The objective of the Microbiology and Plant Pathology Department is to understand diseases of plants through research and improve plant health by adopting a variety of approaches. Its objectives are to meet the needs of growers and contribute to increase crop productivity.
The establishment of the Department dates back to the creation of the MSIRI in 1953. Its research activities are focused on the understanding of prevailing diseases of concern to growers as well as on those of potential threat to production. We are involved in clean seed production of sugar cane and have a certification scheme for seed potato.
We are seeking ISO:IEC 17025 laboratory accreditation for the microbiological analysis of sugars.
Promising clones are screened the five major diseases, namely: gumming, leaf scald, yellow spot, smut and rust. Depending on the disease, these trials may go up to the second ratoon. Susceptible varieties are rejected or may be cultivated in areas where the disease does not have an impact. Diseases such as yellow spot are monitored to determine its incidence in relation to climatic conditions. Fields at set locations are used for that purpose. A multidisciplinary project is being undertaken to study the distribution, transmission, control and effect on yield of yellow leaf.
Disease examination (left) and electron microscopy (right)
The Department multiplies sugar cane clones for trials and eventually for release to the planting community. Heat treatment to maintain freedom from diseases and variety purity is ensured during the bulking stages. Disease detection is carried out by conventional and molecular methods. These techniques are adopted to identify diseases from samples brought from the commercial fields, nursery and seed fields as well as quarantine. The administration and maintenance of sugar cane quarantine is under the responsibility of the Institute.
Potato clones are screened to bacterial wilt, early and late blights. Fungicide trials to control early and late blight are effected. Dosages and frequency in relation to agroclimatic zones have been studied for minimal applications. Seed potato production, inspection and certification is another activity whereby the Department coordinates the bulking about 500 tonnes of seed. This represents strategic amount in case of reduced availability of imported seed. Mauritian potato varieties are also being multiplied from tissue culture plantlets and by an aeroponic system.
Fungicide trial against late blight (left) and
seed potato production by aeroponics (right)
The personnel of the department consist of seven scientists, all of whom have acquired a long experience in the pathology of sugar cane, potato, other crops and ornamental plants.
Dr Seelavarn Ganeshan