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Wilt in sugarcane


Causal Organism: Cephalosporium sacchari         

  • Disease spreads through infected setts. The fungi gain entry mainly through injuries.
  • Biotic stresses like nematode, root borer, termite, scales, mealy bugs etc and abiotic stresses like drought, water logging etc predispose the plants for wilt infection.
  • Moisture stress coupled with high temperature and low humidity reduces plant resistance to wilt.


  • Typical wilt symptoms appear during monsoon and post monsoon periods.
  • Affected plant appears wilted and conspicuously stunted.
  • The crown leaves turn yellow, loose turgor and eventually withers.
  • Wilt-affected canes loose their normal colour and are light in weight.
  • The most characteristic symptom during the early stage of infection is the presence of diffused reddish brown patches on the internal tissue.
  • Later canes become light, hallow and shrink.
  • Disease reduces germination and in severe cases total cane yield losses occur due to drying up of shoots and wilting of the stalks.
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Wilt disease of sugarcane

Wilt is also an important fungal disease of sugarcane.  The term ‘wilt’ is a misnomer in sugarcane as affected plants dry up gradually without displaying any conventional wilt syndrome as evidenced in other crops (there is no suddenness in death/drying of plant). The causal organism of this disease has been shrouded in controversy for long, but now it is believed that it is a ‘disease complex’ produced by different pathogens rather than the act of a single pathogen species. The fungi implicated in wilt disease are namely, Fusarium moniliforme var. subglutinans, F. sacchari (= Cephalosporium sacchari) and Acremonium spp. (Acremonium implicatum in particular).

This disease is more prevalent in the Gangetic alluvium. The pure S. officinarum canes, like Red- and Green Paunda, tropical varieties which are closer to ‘officinarum’ viz.. Baragua, Co 419, Co 997, Co 740, CoC 671, etc. do not survive well in this region due to this disease. Similarly, several genotypes that perform well under Uchani (Haryana) condition but fall prey to the wilt pathogen in Lucknow, e.g., Co 7717, Co 89003, CoH 5, CoH 24, CoH 35, etc. The thick canes, by and large, are highly susceptible to wilt in North India and probably wilt has put a rider in this direction allowing only thin to moderate thick cane genotypes to be selected and grown in subtropical India.

 The disease manifests itself mostly in the mature cane. The apparent wilt syndrome in sugarcane appears after the end of grand growth phase, i.e., from October onwards (after recession of monsoon rains). Affected plants appear pale yellowish-green with a marked drying of lower leaves. At a later stage, when the stalk is badly damaged, the crown dries up, resulting in death of the cane. The affected canes are lighter in weight, with completely hollow internodes but unaffected nodes and buds. Diseased canes, on splitting longitudinally, display whitish to dark reddish colouration of internal tissues, depending on the stage of the disease. In wilt, the nodes and buds remain unaffected till the cane dries out, whereas in red rot nodal rotting is a key feature. In wilt the affected canes simply dry out and canes do not break easily where as in red rot due nodal rotting cane are broken with little pressure.