Variation in the concentration of virus in different parts of the plant has implications for virus-indexing programs. To allow more reliable detection of Sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV), the distribution of the virus in sugarcane plants after artificial inoculation was studied using a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay. Leaves of susceptible and moderately resistant sugarcane were mechanically inoculated with SCMV 6 weeks after planting. Weekly for 8 weeks after inoculation, plants were examined for mosaic symptoms and samples of leaves, roots and tillers were tested by RT-PCR to detect virus. SCMV moved from the point of inoculation to younger leaves, roots and tillers and eventually to leaves that emerged prior to inoculation. The pattern of SCMV distribution in moderately resistant and susceptible cultivars was not substantially different. However, the virus moved more slowly in the moderately resistant than in the susceptible cultivar. Young leaves proved to be the most suitable tissue for testing.