Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me

Edge of a sugar cane field from

Worker in front of sugar cane field.Diseases are a huge threat to any cultivated crop and always need to be kept in check.  A few  potential diseases that could harm a crop of sugar cane include but aren't limited to: white leaf, red stripe, yellow spot, and virus yellow.  Now I know what you are thinking, these diseases sound like they were named by a three year old, but they are very real and very destructive crop diseases.

One bacterium that can cause a substantial amount of damage to the crop is called Ratoon Stunting Disease.  This disease causes poor growth and damages internal tissue.  Ratoon Stunting Disease is spread easily by cutting implements such as a machete or machinery.  

Another interaction comes from a fungus with a very interesting name.  It is the Pokkah Boeng.  When sugar cane is infected with this particular Endomycorrhizae Picture from Tom Volkfungus the leaves at the base of the plant become crumpled, stunted, and twisted.  This is usually minor and doesn't warrant a need for a cure.  Another fungi more commonly seen in plants is endomycorrihizae.  Endomycorrihizae is a mutualistic fungi that lives in the roots of many types of plants.  This fungi supplies the plant with added nutrients from the soil and in return the plant supplies the fungi with a needed carbon source such as glucose.

Animals also can cause many problems for sugar.  Many of these problems come in the form of insects.  Insects such as the Sugarcane Borer, Yellow Sugarcane Aphid, and the Sugarcane Grub cause problems that can usually be either prevented or controlled by pesticides.

Snake from Wikimedia CommonsOnce sugar cane overcomes these pesky obstacles they can help other species out by providing a source of nutrition, habitat or safe hide-out.  For example many species of snakes make their home among the sugar cane fields using the dense cover for protection.

Humans are another species who has a huge interaction with sugar cane.  Most of these interactions come from the nutrition aspect considering the importance of sugar in our diets, but there is also a cultural role and a  historical role that sugar cane plays.  Many songs, poems and books have been written about sugar cane.  Take a look at this YouTube video of a popular song about sugar.  Slavery played a huge role in the history of the world and in turn sugar can played a huge role in slavery.  Rum is also a cultural and historical drink that has shaped many cultures around the world.  Find out more about slavery and rum in Interesting Facts.