Panama disease tropical race 4 confirmed on Far North Queensland banana property

News release | 11-Sep-2020

Biosecurity Queensland (BQ) has confirmed Panama disease tropical race 4 (Panama TR4) is present on a fifth commercial banana farm in the Tully Valley.

Key points:

  • Final diagnosis confirms Panama disease tropical race 4 (Panama TR4) is present on a fifth commercial banana farm in the Tully Valley.
  • The disease was first detected in Queensland in 2015.
  • The affected property is close to four other commercial banana farms previously confirmed to have Panama TR4.
  • Banana growers need to implement and maintain strong on-farm biosecurity to protect their farms and the banana industry.

Biosecurity Queensland (BQ) has confirmed Panama disease tropical race 4 (Panama TR4) is present on a fifth commercial banana farm in the Tully Valley.

Panama TR4 Program Leader Rhiannon Evans said the property had been declared a suspect new case last month following preliminary tests, and a final test had now given a conclusive diagnosis of Panama TR4.

“The final test has come back positive, confirming the result of the preliminary test in August,” Ms Evans said.

“We use a complex series of laboratory tests to ensure an accurate and reliable diagnostic result.

“We know banana growers have worked hard to implement and maintain biosecurity measures across the region, but we should not be discouraged by this new detection.

“Biosecurity Queensland found this case early, through regular surveillance. Early detection is vital. Through destruction of infected plants, the build-up of fungal spores in soil can be minimised, limiting the spread of the disease.

“The grower is working closely with the Panama TR4 Program team to ensure a set of biosecurity requirements are met, to minimise the risk of spread from the property.

“Biosecurity Queensland is working co-operatively with the grower to make sure the biosecurity measures are in place to limit disease spread and protect the banana industry.”

Stephen Lowe, Chair of the Australian Banana Growers' Council, said that while news of the disease spreading was not surprising, it was still a blow for industry and the business concerned.

"Our thoughts are, of course, with the grower affected. This is a challenging time for them and we will assist in any way we can,” he said.

“This grower already had excellent biosecurity measures in place, which always helps greatly when thrown into the position of having to comply with a notice of Panama TR4.

"But as any grower knows, there's rarely a chance to process news like this. You get on with the job - and that's no easy feat when you get a notice of a positive Panama TR4 detection.

“This fifth detection should underscore the need for all growers to have strong biosecurity measures in place on their farm.”

Ms Evans said the disease had spread gradually and was still contained within the Tully Valley.

“We’re increasing surveillance in the Tully Valley, and expanding it to all banana growing areas across Far North Queensland,” she said.

“Strong on-farm biosecurity and regular surveillance are vital to limiting the spread of Panama TR4.

“The Panama TR4 Program will continue to work closely with growers and the industry to deliver a cost-effective surveillance program that provides an early and effective response to disease presence.”

If anyone suspects Panama TR4, report it immediately to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23. To find out more about Panama TR4, visit biosecurity.qld.gov.au .

Support is available from Agri-Science Queensland, the Australian Banana Growers’ Council and the Panama TR4 Program. The Program produces a Panama TR4 information kit for growers which can be found at biosecurity.qld.gov.au

Panama TR4 only affects the banana plant, not the fruit, and is not harmful to humans.

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Background

  • Panama disease tropical race 4 (PanamaTR4, the disease) is a soil-borne fungal disease present in Far North Queensland and the Northern Territory.
  • It was first detected in Queensland in March 2015 on a commercial banana farm in the Tully Valley. Further detections were made in July 2017, February 2018, and in February this year. The affected properties are all in close proximity to each other.
  • Since the first detection, banana growers, the Australian Banana Growers’ Council and the Panama TR4 Program have worked together to successfully manage the spread of the disease.
  • The new Panama TR4 Program Management Board met for the first time in April 2020, beginning a unique government-industry agreement to protect the future of the banana industry.
  • The Queensland Government and the Australian Banana Growers’ Council have signed agreements to jointly fund, govern and deliver the Program until 2023.
  • To date, the Queensland Government has invested more than $42 million to manage the disease in Far North Queensland.
  • Eradication of Panama TR4 is not feasible. The disease is easily spread by the movement of infected banana plants and planting material, and contaminated soil and water. Anything that moves soil and water can move the disease - people, vehicles, machinery, equipment and animals. Natural processes such as heavy rainfall and floods can move the fungus as well. Movement of people and machinery is the biggest threat to disease spread.
  • There is no practical way to test for presence of the disease in soil and water. The most effective way for detecting Panama TR4 is to identify visual symptoms in the banana plant. 

ENDS

Media contact: DAF Media, media@daf.qld.gov.au