Ratoon Stunting Disease (RSD) was first discovered in Mackay in 1944. Caused by a bacterium that lives in the vascular system of the cane plant, the disease restricts the plant’s ability to carry water and grow.

Due to improved diagnostics and management practices, this disease affects fewer than 5% of crops. When the disease does occur, it can cause losses of 5-60%. Losses are greatest when the cane is moisture stressed and even with good irrigation, losses can range from 10 to 30%.

What to look for

  • General stunting.
  • The diseased field may have an ‘up-and-down’ appearance due to differing levels of stunting in adjacent stools.
  • A discolouration of vascular bundles running through the plant, or a pink blush throughout the nodes of very young cane.
RSD infected cane beside healthy cane


Nearly all sugarcane varieties are susceptible to RSD to some degree.

Diseased planting material or contaminated cutting implements such as cane knives, harvesters or planting machines can spread RSD.

Cutting implements should be disinfected, especially when cutting seed cane. The use of clean planting material provided through industry-approved clean seed schemes is highly recommended.