Exotic diseases and pests present a significant threat to the continued security of cane supply for the Australian sugarcane industry.
Cooperating with federal and state government departments to prevent entry of these pests and to prepare for possible incursions is one of our highest priorities.
Working with the SRA plant breeding program to breed disease and pest resistant varieties and conducting quarantine and disease-free seed cane programs to prevent the spread of pests and diseases within Australia are also high priorities.
Quarantine has never been more important to the Australian sugarcane industry than it is today. Fiji leaf gall, leaf scald and mosaic disease are three potentially devastating diseases that are present in Australia but are now under active control.
Quarantine between sugarcane districts in Australia has helped the industry restrict the spread of these serious diseases. While Fiji leaf gall caused massive losses in the Bundaberg district in the 1970s, it has not been found north of Proserpine due to strict internal quarantine regulations.
Queensland’s Biosecurity Act 2014 and Biosecurity Regulation 2016 control the movement of sugarcane and sugarcane machinery between Queensland’s sugarcane biosecurity zones, and controls pests and diseases within these zones.
The use of quarantine as protection against pest and disease incursions is a vital safeguard for our industry and one of our high priorities.
We work closely with the Department of Agriculture which has the primary responsibility for international quarantine. The Department has comprehensive border controls to screen imported goods and travellers entering Australia.
Our staff have led surveys of northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and neighbouring Indonesian islands to help identify risks posed by pests and diseases. Devastating insect pests of sugarcane, such as the top borer Scirpophaga excerptalis or the island planthopper, which carries Ramu stunt disease, are found not far away from our shores. Incursion management plans have been developed for these pests should they ever enter Australia.
We place great emphasis on screening our varieties for resistance to exotic pests and diseases in preparation for possible incursions. Currently we screen Australian varieties for resistance to the borer Sesamia grisescens, Ramu stunt disease and downy mildew in Papua New Guinea.
Incursion management plans - Preparing for possible incursions of exotic pests and diseases
Being prepared for an incursion of an exotic pest or disease will greatly increase the chances of eradicating the invader, or minimising losses if eradication is not possible.
We have assisted Plant Health Australia and CANEGROWERS to produce an Industry Biosecurity Plan for the Sugar Industry which identifies the highest risk pests and diseases and outlines the procedures and resources that are available in case of an incursion. We have also developed detailed incursion management plans for each of the highest risk pests and diseases.
Incursion management plans give detailed information on the pest and how best to respond during an incursion. Our scientists have obtained first-hand knowledge of the pests and diseases by working closely with scientists in the countries where the diseases occur. The Australian sugarcane industry is well prepared for incursions and can quickly respond to any challenge. The incursion management plans are available from the SRA elibrary.
Importation of sugarcane varieties
In an effort to enhance the genetic diversity of sugarcane varieties, we have active variety exchange programs with other sugar-producing countries. Australia exchanges elite commercial varieties with countries including the United States, Brazil and Mauritius, and these overseas varieties are used as parents in our crossing program.
These foreign plants are quarantined before entering the breeding program. Imported plants are maintained in a glasshouse facility for two years and are carefully screened for diseases during this time. Our quarantine glasshouses are approved by the Department and all varieties are imported under permit from the Department.
No one should attempt to bring sugarcane into Australia without approval from the Department of Agriculture.
Stopping the spread of unwanted pests and diseases is vital for our industry.
Quarantine between sugarcane districts in Australia has helped to restrict the spread of serious diseases like Fiji leaf gall and mosaic.
Plant material or machinery that has been in contact with a sugarcane plant, or soil on which a sugarcane plant is or has been growing must have a Plant Health Assurance Certificate (PHAC) to move between sugarcane biosecurity zones.
In the past Inspector Approvals were managed by BSES however this activity is not conducted by Sugar Research Australia.
If you need to move a machine between sugarcane biosecurity zones you should contact your nearest Productivity Service. In most areas some Productivity Service staff have been appointed authorised inspection persons by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Queensland for the inspection of machinery.
For approval to move sugarcane plants between sugarcane biosecurity zones or for further information visit the DAF website.
If you suspect that you have seen any of these pests or diseases, contact your local productivity services group or the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881. The hotline is staffed during normal working days and business hours.
SRA has developed the following protocol for people in the Australian sugarcane industry who are visiting overseas sugarcane growing countries. This protocol applies to all SRA staff:
SRA staff who travel overseas should be aware of the risks of carrying insects and the spores of some fungi on their clothes, notebooks, cameras and any other equipment they may be carrying. Exotic pests and diseases that pose a biosecurity risk to Australia are common in nearly all sugarcane producing countries and fungal spores can easily be carried on clothing. It is mandatory that all travellers who walk through cane fields while overseas launder their clothing in hot water before returning to Australia or immediately on return. Shoes should be thoroughly cleaned by scrubbing with a mixture of hot water and detergent or by swabbing with 70% methylated spirits. Staff who travel to particular locations regularly should consider leaving personal protective equipment in the country of visitation for use on subsequent trips to further minimise risk. Other equipment should be cleaned and disinfected with 70% methylated spirits with particular care to remove all sugarcane residues. These treatments are required to meet the General Biosecurity Obligation as outlined in Queensland State Law.