AU: Potential new Panama disease risk to Australian bananas

A suspected third case of the devastating Panama disease has been detected in far North Queensland in the country’s largest banana growing region.

A sample from a banana plant taken in mid-January from a Tully Valley property has returned a positive result from the initial molecular test.

Biosecurity Queensland are currently working with business owners to meet their biosecurity obligations while undertaking high intensity surveillance on the identified property to determine the extent of the disease.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries chief plant protection officer, Mike Ashton, said further testing was required before a final conclusive positive result could be determined.

“The sample now needs to undergo further diagnostic testing for a final and conclusive result which can take up to six weeks to complete,” Mr Ashton said.
“If the diagnostic tests return a positive result, this will be the third banana farm in the Tully Valley to be infested with the disease.”

Mr Ashton said the property with the suspect detection was in close proximity to the two confirmed infested properties.

“Biosecurity Queensland is will commence high intensity surveillance on the suspect property to determine the possible extent of the disease, and conducting tracing and on-farm investigations to determine potential risk pathways,” he said.

“We are urging growers to continue to implement on-farm biosecurity strategies that not only protect their farm at the boundary, but strategies that will minimise farm downtime if the disease is detected on their property.”

Mr Ashton said the latest suspect detection emphasised the challenge of managing and containing the disease.

“Panama disease can survive in the soil for decades without banana plants and is easily transported in contaminated soil, water and on tools, farming machinery and vehicles,” he said.

Initially detected in Queensland on Cavendish banana plants on a farm in the Tully Valley, on 3 March 2015, the disease was detected on a second property in the Tully Valley on 26 July 2017.

According to the Department, Panama disease tropical race 4 is not harmful to humans and does not affect the fruit. The fungus only affects the health of the plant and its ability to produce fruit.

More than 80% of Australia’s bananas are produced in the region.

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Author: Phil Pyke

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