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

Panama disease confirmed on another property in the region
Follow-up tests on a sample taken from a banana plant on a commercial banana farm in the Tully Valley has returned positive for Panama disease tropical race 4.

Although the result came in much earlier than expected, the vegetative compatibility group test was final and conclusive.

The property owners are working with Biosecurity Queensland to control and contain any disease to mitigate the risk of further spread. The property owners are exceptionally proactive and already have strict on-farm biosecurity measures in place on their property.

Biosecurity Queensland staff will continue to monitor on-farm activity and assist the property owners to contain the incursion.

Tracing investigations are underway to try and determine the source of the infestation and surveillance is occurring on other properties that are linked to the affected property by ownership and shared machinery.

Surveillance on the affected property will be undertaken fortnightly to ensure any spread of the disease is detected early and controlled. Prompt reporting of plants with suspected symptoms of Panama disease is a legal requirement, and critical to successful containment of the disease. Early detection and destruction of infected plants helps to slow any spread.

Growers are urged to maintain their on-farm biosecurity to protect their properties from Panama disease tropical race 4.

As the disease is spread through soil, mud and infected plant material, it is essential that people, vehicles and machinery and equipment are appropriately decontaminated on property entry and exit.

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.

If you suspect Panama disease in your plants, report it immediately to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23. .

Managing the initial affected farm

The only other 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 provided almost $400,000 to the ABGC to assist with the closure of the affected farm. The funding was invested to strengthen the perimeter fence, destroy the remaining banana plants on the affected property and to establish a ground cover to prevent run-off.

Biosecurity Queensland confirmed detections of Panama disease tropical race 4 on nine (9) separate areas of the affected property prior to 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.. ABGC field officers completed destruction to remove all the remaining banana plants on the 350 acre property.

Biosecurity Queensland are 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.

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 as yet undetected.

Since March 2015, 1,617 suspect plant samples for Panama disease tropical race 4 have been processed by the Biosecurity Queensland laboratory.

Biosecurity Queensland's 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.

The Biosecurity Act 2014 (the Act) came into effect on 1 July 2016. Under the Act, the Biosecurity Regulation 2016 sets out a number of requirements in relation to Panama disease tropical race 4 and other biosecurity matter, including the establishment of biosecurity zones and movement restrictions for the banana industry in Queensland. A person may be in breach of their general biosecurity obligation if they fail to comply with the requirements set out in the Regulation.

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.

You can also refer to section 12 of the Queensland Biosecurity Manual for the requirements that apply to a property that has been issued with a Notice of Presence of Panama disease tropical race 4.

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. This feedback is valuable as part of DAF's commitment to continuous improvement and the Department is 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.

A new fact sheet for growers is now available. The fact-sheet explains what banana growers need to know and do, once a sample has been collected from their property to be tested for Panama disease tropical race 4.

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 31 August 2017