Northern Queensland growers told

Australia: Banana-plant disease can be managed

Serious banana-plant diseases such as Panama can be managed but prevention is the key issue for the banana industry, North Queensland growers have been told at a farm field day held today at East Palmerston, west of Innisfail.

International Panama expert Dr Gus Molina, from Bioversity International, spoke at the event saying that Australia had a high standard of biosecurity measures in place to prevent and manage banana-plant disease.

More than 50 banana growers, plant researchers, industry consultants, agronomists and plant nurserymen attended the field day to hear the latest information on Panama disease, including the disease’s most devastating strain, Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4).

A soil-borne fungal disease, TR4 is present in overseas banana industries. In Australia it has only been detected in the Northern Territory. Actions to ensure it does not spread to major bananagrowing regions have increased following a July decision by the Northern Territory Government to lift quarantines on TR4-infected properties. Quarantines prohibiting the movement of banana plants and soil remain in force.

“If Panama TR4 is found in banana plantations it’s not the end for the banana industry in that area but it isn’t ‘business as usual’ any longer,” said Dr Molina.
He said the industry should continue to focus on biosecurity measures, with Australia having a good track record on measures to reduce the risk of a spread of plant disease.

Queensland Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) Dr Tony Pattison spoke at the field day about the less-devastating strain of Panama disease, Panama Race 1, which is now found in parts of north Queensland and northern New South Wales. However, it only affects lessergrown banana varieties such as Lady Finger and Ducasse and not the major variety, Cavendish.

TR4 affects all banana varieties, including Cavendish.
“There are practical measures that growers can implement on there farm to manage Panama Race 1,” Dr Pattison said. These included the improvement of soil health and the use of groundcover in plantations.

Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) Research and Development manager Dr Jay Anderson told the field day the ABGC was leading initiatives from State and Federal biosecurity agencies to implement a national action plan to prevent the spread of Panama TR4.

For more information:
Rhyll Cronin
Tel: 00 61 7 3278 4786
Email: rhyll.cronin@abgc.org.au
www.abgc.org.au

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