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Sugarcane smut in Queensland: arrival and emergency response

Croft, B.J., Magarey, R.C., Allsopp, P.G., Cox, M.C., Willcox, T.G., Milford, B.J., Wallis, E.S.
Australasian plant pathology 2008 v.37 no.1 pp. 26-34
Ustilago scitaminea, crisis response plan, cultivars, fisheries, funding, fungi, growers, monitoring, pests, plant industry, rivers, sugarcane, Queensland, Western Australia
Sugarcane smut, caused by the fungus Ustilago scitaminea, was reported for the first time in Queensland on 8 June 2006. The initial finding was near Childers in the cultivar Q205. Sugarcane smut was found in Western Australia in 1998, but was contained in that state and was considered to be eligible for inclusion as a pest under the Government and Plant Industry Cost Sharing Deed in Respect of Emergency Plant Pest Responses (EPP deed). The emergency response to the incursion was coordinated by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, CANEGROWERS and BSES Limited and followed the PLANTPLAN generic emergency response plan. The eligibility of the incursion for funding under the arrangements of the EPP deed was considered by the National Management Group, who met several times, but in August 2006 they failed to agree that the incursion was eligible for funding. The delay in coming to this decision left growers and industry in doubt about the funding available for activities such as the destruction of infested fields. Delimiting surveillance conducted between June and November 2006 in the Bundaberg?Childers region inspected 8649 blocks on 1052 properties and 2.2% of blocks and 7.4% of properties were found to be infested. The heaviest infestations were in an area east of Childers. Tracing evidence suggested that the disease had been present at least since the 2003?04 season. The source of the smut incursion could not be determined. Sugarcane smut was subsequently identified in the Mackay region on 6 November 2006 and in the Herbert River region on 15 December 2006. In both cases, it appears that the disease had been present for at least 1 year. After these findings, it became obvious that the disease was widespread and well established in Queensland.