National banana bunchy top virus management - phase 1 continuation (BA11024)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
The Australian banana industry embarked on an ambitious program to rid Australia of the worst virus disease of bananas worldwide – Bunchy Top.
As the industry approached the century of its costly fight against the disease which was introduced from Fiji in 1913 in infected planting material, a new science-based strategy, new surveillance and data recording technology and extra financial resources were giving the program every chance of success.
Bunchy Top had the potential at the time to devastate the major production area in far north Queensland within ten years if it spread from its present infection zone in southeast Queensland and the far north coast of New South Wales where it had been confined for almost a century. Only by strict controls over the movement of planting material and eradication of minor outbreaks as far north as Innisfail, had the disease been kept under control.
To appreciate the value of preventing the spread of Bunchy Top to the major production area where over 90 per cent of Australia’s bananas were produced, a cost benefit analysis was conducted in 2012 by University of Western Australia Senior Economist Dr David Cook. His published paper “Predicting the Benefits of Banana Bunchy Top Virus Exclusion from Commercial Plantations in Australia” (2012), predicted the exclusion benefits of the disease would avoid $15.9 -27.0 million in annual losses for the banana industry.
The first three year phase of the ten year program ended in July 2012 with some impressive gains in reducing the number of infections in commercial plantations particularly in New South Wales. There had been a reduction of 31 per cent in the number of infected plantations in the high risk categories since reliable benchmark infection data was established in April 2010. The number of “clean” or Bunchy Top free plantations increased to 459 hectares or 57.8 per cent of the Bunchy Top zone.
The gains were a direct result of more frequent inspections targeting ‘high risk’ plantations every 4 weeks while maintaining regular inspections on every plantation within the infection zone.
State borders were no longer a barrier to the project team as the six specialist inspectors employed by the project were authorised to operate in both New South Wales and Queensland as the need arose.
Cooperation from the general public, particularly in the heavily populated areas of southeast Queensland was vital if the project was to achieve its goals. A detailed communication strategy was developed for Phase 2 and 3 targeting the enormous task of finding and destroying infected plants in non commercial plants predominantly in southeast Queensland.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the voluntary financial support of the banana industry.
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