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Early Shoot Borer in sugarcane

Early Shoot Borer:

Causal Organism: Chilo infescatellus

  • Attacks the crop during the early part of cane growth, before internode formation. It also attacks the cane stalks in the years of scanty rainfall.
  • Causes heavy yield losses as it affects the plant stand/unit area. It also leads to canes of different age, which will be poor in juice quality, with less cane weight. When borer infects cane stalks, both yield and quality are reduced.


  • Larvae enter the cane laterally through one or more holes in the stalks (shoot) and bores downwards as well as upwards killing the growing point. Thus, it cuts of the central leaf spindle, which eventually dries forming a ‘dead heart'. The dead heart can be easily pulled out. It emits an offensive odour.
  • Borer infestation during the germination phase kills the mother shoots resulting in the drying up of the entire clump. This leads to gaps in the field.
  • Borer infestation in cane stalks reduces both cane yield and quality.
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Early shoot borer of sugarcane

Early Shoot borer (Chilo infuscatellus) as name indiates cause much damage in the early season (during summer). Eggs are laid in cluster on the underside of lower leaves. Freshly laid eggs are transparent which later turn creamy white and are glued firmly on the surface of the leaf. Newly hatched larva wanders about a few hours and reach the base of the stem by crawling or hanging by a silken thread. The larva generally enters in between the first leaf sheath and stem and feeds on the soft inner tissues of the sheath like a leaf miner for a few days. After that, the larvae bore into stalk and kill the growing point. Early shoot borer attacks the young shoots of 4-10 weeks and produce dead heart symptoms. On pulling, these dead-hearts come out easily. The base of the dead heart gets rotten and emits offensive smell. The shoot-borer caterpillar is migratory in habit and, after killing one shoot, it migrates to another. A single caterpillar may destroy three or four shoots before it pupates. Shoot borer infestation is high during pre-monsoon period (April – June) when ambient temperature remains usually high with low relative humidity. Borer activity decreases appreciably with the onset of monsoon. It is five striped borer like stalk borer but its prolegs have incomplete crochets arrangement.