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Publication #SS-AGR-204

Sugarcane Pokkah Boeng Disease1

R. N. Raid and P. Rott2

Pokkah boeng was originally described in Java, and the name is a Javanese term denoting a malformed or distorted top. It is caused by a complex of fungal species within the genus Fusarium. The disease is present in most, if not all, sugarcane producing areas of the world (Whittle and Irawan, 2000). Pokkah boeng may cause serious yield losses in commercial plantings. However, there have been many reported outbreaks of the disease which have looked spectacular, but have caused little economic loss. To date, it has not been of major importance to Florida's sugarcane industry.


The initial symptoms of the disease are chlorotic areas at the base of young leaves, followed by distortion (wrinkling and twisting) and shortening of affected leavesn. In severe cases, death of the stalk will occur (Figure 1).

Figure 1. 

Pokkah boeng leaf symptoms


Richard Raid, UF/IFAS

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

The base of affected leaves is often narrower than that of normal leaves. As leaves mature, irregular reddish stripes and specks develop within the chlorotic parts. The reddish areas sometimes develop into lens-shaped holes which have no definite arrangement. This reddish tissue may form ladder-like lesions, often with dark edges. Leaf sheaths may also become chlorotic and develop irregular necrotic areas of reddish color.

The infection in the spindle sometimes continues downward into the stalk and dark reddish streaks may be found extending through several internodes. Also, in the internodes, the infection may form long lesions with cross depressions that give them a ladder-like appearance. These lesions sometimes break through the surface of the rind causing curvature and distortion of the stalk. Exaggerated versions of these depressions may look like neatly made "knife-cuts" in the stalk (Figure 2). In the most advanced stage of pokkah boeng, the entire top (growing point) of the plant dies (referred to as "top rot"). Symptom severity varies with the susceptibility of the sugarcane cultivar and the environmental conditions governing the development of the pathogen.

Figure 2. 

Pokkah boeng stalk symptoms


Richard Raid, UF/IFAS

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

In the stem, the fungus causes a dark-brown discoloration of the infected tissues. The ladder-like lesions are due to rupturing of the diseased cells that cannot keep up with growth of the healthy tissue.

Causal Agent

The disease is presently attributed to a number of fungal species within the genus Fusarium. In the U.S., Fusarium moniliforme and Fusarium moniliforme var. subglutinans have been reported as the causal agents. In China, F. veticillioides and F. proliferatum have been implicated, and in Australia, it was F. sacchari. In spite of the current taxonomic confusion within this genus, all of the aforementioned Fusarium species can persist on decaying plant residues and isolates can be collected on specialized culture media.

The pathogens can infect a wide range of hosts. Rice, corn, sorghum, and many other grasses are susceptible to infection, contributing to the pathogen’s survival. These fungi also cause a wide range of symptoms such as seedling blight, scorch, stalk rot, root rot, wilt, and stunting in different crops.

Spread of the Disease

The spread of pokkah boeng is mainly by airborne spores (Vishwakarma et al. 2013). Dissemination of the disease by seed pieces may occur but is considered of little importance.

Infection usually occurs through the spindle along the margin of a partially unfolded leaf. Spores which enter the spindle germinate and grow into the inner tissue of the spindle leaves.

The fungus reaches the immature portion of the stem by way of the vascular bundles. It may pass through the vascular bundles of the leaf sheath without entering the surrounding tissue, but ladder-like lesions are often found in the sheath.

Pokkah boeng appears to be favored by a wet season followed by dry climatic conditions. Sugarcane that is three to seven months old and growing vigorously appears to be the most susceptible.

Prevention and Control

Pokkah boeng is seldom serious enough to warrant concern or control. However, if control is desired, the only satisfactory control measure for pokkah boeng is the use of resistant sugarcane cultivars. Fortunately, sugarcane resistance to pokkah boeng has been shown to be highly heritable. In Florida, while pokkah boeng resistance is not actively screened for, the relative susceptibility of prospective clones to pokkah boeng is noted during breeding program field trials. Susceptible clones are typically not released for commercial production, thereby limiting the impact of this disease.


Vishwakarma S.K., P. Kumar, A. Nigam, A. Singh, and A. Kumar. 2013. “Pokkah boeng: an emerging disease of sugarcane”. Journal of Plant Pathology and Microbiology 4: 170 doi:10.4172/2157-7471.1000170

Whittle P.J.L. and Irawan. “Pokkah Boeng”. In A guide to sugarcane diseases, edited by Philippe Rott, Roger A. Bailey, Jack C. Comstock, Barry J. Croft, and A. Salem Saumtally, 136-40. Montpellier, France: CIRAD/ISSCT, La Librairie du Cirad.



This document is SS-AGR-204, one of a series of the Agronomy Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date March 1991. Revised January 2006 and November 2015. Visit the EDIS website at This publication is also a part of the Florida Sugarcane Handbook, an electronic publication of the Agronomy Department. For more information, contact the editor of the Sugarcane Handbook, H. S. Sandhu (


R. N. Raid, professor; and P. Rott, professor, Everglades Research and Education Center; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication does not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.