Banana freckle disease causes characteristic ‘sandpapery feeling’ spots on leaves and fruit. Plant health, productivity, and fruit quality and appearance can be adversely affected.
Banana freckle that can affect Cavendish bananas has been eradicated from Australia.
If you suspect banana freckle on your plants, report symptoms to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23
Banana freckle on Cavendish bananas is caused by the fungus, Phyllosticta cavendishii. This species is exotic to Australia.
There are other fungal organisms that can cause banana freckle overseas, for example Phyllosticta musarum. Phyllosticta musarum has also not been detected in Australia.
A different species of banana freckle that is found in Australia is caused by Phyllosticta maculata. It is not found in commercially grown bananas.
Cavendish competent banana freckle, Cavendish banana freckle.
Plant stage and plant parts affected
Banana freckle can affect a banana plant at all stages of the production cycle. It mainly affects leaves and fruit.
|Can be confused with|
A closely related species, Phyllosticta maculata, causes similar symptoms on bananas, and is present in Australia. In Queensland, it can be found on islands in the Torres Strait, on Cape York Peninsula and far north Queensland. Banana freckle caused by P. maculata is very uncommon in Queensland.
If you suspect banana freckle on any banana variety, don’t hesitate to report it. Diagnostic testing is required tell them apart.
The freckle spots contain fungal fruiting bodies (perithecia and pycnidia). When it rains or following heavy dew, fungal spores such as ascospores and conidia are released. Conidia in particular play an important part in the infection cycle. They can be spread by raindrops or water splash onto or across leaves and fruit. The spores germinate, penetrating the host and multiply within and between cells, creating new spots in the superficial layers of the host plant tissue.
The incubation period can be as little as 20 days in hot humid weather.
Banana freckle is only known to cause disease in banana plants (Musa spp.) including sweet and cooking varieties.
Banana freckle that can affect Cavendish bananas has been successfully eradicated from mainland Australia.
Banana freckle is known to occur in parts of Asia including Bangladesh, Burma, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The disease is also present in Fiji, Hawaii, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Island and Tonga.
How it is spread
Banana freckle is a 'wet spore' organism. It generally moves short distances by water droplet splash and wind driven rain. The fungus is spread over larger distances by people moving infected fruit, leaves and suckers used for planting.
Bananas are a significant crop in Australia with over 94% grown in Queensland. In 2016-17 the Australian banana industry was worth $600 million at the farm gate, producing 396 000 tonnes of bananas from 13,000 ha under cultivation. There are 690 banana farms greater than 0.5ha in area, and in 2009/10 the Australian banana industry employed 9,600 full time equivalent personnel, directly and indirectly.
Banana freckle is a serious threat to the banana industry. The disease decreases plant health and productivity by reducing the amount of healthy leaf area, and affects fruit quality and appearance. Blemished fruit may not be marketable. Production costs may increase as a result of the additional costs of fungicide sprays and removal of infected leaves. Some of these increased costs might be passed onto consumers.
Home gardeners would also be affected as banana is a common backyard plant in Queensland.
Eating quality is not affected and there is no risk to human health from eating banana freckle infected bananas.
Banana plants propagated from tissue culture under the Quality Banana Approved Nursery (QBAN) scheme are recommended as the preferred high health source of planting material to use.
Protect your farm from plant pests and diseases:
Monitoring and action
Inspect your banana plants regularly for the presence of exotic pests and diseases.
Look for small spots 1-4mm in diameter that have a sandpapery feel when you touch them. The spots may join together to form streaks.
If you suspect banana freckle on any banana variety, report it to Biosecurity Queensland immediately on 13 25 23.
Further information about banana crop monitoring can be found in the Farm Biosecurity Manual for the Banana Industry.
Banana freckle (other than Phyllosticta maculata) is prohibited matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
Report suspected banana freckle to Biosecurity Queensland immediately on 13 25 23 or contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.
If you think you have found the disease, you must take all reasonable and practical steps under your control to minimise any associated risks. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
To protect the Queensland banana industry from exotic pest threats, restrictions apply to the movement of plant material or related items such as soil and equipment into and within Queensland. A biosecurity certificate is required .
Read more about restrictions on moving plant material, soil and related equipment in Queensland.
|How to get a biosecurity certificate|