Cane growers encouraged to get in early with Pachymetra sampling

Date Posted

23 January, 2020

Posted by

Cathy Weis

Sugarcane growers are being reminded to consider the crop pests and diseases that potentially could be within their paddocks, and affecting their yields, as they plan for 2020.

One of the most significant soil-borne pests of sugarcane is Pachymetra root rot, which can only be properly assessed with a soil sample analysis to determine its severity. The results from this soil analysis, which is a service provided by Sugar Research Australia (SRA) through its Tully laboratory, provides growers with information on the appropriate management response.

“We encourage farmers to send their samples in to the laboratory for analysis early in the year,” SRA Leader for Disease Management, Dr Rob Magarey, said. “This helps ensure that growers receive their results back with plenty of time before planting, which is crucial for helping them make decisions on what varieties to plant.”

Pachymetra root rot can cause yield losses of up to 40 percent in susceptible varieties.

It is caused by a fungus-like organism and it reduces yield, causes gappy ratoon crops and can lead to an increase of soil in the cane supply.

It attacks the large primary roots of the sugarcane plant, stunting cane growth and reducing the anchorage of the plant in the soil.

If the yield loss impacts are not severe, significant crop losses can occur without growers noticing.

“Soil borne disease is not spectacular above the ground, so it is not easily identified when driving around paddocks. Often crop losses are attributed to a range of factors, such as climate, poor nutrition, waterlogging, or drought,” said Dr Magarey.

“Therefore, getting a soil assay done helps you diagnose the problem and manage it.

“Without an assay – unless the problem gets very severe – you are just unaware of it, even though it’s impacting your productivity and profitability.”

SRA Assay Lab supervisor, Ms Laura MacGillycuddy, has seen on many occasions where soil samples were submitted to the lab and testing showed very high levels of the disease.

“Often farmers are surprised to find that they have a Pachymetra problem, but they didn’t realise it until they tested soil from their crops,” she said.

For more information on sending soil samples for analysis, growers should contact their local productivity services organisation or Laura at the SRA Tully station, on (07) 4088 0712 or email her at:

“We encourage growers to get in early in 2020 and to sample comprehensively across their fallow paddocks, which will help them establish the best possible crop for the years ahead,” she said.

“Getting in early ensures growers have their results back before the rush of sampling later in the year and that they have plenty of time to understand the results before making their planting decisions.”

The severity of Pachymetra can vary considerably between districts and even within districts, underscoring the importance of individual growers understand the situation on their own farms and individual paddocks.

To learn more about soil assays, contact your local productivity services organisation or visit the “Pests and Diseases” section of the SRA website under “Growers and Millers”. Visit

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