp. Heat treatment of setts before planting is advised to reduce RSD risk.
White leaf disease - a phytoplasma - in Thailand cost the industry USD 30 million in 2010/11. This disease is a serious threat to the sugar industry in Thailand and an in-field test has been developed to identify it.
Sugarcane smut caused by the fungus Ustilago scitaminea can lead to losses ranging from 30% to entire crop loss. Fungicides, where approved, are applied at planting to reduce the incidence of diseases such as pineapple disease.
Ceratocystis paradoxa - either as a dip or sprayed onto the set. Most effective management of disease in sugarcane is achieved through selective breeding programs which focus on providing tolerance or resistance to locally occurring pathogens. Weeds have a major effect on sugarcane yield. The key is to control weeds early as most yield reduction occurs before the cane is 400mm in height.
There is a wide range of leaf symptoms that could be mistaken for nutrient deficiencies. A number of these are pictured below and opposite. If there is any doubt, asses through leaf analysis.