Staff Reporter

COIMBATORE: Xanthomonas albilineans, a gram-negative bacterium that causes sugarcane leaf scald disease, has in recent times spread to regions that have not reported the disease previously and re-occurred in countries in which the disease is endemic, Dorsamy (Gansen) Pillay, Director, Research Management and Development, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, said here on Monday.

He was delivering the G. Rangaswami Endowment Lecture at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University on “Voyages of Discovery: Xanthomonas albilineans – Causal Agent of Sugarcane Leaf Scald Disease.”

Hardship

He spoke on some of the voyages of discovery undertaken by him and his group in gaining an in-depth understanding of X. albilineans responsible for leaf scald disease of sugarcane.

“The disease occurs in every major sugar-producing region across the world. Severe losses were reported in the early years of the century. However, the disease has subsequently been effectively controlled by cultivation of sufficiently resistant varieties. But, seeing from the continued spread, the disease still poses a threat to the sugarcane industry,” Mr. Pillay said.

He said that his laboratory had been engaged in characterisation of the bacterium at the morphological, bio-chemical, immunological and molecular levels to understand it in order to aid in its early detection.

In Tamil Nadu

Registrar of TNAU P. Santhana Krishnan said: “The bacterium that was found in certain varieties of sugarcane in Tamil Nadu affected the yield and quality. Eradication is almost impractical because of alternative hosts. By understanding key pathogenic factors it may be possible to develop new control strategies, including novel resistance genes to rescue susceptible varieties.”

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