Feral pigs in firing line

Panama disease prompts calls for feral pig cull

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Pig damage to banana roots on a plantation in Far North Queensland. Photo: Kahla Kruger.

Pig damage to banana roots on a plantation in Far North Queensland. Photo: Kahla Kruger.

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Feral pigs are again in the firing line after a suspected case of Panama tropical race 4 was detected at a Tully Valley banana farm.

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FERAL pigs are again in the firing line after a suspected case of Panama tropical race 4 was detected at a Tully Valley banana farm.

Hill MP Shane Knuth, whose electorate takes in the impacted area, is calling for the state government to allocate extra funds to help eradicate feral pigs in the region.

He believes an aerial pig shooting program could help stop the spread of Panama disease, which has the potential to wipe out the North's banana industry.

Five plants at a commercial farm in the Tully Valley showing signs of the disease were tested for Panama in late January, and preliminary results show that one had tested positive. Further testing is required to confirm the disease, which could take up to six weeks.

It is the first time in two years the disease has been suspected in Far North Queensland and the fourth property to be impacted after it was first detected in the region in March 2015.

Since then, growers have worked with Biosecurity Queensland to implement strict quarantine measures on farms in a bid to prevent its spread.

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.

Mr Knuth said it was disappointing to hear another case of Panama (TR4) had been detected and said more needed to be done to prevent it from spreading.

"I have always had great faith in local growers to know how to handle this situation and continue to work well with Biosecurity Queensland, however much more needs to be done to stop the spread of TR4," Mr Knuth said.

"No matter what bio security controls are in place, if you don't control the feral pig population you will have a high risk of the continual spread of TR4."

Mr Knuth said more funds needed to be allocated to ensure the safety of banana crops and to assist growers in implementing additional measures to safeguard their properties.

"Extra funds must be allocated to an aerial feral pig shooting program to reduce the number of feral pigs coming out of state land onto neighbouring properties and spreading TR4."

Mr Knuth has previously lobbied for extra funding for an aerial pig shooting program and he is calling on the state government to deliver the funding.

"Bananas are a $600 million industry with 94 per cent of production in Far North Queensland. I don't think it's too much to ask for additional funding to help reduce the spread of TR4 through an aerial feral pig shooting program."

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