Sydney NSW, Australia
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Australian banana industry moving towards long-term management for TR4


The Australian banana industry is moving towards a long term strategy for Panama TR4 disease, with an independent consulting firm being brought in to develop a control and containment management plan.

As the disease is not eradicable, ACIL Allen has been engaged by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) to provide recommendations on a fair and realistic model for managing Panama TR4 going forward.

"The consultants are undertaking a cost-benefit analysis on the control and containment of Panama TR4 in Queensland," DAF Panama TR4 Program leader, Rhiannon Evans said. "This will include which elements, if any, of the current program could be reduced or ceased, and how any ongoing activities should be delivered and funded."

There remain three commercial banana farms in the Tully Valley confirmed with Panama TR4. One farm was purchased by the ABGC and closed down, while two are still in operation. Biosecurity Queensland continues to work with the businesses to ensure the risk of disease spread to the wider industry is mitigated, while supporting the business owners to trade and meet their ongoing biosecurity responsibilities.

"Although there’s much about the disease that remains unknown, the fact that after almost three years we still only have three confirmed infested properties in close proximity to each other shows that our rapid response, growers’ uptake of biosecurity measures and partnership approach with industry is succeeding in minimising spread," Ms Evans said. "Research continues in the search for a commercially viable banana plant with high yield and good eating quality that is also more resistant to Panama disease and other pests and diseases."

ACIL Allen are working with DAF and the peak industry body, the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC), a range of growers and other industry stakeholders to gather information for its analysis. Ms Evans says the final draft of the report from ACIL Allen is due next month.

"There are many uncertainties about how the disease could possibly spread over time," she said. "It is not eradicable which means it’s here to stay to some degree. That is why we’ve engaged ACIL Allen to map out a plan that is scalable, reflective of, and adaptive to stakeholder requirements, in the face of the possibility of future detections of an unknown quantity and rapidity. Panama disease is a challenging disease to manage. It is not eradicable by any biological or chemical control. The disease can lie dormant in the soil for decades without host plants and there is currently no way to test for it in soil or water."

DAF say control and containment remain the best line of defence, and this involves early detection of the disease through regular surveillance, which is the most effective way to protect banana farms and extend farm viability.

"If Panama TR4 is detected on a grower’s farm, there are biosecurity requirements they will need to meet to continue trading and protect the wider industry," Ms Evans said. "We’re helping growers to understand their biosecurity requirements to minimise farm downtime if Panama TR4 is detected on their property. We want a flexible and resilient industry that can respond to the uncertainties of Panama TR4 into the future."

For more information:
Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Phone: +61 7 3404 6999
Publication date: 5/30/2018
Author: Matthew Russell


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