The establishment of in vitro screening methods for evaluating the susceptibility of sugarcane (Saccharum spp. hybrids) to the fungal disease, smut (causal agent : Ustilago scitaminea H. and P. Sydow) and the stalk borer, Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera : Pyralidae).
The fungal disease smut (causal agent: Ustilago scitaminea H. & P. Sydow) and stalk borer Eldana saccharina Walker place major constraints on sugarcane agriculture in South Africa. The best approach for management is the introduction of resistant cultivars; however, conventional field-based screening for pest and disease resistance is a lengthy process. This study evaluated in vitro techniques combined with artificial inoculation of 12 week old in vitro plantlets and 8-10 week old embryogenic calli as rapid screening methods. Preliminary investigations were conducted on cultivars with known field ratings to smut and E. saccharina: NCo376, N26 and N39; and 5 „test‟ cultivars, whose identities were undisclosed until completion of experiments, were used to assess the accuracy of protocols. Infective U. scitaminea sporidia generated from teliospores, were used as inocula. Development of a callus protocol was unsuccessful due to sporidial and mycelial overgrowth, despite addition of a contact fungicide, Dithane M-45® (0.025 g/l) and a biocide/fungicide, PPMTM (5 ml/l), to media. Plantlet inoculation by injection, 1 cm above the apical meristem, resulted in 12% and 20% of smut susceptible NCo376 plantlets producing smut whips after 5 weeks when inoculated with 1 x 106 and 1 x 109 sporidia/ml, respectively. Smut whip production in 5 of the 8 (63%) cultivars inoculated with the lower sporidial concentration correlated with their field resistance ratings. In addition, whips harvested from in vitro plantlets were a valuable source of aseptic teliospores for future research. Ongoing work involves inoculation of NCo376 calli with such teliospores and maintenance on medium with PPMTM - emergence of whips from plantlets remains to be assessed. The E. saccharina screening protocol involved surface decontamination of eggs with 1% sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) for 15 min. Feeding bioassays were conducted by placement of first instar larvae on in vitro plantlets and calli for 3 and 2 weeks, respectively. Larval mass, length and percentage infestation were recorded. Although greater larval size was expected in susceptible compared with resistant cultivars, the results did not support this. Significant differences in plantlet infestation were observed between susceptible (94-98%) and resistant (72-86%) lines. No significant differences were found in the callus feeding bioassay. However, a 24 h callus choice bioassay which investigated larval preference between callus genotypes compared with NCo376, showed significant differences and correctly discerned cultivar susceptibility according to field ratings.
- Masters Degrees (Botany)