Panama disease

Biosecurity Queensland has confirmed that Panama disease tropical race 4 is present in north Queensland.

If you believe you have plants infected with Panama disease tropical race 4, call Biosecurity Queensland immediately on 13 25 23.

To receive regular updates, subscribe to Biosecurity Queensland's Panama disease tropical race 4 Situation Update, by selecting "Biosecurity news" within the eNewsletter section and "Bananas" under Biosecurity Queensland Alerts.

Current situation

Panama disease tropical race 4 was initially detected on Cavendish banana plants on a farm in the Tully Valley, North Queensland, on 3 March 2015.

Managing the affected farm

The only known Panama disease tropical race 4 affected property in Queensland was purchased under an industry levy with additional Commonwealth funding by the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC). The sale of the property was settled in October 2016. The ABGC took ownership of  the affected property and immediately ceased all farming operations.

The Queensland Government has provided almost $400,000 to the ABGC to assist with the closure of the affected farm. This latest funding is being invested to strengthen the current perimeter fence, destroy the remaining banana plants on the affected property and establish a ground cover to  prevent run-off.

Biosecurity Queensland confirmed detections of Panama disease tropical race 4 on 9 separate areas of the affected property before its closure. All plants that returned positive test results for the disease, as well as a buffer of plants around the infected plants, were destroyed using a technically  appropriate strategy. ABGC field officers completed destruction to remove all the remaining banana plants on the 350 acre property.

Although Biosecurity Queensland has ceased surveillance on the affected property, we are still heavily involved with the ongoing management of the property in line with the requirements of the Queensland Biosecurity Manual.

Further surveillance and containment

Biosecurity Queensland are now visiting all commercial banana farms in the region to further safeguard the industry against Panama disease tropical race 4. Previously, surveillance teams only visited farms with traced links to the affected property. The disease has not been detected on any other property.

Growers should not become complacent with the recent closure of the affected farm. Panama disease tropical race 4 is still viable after 40 years in the soil without a host plant, so there is a possibility the disease is lying dormant and as yet undetected.

Since March 2015, over 1,528 suspect plant samples for Panama disease tropical race 4 have been processed by the Biosecurity Queensland laboratory.

Our overall program of surveillance and containment in partnership with industry is continuing. Growers should continue to focus on strengthening their on-farm biosecurity practices to protect their businesses.

New legislation

The Biosecurity Act 2014 came into effect from 1 July 2016. Under the new legislation, restrictions continue to apply to infested properties and properties suspected of having Panama disease tropical race 4.

In Queensland, under the Act, Panama disease tropical race 4 is category 1 restricted matter. This means that, by law, plants showing signs of disease must be reported to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Independent tests and reports

On 10 February 2016, the Queensland Government released an independent report undertaken by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (PDF, 2.6MB) into testing procedures for Panama disease tropical race 4 after test results from a Mareeba banana farm in 2015 were found to be a ‘false positive’. The Deloitte review assessed the adequacy of testing processes from end to end including sampling and diagnostic assessment processes, associated reporting and response activities.

The review determined one of the key diagnostic tests was unreliable and confirmed that no human error occurred, all policies and procedures in relation to Panama disease testing were followed by staff and all reasonable steps were taken to verify this test result.

While the review has found all procedures were followed, the report made a number of recommendations to further enhance laboratory practices and quality assurance, which included changes to organisational structure, management information systems and documentation. We are considering what measures can  be implemented.

Queensland's current Panama disease testing procedures have been confirmed as being accurate and reliable with two independent laboratories verifying the Panama TR4 Program's results and findings. The Royal Botanic Gardens laboratory in Sydney and Stellenbosch University in South Africa, have conducted  their own tests of suspect samples taken from the known infested banana farm near Tully and arrived at the same uniformly positive results. Both laboratories are internationally recognised for their research into Fusarium; the group of fungi which can cause Panama disease.

Access previous updates about the Panama TR4 Program.

What is Panama disease tropical race 4?

In this section you will find information about Panama disease tropical race 4 including how to identify disease symptoms.

Research into Panama disease tropical race 4

Access updates on research and development activities being undertaken as part of the Panama TR4 Program.

Information for banana growers

Find information and resources for banana growers, both English speaking and those from a non-English speaking background, including the Panama disease tropical race 4 Grower Kit, educational videos, workshops and farm gate signage.

Information for banana farm workers

Find information for workers both English speaking and those from a non-English speaking background, including information about Panama disease tropical race 4, decontamination instructions and other resources.

Last updated 11 May 2017