Old for Australia, new for Brazil: the arrival of orange rust on sugarcane


In 2008 the World Bank chose agriculture for its annual development report. These reports have a wide influence, highlighting topics that demand more attention. It might seem strange to people in Brazil that agriculture needs to be taken more seriously, though as people move to cities the connection between growing crops and eating food begins to fade.
Brazil features prominently in the report with many examples of achievements for others to follow. Land management is one, cash transfer (Bolsa Familia) another. Brazil is ‘the world’s largest and most efficient producer of biofuels, based on low-cost production of sugarcane’. This success is based on constant improvements and vigilance. You never known when the next new insect pest or disease is about to arrive, as the following story illustrates.
In 2007 orange rust of sugarcane, a fungus disease caused by Puccinia kuenhii, was found in Florida, USA. Earlier, in 2000, a new strain appeared in Australia, where the disease is well established, causing more damage than expected. The first report of orange rust from Brazil was in Sao Paulo, in 2009, probably via airborne spores. The movement of the rust southwards can be tracked through first reports from Guatemala and Nicaragua in 2007 (shortly after the Florida discovery), Panama (2008). Curiously, orange rust wasn’t detected in Colombia until 2010, suggesting that Brazil has better disease surveillance.
Within four months of the first discovery of orange rust, it had spread to Espirito Santu, Minas Gerais, Parana and Mato Grosso do Sul – or maybe sugarcane growers only started to look for the disease when alerted by growers in Sao Paulo. Orange rust looks superficially like brown rust with major differences only confirmed by microscopic observations or by laboratory testing.
The Centro de Tecnologia Canaviera moved quickly to identify which varieties of sugarcane were more resistant to orange rust the disease now appears under control.
There’s nothing to prevent airborne spores entering a country but for many other pests and diseases regular testing of plant material, including cuttings as well as seeds, is essential.
ProMed Mail for spread of orange rust
Financial Times, article on CTC, 24 April 2013
CABI for datasheet on orange rust


Sobre Eric Boa

A carreira profissional do escocês Ph.D. em Fitopatologia Eric Boa se estende por 23 anos e tem raízes na pesquisa agrícola. Tem experiência em treinamento em diagnóstico fitossanitário para engenheiros agrônomos, inspetores fitossanitários, equipes de assistência técnica, agricultores, comerciantes agrícolas e muitos outros na América Latina, África, Ásia e Europa, por mais de 20 anos. Trabalhou durante 15 anos como pesquisador no CABI, organização filantrópica internacional focada em melhorar a vida da população levando conhecimento científico para resolver problemas da agricultura e meio ambiente. É expert em saúde de plantas, sistemas agroflorestais (bambu) e florestais não madeireiros (selvagem útil fungos); e prestação de serviços nas áreas comuns ("GOING PUBLIC").