Panama disease confirmed on Tully banana farm

Panama disease confirmed on Tully banana farm

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A fourth farm in the Tully Valley has tested positive to Panama disease tropical race 4.

A fourth farm in the Tully Valley has tested positive to Panama disease tropical race 4.

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Panama disease has been confirmed on a Tully Valley commercial banana farm, making it the fourth property impacted since the disease was first detected in Queensland in 2015.

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PANAMA disease has been confirmed on a Tully Valley commercial banana farm, making it the fourth property impacted since the disease was first detected in Queensland in 2015.

Biosecurity Queensland today confirmed the farm, which was first suspected of having plants infected with Panama disease tropical race 4 in late January, had tested positive to the disease.

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 detected in North Queensland.

Five plants showing symptoms of the disease were detected on a Tully Valley property in the vicinity to the previous outbreaks during routine testing in late January.

They were then sent to Brisbane for testing, with one returning a preliminary positive result.

Biosecurity Queensland chief biosecurity officer Malcolm Letts said a final vegetative compatibility group test provided a definitive result for Panama TR4.

"This follows the initial positive DNA-based molecular test in early February when the property was declared a suspect new case of Panama TR4," Mr Letts said.

"The VCG test is the 'gold standard' for identifying Panama TR4. The requirement for positive results from the two tests; the VCG and the DNA-based molecular test, ensures the accuracy of a positive final diagnosis."

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.

Mr Letts said while this fourth detection was disappointing for the banana industry in Far North Queensland, he was encouraged by the positive actions and attitudes of the affected grower, and the support being shown by industry bodies and fellow farmers.

"When a 'suspect case' is declared, the grower on the affected property needs to meet a set of biosecurity requirements,' Mr Letts said.

"I'm pleased to say this grower already had good on-farm biosecurity measures in place and, with support from biosecurity officers, was able to meet these requirements and resume trading within four days".

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.

A dedicated Biosecurity Queensland team will continue to work with the grower to ensure they meet their on-going legislative requirements, and biosecurity officers will carry out further inquiries and surveillance on the property and other linked land to determine the risk of disease spread.

Australian Banana Growers' Council Chair Stephen Lowe praised the grower for their ongoing efforts at this difficult time.

"The confirmation of Panama TR4 on a fourth North Queensland banana farm is disappointing for the industry, and particularly for the grower concerned," Mr Lowe said.

"We know our growers are incredibly resilient and, as an industry, we will continue to meet the challenges of Panama TR4. However, this confirmation is another reminder for growers to be vigilant and ensure they protect their farms and the broader industry at large."

Mr Letts congratulated all growers on their continued efforts around biosecurity.

"Since the first detection of Panama TR4 in 2015, collective action by growers, the banana industry and the community have all aided in controlling the disease and on-farm biosecurity remains the best way to protect a farm and the industry," Mr Letts said.

"Early detection of new infestations and destruction of infected plants in accordance with biosecurity protocols is critical to reducing the risk of the disease spreading."

If anyone suspects Panama TR4 they should contact Biosecurity Queensland immediately, an on-site visit by officers can be arranged by calling 13 25 23.

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