Second Queensland banana farm tests positive to tropical disease

“Our focus remains on controlling and containing the disease while we determine the extent of the outbreak.” Photo: Andrew QuiltyA second Far North Queensland banana farm has tested positive for Panama Disease Tropical Race 4, a disease that wiped out the Northern Territory’s banana industry in the 1990s.

Biosecurity Queensland has received a positive test for the disease at a farm near Mareeba, inland of Cairns, as the destruction of trees at the first farm, further south near Tully, comes to an end.

The highly infectious disease, which attacks banana trees but not the fruit, could have a devastating impact on Queensland’s $600 million industry if not contained.

Biosecurity Queensland has moved quickly to quarantine the Mareeba property.

Chief Biosecurity Officer Jim Thompson said it would remain under quarantine while surveillance was undertaken and further samples taken to confirm the extent of the disease.

“The entire farm will be surveyed and any infected plants that are detected will be destroyed,” Dr Thompson said.

“We will also be undertaking investigations to identify how this property may have become infected, including if there are any links between this property and the first infected property in the Tully Valley.

“Tropical Race 4 remains a real threat to the state’s banana industry with the potential to impact all plant varieties including Cavendish.”

He said the disease was originally identified in the Northern Territory in 1997.

Its first detection in Queensland came at the Tully property on March 3.

“While this latest development is understandably disappointing, it is an outcome which we have been preparing for,” Dr Thompson said.

“Our focus remains on controlling and containing the disease while we determine the extent of the outbreak.

“Over the past five weeks we have progressively ramped up our surveillance, tracing, sampling and testing efforts with more than 70 people now working on the response.”

A Panama disease Taskforce has also been established to help support North Queensland farmers in working through the economic and social impacts of this disease.”

Australian Banana Growers’ Council chief executive Jim Pekin said council was working closely with Biosecurity Queensland to safeguard one of Queensland’s major agricultural industries.

“This second detection is in a separate North Queensland banana growing area and further emphasises the need for all banana growers to remain vigilant and to continue to check for signs of unhealthy plants,” Mr Pekin said.

“It also highlights the need for strong on-farm biosecurity measures.”

Destruction of 60,000 diseased banana plants on the Tully Farm started at the end of March and is reaching its concluding stages.

Dr Thompson said the plants were injected with chemicals to reduce the risk of disease spread.

“We will continue to monitor the farm and surrounding area for any further signs of the disease in the weeks and months ahead.”

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