Latest Panama TR4 news

Good news for Panama TR4 infested property owners as changes to the Queensland biosecurity manual take effect

30 March 2022

As a result of findings from last year’s Epidemiological Review into Panama TR4, changes to the Queensland biosecurity manual mean destruction of Panama TR4 infected plants on infested properties will commence sooner.

From 30 March 2022, positive plants on already infested properties will be identified using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnosis. This result is available within 10 days of Fusarium odoratissimum (the fungal species of Panama TR4) cultures being isolated from the sample, which is significantly less time than the previous diagnostic process. All plants on infested properties that are confirmed to have Panama TR4 at PCR diagnosis will continue to be destroyed by the property owner in accordance with Section 12 of the Queensland biosecurity manual.

Helping the grower act quicky by destroying plants early reduces the chance for fungal spores to build up and infect other plants, which is critical to the ongoing viability of their farms.

Since 2017, all samples progressed through the PCR test to vegetative compatibility group (VCG) diagnosis before the disease could be confirmed. This process takes between three and six weeks from the commencement of the test. Positive plants were then destroyed at the VCG diagnosis as prescribed in the manual.

With 100% consistency between PCR and VCG testing since 2017, and because we know that Panama TR4 is present on an infested property, destroying plants known to have the disease at the PCR stage will reduce the length of time the infected plant remains standing and potential for the fungus to produce spores.

All infested property owners will be given the choice for each sample to go through to VCG diagnosis. However from 1 July 2022, this will be at the grower’s expense ($285.70 per test). If the infested property owner does not request the sample go through to VCG, the sample will be processed through to PCR only and the grower will not incur any costs.

Scientific review informs industry of a way forward in the management of Panama TR4

21 September 2021

An independently commissioned review into Panama disease tropical race 4 (Panama TR4) in Far North Queensland has provided a list of research priorities that will help guide industry to manage the disease in the long term. 

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Chief Biosecurity Officer Malcolm Letts, who chairs the Panama TR4 Program Management Board (Board), said the 2021 Panama TR4 Epidemiological Review (the Review) generated some key actions that industry, government and growers could take on board.

"The Board will now be progressing a number of priority areas of research including investigations into the protocol for destroying diseased plants, alternative methods of detecting the disease like e-nose technology, and environmental, host, pathogen relationships," Mr Letts said.

For growers the Review suggests a number of agronomic practices that would assist with minimising crop losses to Panama TR4, and management strategies that improve plant and soil health so plants are less predisposed to infection.

The Panama TR4 Program Management Board encourages growers to read the 2021 Panama TR4 Epidemiological Review and welcomes feedback via the Industry Transition Leader, Geoff Wilson on 0418 644 068 or geoff@abgc.org.au.

Read the 2021 Panama TR4 Epidemiological Review (PDF, 953.5KB).

Read the Chair’s statement in response to the 2021 Panama TR4 Epidemiological Review (PDF, 612.6KB).

Read the media release .

New case of Panama TR4 confirmed in Far North Queensland

10 September 2020

A banana plant sample taken from a Far North Queensland property has tested positive to Panama TR4.

Last month, the sample returned a preliminary positive result to Panama TR4 and now further tests have confirmed presence of the disease.

Biosecurity Queensland (BQ) officers found a plant showing symptoms consistent with Panama TR4 during routine surveillance on the property in August 2020.

BQ has been supporting the grower to meet strict biosecurity requirements to limit spread of the disease. High intensity surveillance is underway to determine the extent of the disease on the property.

This is the fifth detection of Panama TR4 in North Queensland since the disease was first found in Queensland in 2015. All the affected properties are in close proximity to each other in the Tully Valley.

Read the confirmed new case of Panama TR4 factsheet for more information

Surveillance expanding across Far North Queensland

21 August 2020

Surveillance is the most effective way to find Panama TR4. Early detection protects the banana industry.

The Program's surveillance activities are reviewed each year, assessing current disease levels and risk pathways.  The reviews identify the best resources for continuing early detection, which is our best chance for containing Panama TR4. 

A working group of banana growers, industry and government representatives recently reviewed the Panama TR4 Program's surveillance program and recommended changes. 

In August 2020, the joint industry-government Panama TR4 Program Management Board approved these changes.

All commercial banana properties across Far North Queensland banana growing areas will now receive surveillance at least once in the next 12 months, with increased surveillance in the Tully Valley. 

Letters have been sent to all commercial banana properties with details of the changes for their property.

For 2020/21 the surveillance schedule is:

  • Panama TR4 Infested property - every eight weeks
  • Tully Valley - every three months
  • All other commercial banana properties from Cardwell to Lakeland - once in 12 months  

It has been three years since all banana properties were checked for the disease. If the Program does not re-visit all properties, we cannot confirm if the disease is only present in the Tully Valley.

Read our surveillance factsheet for more information. You can also download our tracing and surveillance strategy and our program response strategy . These documents have been redacted to protect privacy and confidentiality.

Contact Donna Campagnolo, Operations Manager on 0476 846 793 or Sarah Flenley, Principal Engagement Officer on 0400 867 264.

New Panama TR4 Program Management Board

22 April 2020

A new management board to oversee the Panama TR4 Program in Queensland until 2023 met for the first time in April 2020, heralding the start of a unique government-industry partnership to help protect the future of Australia’s $580 million banana industry.

The Panama TR4 Program Management Board (the Board) will oversee the continued delivery and governance of the Panama TR4 Program (Program), which was established in 2015 to control and contain the disease.

The Queensland Government and the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (the ABGC) will jointly fund, govern and deliver the Program until 30 June 2023.

In 2019, the Queensland Government committed a further $12.089 million from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2023 to manage Panama TR4 in Queensland and the ABGC will begin co-funding the Program through grower levies, eventually contributing 50 per cent of funding for the Program in 2022/23.

Read more about the Panama TR4 Program Management Board.

Read the media statement by Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, The Honourable Mark Furner.

Options for farming on Panama TR4 affected land

17 April 2019

Alternative farming options are available for banana growers on Panama TR4 affected land.

Growing crops, other than bananas, or grazing livestock on a parcel of land that has been confirmed with Panama TR4 may be possible, and Biosecurity Queensland can help assess the situation to see what options are available.

A risk assessment will determine if the parcel of land could be contaminated with Panama TR4, and, based on the assessment, Biosecurity Queensland will tailor the biosecurity requirements for the farm and the situation.

Growers need to meet certain biosecurity requirements and Biosecurity Queensland will work with growers to meet them.

This is to ensure adequate measures are being taken to protect the farm and the wider industry.

Download these fact sheets for more information.