An example of the results from the fungicide at planting demo in 2017 which shows both Sinker and Tilt are good replacements for Shirtan. Results for 2016 and 2018, all from El Arish were similar
This time of year is a critical one for cane planting and generally speaking the planting in Tully is a bit later than usual due to wet weather.
A well-established plant cane crop is the basis for a successful sugar cane crop cycle which needs to go for 5-6 years and as an industry we are always seeking continuous improvement in crop presentation for harvesting. This includes working on variety development, variety choice and plant cane establishment.
A major risk to good plant cane crop establishment this time of year is a soil borne disease known as “Pineapple sett rot” caused by the fungus Ceratocystis paradoxa.
Cold, wet weather during the first month after planting favours this fungus which starts to kill off the “eyes” which are the part of the cane billet which needs to germinate to produce a new crop. The result can be gaps throughout the plant crop which reduced yield straight away.
Planting healthy cane billets treated with fungicides which give the billet up to 30 days protection in the soil has been a major factor in managing pineapple disease.
For many decades the industry was well placed with a reliable mercury based fungicide to use at planning called Shirtan.
However a lot has changed in this area, especially over the past 5-10 years with the introduction of new fungicides which are not mercury based. It took a lot of research and development to do this.
Heavy metals have been used as fungicides in agriculture for a long time and will continue to be, just think of copper which is used in the garden. The use of copper as a fungicide dates back hundreds of years.
For sugarcane though, the fungicide is in the soil not on the leaf, so these two newer products which are are mercury free are seen as more sustainable and are technically known as Propiconazole (commonly known as Tilt) and Flutriafol (commonly known as Sinker).
To add some local knowledge to the use of these products TSL, working with a local planting contractor conducted 3 years of field demonstrations (2016-18) in El Arish using all three fungicides. To do this plant cane was monitored by counting stalk numbers over a number of 10m plots for up to 70 days for each treatment
The good news is the newer fungicides compared very well with Shirtan with good plant success.
Ove recent years the industry has been moving to use these two products more and more, and it was recently announced that Shirtan won’t be available after May 2021 so we are well placed for life without it and this is just another example of how the industry has been proactive in maintaining sustainably.