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AU: Banana industry better prepared for TR4 this time around
The Australian Banana Growers Council says the industry is better equipped in its biosecurity measures than two years ago, following the confirmation of Fusarium Wilt (Panama disease) Tropical Race 4 on a Tully farm.
Tests last month confirmed samples from a block on the North Queensland property returned a positive result, the second detection in Australia in just over two years. CEO Jim Pekin says the lessons that were learnt from research into the last occurrence has made growers better prepared.
"There has been a massive change in culture within the industry since the first TR4 detection in north Queensland in March 2015," he said. "On-farm biosecurity practices are now a part of growers’ operations."
The growers who own the land on which TR4 was suspected, shut the block down voluntarily as soon as there was suspicion of it, and only authorised officers from Biosecurity Queensland are permitted access to it. Since TR4 was confirmed on a plant in that block on 26 July, it has been under a quarantine notice.
TR4 was last detected on a property in Tully two years ago, and the ABGC wants all growers to continue to be vigilant in their on-farm biosecurity measures, such as removing all plant material and soil from machinery and footwear before they are brought onto their farms.
"Growers were previously aware of the implications of the disease and have upped the ante on their on-farm biosecurity," Mr Pekin said. "It’s business-as-usual for the industry, including those growers immediately impacted by this second detection. There has been a shift in the awareness that new, disease-resistant varieties of bananas need to be developed as soon as possible and that feral pigs need to be managed better in the local area, as they are a vector."
Mr Pekin says the public should not be scared off from buying the fruit, as TR4 is a disease that impacts the banana tree or plant, not the fruit itself.
"It remains completely safe to eat and handle," Mr Pekin said. "TR4 only affects banana plants when the fungus enters their root system and restricts their uptake of water, stopping them from producing harvestable bunches and eventually killing them. Therefore, no bananas from infected plants will be able to be harvested and none sold or eaten. So, there is zero risk to consumers."
The ABGC expects that supply will not be challenged by this discovery.
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