First found on the east coast of Australia in June 2006, smut has since established itself in all sugarcane growing regions in Australia.

What to look for

  • The sugarcane plant produces a flower that is transformed into a black whip-like structure, covered with spores of the fungus.
  • Plants of susceptible varieties may be severely stunted and will take on a grass-like appearance with thin shoots.
  • Each shoot may develop the characteristic ‘whip’ ranging from a few centimetres to a metre long.
  • Whips can form on side shoots on mature stalks.

Each smut whip can produce billions of microscopic spores that are blown by the wind over vast distances. In ratoon crops, many of the infected stools will die and leave large gaps in the crop.

Smut