Rowan Stranack

Appreciating the risk of spreading pests and diseases in seedcane some time ago, the industry included two clauses in the Sugar Industry Agreement (SIA) which require growers to have seedcane approved by their Local Pest Disease and Variety Control Committee (LPD&VCC), prior to use or sale or movement.

The purpose of these two clauses was to ensure that growers either establish their own seedcane nurseries, OR that they arrange to purchase their seedcane from a LPD&VCC registered co-operator by the year 2023.

Nurseries that produce seedcane should be managed well so as to create the most favourable conditions for optimum growth. In turn, good management will result in healthy seedcane that will be used to establish a healthy commercial crop. 

Apart from the contribution to biosecurity, planting good quality, clean seedcane from a properly regulated seedcane nursery makes sound agronomic and economic sense. Benefits include varietal purity, good germination and a healthy, vigorous crop which is likely to be productive for many ratoons. Planting clean seedcane also ensures that the industry is protected from the financial losses caused by pest and disease incursions.

The process of producing certified and approved seedcane

Planning seedcane production needs to start at least two years before the seedcane is actually required for planting into commercial fields. Seedcane can take one of three forms: whole-stick seedcane, transplants or NovaCane®.

The choice of which form of seedcane to use is generally based on availability, ease of handling, labour requirements, quantities required and the intended purpose of the seedcane.

The process starts with Certified Seedcane. This is the nucleus seedcane material from which Approved Seedcane Nurseries (previously either second stage or farm nurseries) are established. These in turn produce the seedcane to plant commercial fields of sugarcane.

In some areas of the industry, Certified Seedcane is produced by individual co-operators or in a dedicated central nursery facility such as the Sezela Transplant Nursery, or in large seedcane mother blocks such as in the Lowveld or the Maidstone Seedcane Scheme.

Left (Top): NovaCane® plantlets produced by tissue culture laboratories. Right(Above): Seedcane undergoing hot water treatment.

Individual growers may establish their own Certified Nurseries on their farms if they have their own heat-treatment tanks, or access to one nearby. In most instances however, growers tend to leave the production of Certified Seedcane to co-operators or other centralised operations and prefer to purchase Certified Seedcane to plant their Approved Nurseries.

The establishment of a nursery needs to start with the identification of a potential nursery site, at least one year in advance. This is a vital requirement since all Certified and Approved nurseries need to be registered with the Local Pest Disease and Variety Control Committee and fallow period inspections carried out. Once planted nurseries are subject to a number of inspections to ensure that all off-types and diseased stools are eradicated.   

Where to from here?

Over the next four years, growers will have to decide which of the following three options they will use to ensure they get the seedcane they require:

Option 1 - Produce Certified and Approved Seedcane themselves.

Option 2 - Source their Certified Seedcane from a local LPD&VCC registered co-operator, or from a seedcane facility such as a transplant nursery for planting an Approved Nursery on their farm; or

Option 3 - Source their Approved Seedcane for planting commercial fields from a fellow grower.

For more detailed information on seedcane production, consult the Seedcane Production bulletin published by SASRI.

Also see The Link (January 2019) special edition magazine focussing solely on the 2023 seedcane regulation.

Rowan Stranack

Rowan is Extension and Biosecurity Manager at SASR