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Panama disease suspected on a third property in Far North Queensland

News release | 24-Jan-2018

A suspected case of Panama disease tropical race 4 has been identified on a third commercial banana farm in Far North Queensland.

A sample taken from a banana plant last week on a property in the Tully Valley that displayed symptoms of the disease has returned a positive result from an initial molecular (PCR) test.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries general manager and chief plant protection officer, Mike Ashton said further testing was required before a final conclusive positive result could be determined.

“The sample now needs to undergo further diagnostic testing for a final and conclusive result which can take up to six weeks to complete,” Mr Ashton said.

“If the diagnostic tests return a positive result, this will be the third banana farm in the Tully Valley to be infested with the disease.”

Mr Ashton said the property with the suspect detection was in close proximity to the two confirmed infested properties.

“Biosecurity Queensland is will commence high intensity surveillance on the suspect property to determine the possible extent of the disease, and conducting tracing and on-farm investigations to determine potential risk pathways,” he said.

“We are in contact with the business owner and our main focus is to minimise any production downtime for their property while working with the Australian Banana Growers’ Council to mitigate the risk to the rest of the industry.

“We are urging growers to continue to implement on-farm biosecurity strategies that not only protect their farm at the boundary, but strategies that will minimise farm downtime if the disease is detected on their property.”

Mr Ashton said the latest suspect detection emphasised the challenge of managing and containing the disease.

“Panama disease can survive in the soil for decades without banana plants and is easily transported in contaminated soil, water and on tools, farming machinery and vehicles,” he said.

“Plants may not show symptoms from several weeks to several months, so the disease may be spread to other areas of the farm before it is eventually detected.

“Report suspect looking plants as soon as possible. Early detection and destruction of infected plants helps to slow disease spread and may extend the viability of your farm.”

If you suspect Panama disease in your plants, report it immediately to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23. To find out more about Panama disease tropical race 4 visit biosecurity.qld.gov.au.

The disease was initially detected in Queensland on Cavendish banana plants on a farm in the Tully Valley, on 3 March 2015. The disease was detected on a second property in the Tully Valley on 26 July 2017.

Panama disease tropical race 4 is not harmful to humans and does not affect the fruit. The fungus only affects the health of the plant and its ability to produce fruit. Bananas are still good to eat.

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