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Agronomic comparisons of sugarcane varieties derived from tissue culture (NovaCane®) and conventional propagation under rainfed conditions

Shezi, Sbonelo Nicholus, Ramburan, Sanesh
Journal of crop improvement 2018 v.32 no.5 pp. 705-716
Saccharum, agronomic traits, crops, field experimentation, genotype, growers, new variety, phenotype, phenotypic plasticity, planting, ratooning, screening, sugarcane, tillering, tissue culture, vegetative propagation
Tissue-cultured (TC) sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) plants have been shown to possess an altered phenotype (high tillering and thin stalks) relative to conventionally propagated sugarcane from setts (Conv) in the first vegetative propagation stage (Stage 1). It is currently unclear if these effects are genotype specific, and whether they would persist in ratoon crops and the subsequent vegetative propagation stage (Stage 2). A field experiment was conducted to ascertain growth and yield differences between TC and Conv plants for different varieties (N12, N31, N41, and N48) across two crops (plant and first ratoon), and two plant spacings (30 cm and 50 cm) in Stage 1. A second field experiment evaluated agronomic performance of TC and Conv crops in Stage 2, established at three planting rates (PRs) (low, medium, and high). Plants produced from TC in both Stage 1 and Stage 2 produced significantly higher number of stalks that were thinner compared with Conv plants for selected varieties. Cane and estimated recoverable crystal (ERC) yields were statistically similar between TC (Stage 1) and Conv plants, whereas TC (Stage 2) plants significantly improved cane and ERC yields compared with Conv Varieties responded differently to the TC process (N41 and N48 TC plants did not show phenotypic variation relative to Conv). Plant spacing (Stage 1) and PRs (Stage 2) had no significant effects on agronomic traits. The TC plants can be used as planting materials for commercial production without any negative effects on productivity. This is despite the persistence of the reduced stalk diameter and increased stalk population phenotype. Routine screening for phenotypic responses to TC is recommended to sensitize growers to expected phenotypic changes of new variety releases.