NORTH QUEENSLAND banana growers are in a state of shock after a plantation near Tully tested positive to Tropical Race-4 Panama Disease. According to James Cook University’s plant and fungi expert, Dr Sandra Abell-Davis, this fungal disease has the potential to wipe out the $600 million North Queensland Banana industry.
Panama disease is a plant disease of the roots of banana plants. It is a type of Fusarium wilt, caused by the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum. The pathogen is resistant to fungicide and cannot be controlled chemically.
Dr Jim Thompson, Biosecurity Qld, gave a media conference in which he revealed that in 1997 the disease wiped out the Northern Territory banana industry which continues to be virtually non-existent.
“The disease attacks the root and tissue of the banana plant but does not affect the fruit. The fruit is safe to eat,” Dr Thompson said.
He said the fungi can last in the soil for decades and at this point they with the Australian Banana Growers Association to implement a containment program.
Check back for updates as more news comes to light.
This strain of Panama disease threaten the production of today's most popular banana, Cavendish.
The North Queensland Register will continue to monitor the situation and post updates to this website.
The Tropical-4 Panama Disease fungus causes significant damage to banana crops due to its virulence, as well as the identical genetic composition of modern banana crops. Modern breeds of bananas cannot reproduce sexually because they have no seeds and the male flowers do not produce viable pollen.
New banana plants develop through asexual reproduction: after the fruiting stem has matured, fruited, and been cut down, the base of the plant produces suckers, which can be cut off and planted elsewhere. This is like taking a cutting from a rose bush; the cuttings have to be moved and planted by humans.
As a result, these banana plants are nearly identical genetically, thus have the same susceptibility to the same diseases. Once a pathogen overcomes the plant's defenses, it can quickly infect the whole cultivated area.