Panama strikes Tully Valley farm

Panama disease suspected on Tully Valley banana farm

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A banana farm in the Tully Valley has a suspected case of Panama TR4.

A banana farm in the Tully Valley has a suspected case of Panama TR4.

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A SUSPECTED new case of Panama disease tropical race 4 has been detected on a commercial banana farm in the Tully Valley.

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A SUSPECTED new case of Panama disease tropical race 4 has been detected on a commercial banana farm in the Tully Valley.

It is the first time in two years the disease, which has the potential to wipe out Australia's $580 million banana industry, has been suspected in North Queensland.

Biosecurity Queensland Panama TR4 program leader Rhiannon Evans said five plants showing symptoms of the disease were detected on a property during routine testing in late January.

They have since been sent to Brisbane for testing, with one returning a preliminary positive result.

Further testing will be undertaken to confirm the presence of the disease, which could take a further two to six weeks.

"The grower was notified immediately and we are working with them to ensure strict on-farm biosecurity measures are maintained with a focus on preventing disease spread and minimising any production downtime," Ms Evans said.

Ms Evans said the property at the centre of the potential outbreak was in close proximity to the other farms that had tested positive to the disease.

She said while the property had been issued with a notice to cease trading, they already had tight biosecurity measures in place and were 75 per cent ready to resume production.

It is the fourth farm in the area that has been impacted by Panama, after it was first detected in Queensland on Cavendish banana plants on a farm in the Tully Valley, in March 2015. The disease was detected on a second property in the Tully Valley in July 2017, and a third property in February 2018.

Australian Banana Growers' Council Chair Stephen Lowe said while the industry knew the disease would eventually spread, it was still news no one wanted to hear.

"This is definitely news that no-one in our industry wanted to hear. Biosecurity Queensland has a strong surveillance program in place and this has assisted with early detection of the disease in this instance," Mr Lowe said.

"First and foremost, our thoughts are with the grower affected."

Mr Lowe added that the new suspect detection was another reminder that Panama TR4 was here to stay and encouraged all growers to maintain strong biosecurity practices.

"It is an incredible feat that the disease has been contained to such a small area so far.

"Indeed, this latest case is in close proximity to the other affected farms in Tully. However, there can be no doubt that it is spreading - and sadly it will continue to do so.

"If there's one thing banana growers - in fact all farmers - know well, it's how to tackle a challenge.

"Clearly this is one of the biggest for our industry, but like any challenge we will maintain the fight, and prove our resilience in the face of adversity."

Ms Evans said the Queensland Government would continue to stand with the banana industry to meet the challenges of Panama TR4.

"Since the first detection of Panama TR4 in Queensland in 2015, banana growers have made strong biosecurity measures part of their day-to-day operations, and the 'come clean, leave clean' message is well and truly embedded in the community," Ms Evans said.

"It is important for growers to report suspect looking plants as soon as possible.

"Early detection and destruction of infected plants helps to slow disease spread and can extend the on-going viability of farms."

Panama TR4 is a soil borne disease, that is thought to be spread via feral animals, infected plants and waterways.

It infects banana plants until they no longer produce fruit, however the fruit itself cannot carry the disease.

Ms Evans said bananas were still safe to eat and encouraged anyone who wanted to support the industry to continue eating the fruit.

Anyone who suspects Panama TR4 on their property should report it immediately to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

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