Australia: ABGC welcomes more Queensland State funding to fight deadly banana disease

December 21 , 2017

The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) has welcomed a State Government funding pledge that will allow north Queensland banana growers to continue the fight against Panama tropical race 4 (TR4).

In a release, ABGC Chair Stephen Lowe said the commitment of AUD$2.4 million towards the on-going Panama TR4 Program for the remainder of the year was good news for the industry, which had sought additional funding for the program, following the second confirmed detection of the disease in Tully earlier this year.

“The continuation of the Panama TR4 program, led by Biosecurity Queensland, and the current TR4 regulations are critical to the industry’s on-going fight to contain the spread of this severe disease,” Lowe said.

“With two farms in the Tully Valley confirmed as having TR4 since March 2015, at this stage any relaxation in our combined biosecurity efforts would put the nation’s entire banana industry at serious risk.”

Lowe also thanked the government for recognizing the significant problem that the banana industry currently faced with feral pig numbers, particularly when it came to the containment of TR4.

He said the industry welcomed the Agriculture Minister Mark Furner’s commitment for more than AUD$900,000 over three years to manage feral pigs so as to help contain the spread of TR4.

“In July this year, ABGC requested State Government support for a comprehensive feral pig program in Panama areas, following the second confirmed detection of TR4," he said.

"We are grateful that these serious concerns have been heard and the government has responded.”

Feral pigs are recognized as a serious vector of the soil-borne disease, as they habitually frequent banana farms to feed.

In the past five months, growers in the Tully Valley with the assistance of the ABGC, have spent tens of thousands of dollars on a dedicated feral pig control program, including widespread aerial shooting.

"Growers should be commended for their efforts and we thank them for the time and dollars they have spent trying to bring the increasing pig infestations under control," Lowe said.

It is hoped that the additional funds will allow for a local feral pig co-ordinator to organise clusters of farmers in the Tully Valley to collectively bait, trap and aerial shoot feral pigs in Panama areas.

“With this new funding it is hoped the Cassowary Coast Regional Council and other industries will be able to deliver a comprehensive and sustained control program, in our unrelenting effort to protect industry against TR4.”

In an announcement, Biosecurity Queensland emphasized two detections in three years was an "amazing outcome", giving growers reason to feel confident in current procedures as they keep vigilance to fight the disease.

"Although the second detection was unfortunate, it was not unexpected. Panama TR4 is an extremely difficult disease to manage. Incredibly hardy chlamydospores can persist in the soil for decades without host plants," Biosecurity Queensland said.

"The disease is easily spread in infected soil, plant material and water and symptoms are similar to many other diseases - this makes it important for growers to know what to look for on the farm."

Photo: Biosecurity Queensland

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