Investigating induced resistance in sugarcane.
Five potential resistance-inducing chemicals were applied to two sugarcane varieties (N12 and N27) in a pot trial with the aim of inducing resistance to nematodes in naturally-infested soil. BION® (acibenzolar-S-methyl), methyl jasmonate, cis-jasmone and 2,6-dichloroisonicotinic acid (INA) were applied as a foliar spray and suSCon® maxi (imidacloprid) applied to the soil. All chemicals were tested at two rates and plants were sprayed one week prior to being harvested at 7, 9 and 11 weeks of age. Meloidogyne and Pratylenchus infestation of sett and shoot roots was determined at each harvest. The activity of four pathogenesis-related proteins was examined at 7, 9 and 11 weeks using separate assays, these enzymes where chitinase, β-1,3-glucanase, peroxidase and polyphenol oxidase. Methyl jasmonate treatment produced significant increases in β-1,3-glucanase, chitinase and peroxidase activity. All other elicitor treatments showed little difference in enzyme activity from the Control. The effect of each treatment on plant growth was examined by recording the dried root and shoot biomass of each plant. No significant differences were seen (p<0.05; Holm-Sidak test). However, root and shoot dried biomass was highest in the N12 variety treated by suSCon® maxi. The infection of sugarcane with Ustilago scitaminea (sugarcane smut) is commonly identified visually by the presence of a smut whip. Identification of sugarcane smut infection can be determined prior to whip development by staining tissue sections with lactophenol cotton blue and examining plant tissues microscopically. This allows for a rapid determination of smut infection which can aid breeding programs. Smut infection is achieved in vitro by soaking sugarcane setts in smut spores collected from infected whips. Four methods of inoculation were examined. The method that most consistently caused infection involved allowing setts to germinate for 24 hours, before puncturing a bud with a toothpick, followed by submerging the sett in 1x10⁸ smut spores per mℓ. An elicitor of systemic acquired resistance called BION®, and an insecticide with resistance-inducing properties called Gaucho® (imidacloprid) were used as a sett soak treatments to induce resistance to sugarcane smut. The effect of each treatment at three concentrations on plant germination and growth was examined in the NCo376 variety. Smut spore germination on agar was examined in the presence of both treatments at three concentrations. Sugarcane setts were treated with a concentration that did not significantly reduce the germination of smut spores or sugarcane setts. Plants were infected with smut post treatment and allowed to grow for approximately one month until plants were between 8 and 10 cm in height. Smut infection was assessed by cutting longitudinal sections through the base of the shoot and staining each section with cotton blue lactophenol. Treatment with BION® and Gaucho® did not reduce smut infection.