Funding for AU watermelon virus research

In 2014 a virus wiped out watermelon crops around Katherine and Darwin; in order to continue research into this virus, Horticulture Innovation Australia has given the Northern Territory Government's Berrimah Research Farm more than $1.2 million in funding.

The $1.2 million is intended to investigate how long the Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus (CGMMV) can survive in the soil.

Study leader Dr Lucy Tran-Nguyen said, "Initially, the hypothesis was that it would survive for no more than 12 months [but] as we found out, it is still viable.

NT Minister for Primary Industries Willem Westra van Holthe announced the funding in Darwin on February 4.

"This will be an enormous big step to finding out more about how this disease works so we can help farmers here and interstate," Mr Westra van Holthe said.

He said the research project would look into identifying weed hosts and non-host plants and also investigate the persistence and viability of CGMMV in soil and plant debris.

The project would also examine improved CGMMV seed testing, assess in-field diagnostics for CGMMV, and examine the contribution of bees in CGMMV transmission.

The Government has faced criticism from farmers over its handling of CGMMV and the decision to keep properties under quarantine after the virus was discovered in Katherine in 2014.

Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA) investment manager David Moore said the NT had taken the right steps to eradicate the virus.

Mr Moore said dealing with pathogens and viruses such as CGMMV was extremely challenging and time consuming.

"It is endemic in the Northern Territory, therefore procedures and processes need to be put in place that haven't been put in place in other states."

The quarantine period for melon farms impacted by CGMMV is expected to be lifted at the end of February.


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