The movement of sugarcane between countries carries a risk of introducing potentially serious diseases and therefore requires stringent quarantine procedures. Sugarcane clones mainly from Australia, Brazil, Barbados, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, USA and Reunion are imported into South Africa to broaden the genetic base of our parental breeding stock. Similarly, our sugarcane varieties are exported to various countries, most frequently to eSwatini, Zambia, Mozambique, Australia, Brazil, Mauritius, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. True seed from sugarcane crosses has been exported to Japan, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Iran and Mauritius.


SASRI conforms to the FAO/IBPGR Guidelines for the Safe Movement of Sugarcane Germplasm. Although the national government’s Directorate SAAFQIS (South African Agricultural Food, Quarantine and Inspection Services) is ultimately responsible for plant quarantine, including sugarcane, for many years the technical management of the sugarcane quarantine has been delegated to SASRI’s pathologists.
The quarantine facility at SASRI, Mount Edgecombe, has been in use since 1984.It is a world-class laboratory where molecular techniques are used for the accurate detection of the most important sugarcane pathogens. A tissue culture facility ‘cleans’ varieties from diseases such as SCYLV, SCMV and unknown viral diseases. This enables SASRI to clean imported sugarcane varieties from most pathogens so that disease-free plants can be used in our breeding programme. It also ensures that SASRI exports healthy, tissue culture derived plants of South African varieties instead of conventional sugarcane setts.

Aimee Koch

Quarantine Pathologist


Quarantine Pathologist

Tel: 031 508 7400 (Switchboard)
Tel: 031 508 7531  (Direct)
Email: aimee.koch@sugar.org.za

Role & Overall Purpose

Conducts research in disease diagnostics and phytosanitation, new sugarcane diseases, and procedures to improve quarantine processes. Manages the Quarantine Facility ensuring that all precautionary measures and techniques are carried out correctly and quarantine standards are improved and maintained according to international guidelines and SASRI standard operating procedures. Liaises with pathologists in other quarantine facilities and with SASRI plant breeders. Attends to specialist advisory requests on disease diagnostics, and offers advice to growers and extension specialists when requested.


Molecular detection and characterisation of sugarcane pathogens by PCR, RT-PCR, RT-qPCR & sequencing. Management of the quarantine glasshouse, imports & exports, fungicide screenings and field trials, NIR, tissue culture, mutagenesis & AFLP analysis.

Research Interests

Molecular disease diagnostics; sugarcane viral diseases; detection and control of sugarcane rusts; NIR data collection and building of disease models; conducting field trials and observation plots; using AFLP techniques to detect polymorphisms linked to disease tolerance; meristem culture and in vitro methods for virus elimination.

Key Outcomes

Conducting research on improving diagnostic methods and introducing new diagnostic techniques and control methods for existing and new pathogens.

Key Publications

Snyman SJ, Meyer GM, Koch AC, Banasiak M and Watt MP (2011) Applications of in vitro culture systems for commercial sugarcane production and improvement. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Plant 47:234-249

Koch AC, Ramgareeb S, Rutherford RS, Snyman SJ, Watt MP (2012). An in vitro mutagenesis protocol for the production of sugarcane tolerant to the herbicide imazapyr. In vitro cellular and Developmental Biology-Plant 48: 417-427.

Rutherford RS, Maphalala KZ, Koch AC, Snyman SJ and Watt MP (2017). Field and laboratory assessments of sugarcane mutants selected in vitro for resistance to the imidazolinone herbicide imazapyr. Crop Breeding and Applied Biotechnology 17: 107-114.

McFarlane SA, Ismael Ameer RB, Kistan CJ and Koch AC (2021). Efficacy of mechanical harvester decontamination procedures to reduce the risk of ratoon stunt (RSD) spread. Proceedings of the South African Sugar Technologists Association (2021) 93: 129 - 139

Key Publications

Koch, AC, Ramgareeb, S, Rutherford, RS, Snyman, SJ, Watt, MP (2012) An in vitro mutagenesis protocol for the production of sugarcane tolerant to the herbicide imazapyr. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology-Plant 48: 417-427.

Rutherford, RS, Maphalala, KZ, Koch, AC, Snyman, SJ, Watt, MP (2017) Field and laboratory assessments of sugarcane mutants selected in vitro for resistance to imazapyr herbicide. Crop Breeding & Applied Biotechnology 17: 107-114.

Snyman, SJ, Meyer, GM, Koch, AC, Banasiak, M, Watt, MP (2011) Applications of in vitro culture systems for commercial sugarcane production and improvement. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology-Plant 47: 234-249.


BSc Biological Sciences (UKZN); BSc Hons Biological Sciences (UKZN); MSc Biological Sciences (UKZN).


SASRI can exchange varieties provided a valid agreement is in place. SASRI supplies in vitro plantlets, hardened off plantlets, fuzz (seed) and 3-budded setts.
The Quarantine facility conducts a wide range of in-house sugarcane disease diagnostics including Sugarcane yellow leaf virus (SCYLV), Sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV), Potyviridae and Phytoplasmas.