Panama disease tropical race 4 confirmed on fourth commercial banana farm

News release | 28-Feb-2020

Key points:

  • Previously suspected fourth case of Panama TR4 on Tully Valley farm confirmed by final conclusive test
  • Biosecurity Queensland officers support affected grower to resume operations within days of notice (after initial test)
  • Fourth detection reinforces the need for growers to implement and maintain robust on-farm biosecurity measures to protect their farms and the wider banana industry.

Story:

Biosecurity Queensland has confirmed a fourth detection of Panama disease tropical race 4 (Panama TR4) on a commercial banana farm in the Tully Valley.

Biosecurity Queensland Chief Biosecurity Officer Malcolm Letts said a final vegetative compatibility group (VCG) 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’,” he 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.”

Mr Letts assured growers that 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”.

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 enquiries and surveillance on the property and other linked land to determine the risk of disease spread.

Australian Banana Growers’ Council Chair Stephen Lowe also 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,” he 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.

Panama TR4 is not harmful to humans and does not affect the fruit.

To find out more about Panama TR4 visit www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au Follow Biosecurity Queensland on Facebook and Twitter (@BiosecurityQld)

Background 

  • Panama disease tropical race 4 (PanamaTR4, the disease) is a soil-borne fungal disease that is present in Far North Queensland and the Northern Territory.
  • The disease was first detected in Queensland on a commercial banana farm in the Tully Valley in March 2015. It was detected on a second property in July 2017 and a third property in February 2018.
  • In late January 2020, a suspected new detection was identified by Biosecurity Queensland surveillance officers during routine Panama TR4 surveillance activities on the property.
  • Samples were taken and sent to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Plant Biosecurity Laboratory in Brisbane for a range of diagnostic tests including DNA-based tests.
  • On 4 February 2020, the initial molecular test known as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) confirmed the presence of Panama TR4 in one sample.
  • The laboratory progressed the sample through a more detailed vegetative compatibility group (VGC) test and received a conclusive positive result for Panama TR4 on 25 February 2020.
  • Since the first detection of Panama TR4 disease in Queensland in 2015, banana growers, the Australian Banana Growers’ Council and government have worked together to successfully manage the spread of the disease. However, it remains the biggest biosecurity threat to Australia’s $580 million banana industry.
  • To date, the Queensland Government has invested more than $42 million to manage the disease Far North Queensland.
  • The Queensland Government and the Australian Banana Growers’ Council are developing a collaborative agreement to jointly fund and deliver the Panama TR4 Program until 2023.
  • 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. People and machinery movement are the biggest threat of 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.

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