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Ongoing project

Management of banana pests and diseases in North Queensland (BA17005)

Key research provider: Australian Banana Growers' Council

What’s it all about?

Contracted in 2018, this investment supports an Australian Banana Growers’ Council Plant Health Officer to assist North Queensland banana growers in containing and managing significant pests and diseases, and to help in the early detection of exotic pests and diseases. The role involves conducting surveillance, education, awareness and guidance activities with growers, and other biosecurity-related activities.

This project continues to increase awareness of the importance for effective containment of endemic pests and diseases in North Queensland banana farms.

Since the last reporting period, 100 per cent of commercial banana farms in North Queensland were visually surveyed by the Plant Health Officer for leaf spot. At the first farm visit, 83 per cent of farms were compliant with relevant requirements, with 100 per cent voluntarily compliant after a follow up visit. This is well above the 80 per cent compliance target.

Between June to December 2020, leaf specimens from the Innisfail and Cairns regions found that the most common disease was Yellow Sigatoka, followed by Cordona leaf spot, with no detection of Black Sigatoka or other endemic diseases. This concurs with diagnostics conducted between January to June 2020. Voucher specimens were not collected from the Lakeland and Far North regions due to COVID-19 restrictions but will be followed up in 2021.

For every farm visited, on-site biosecurity measures – such as fencing, signage, vehicle parking, footbaths, boot exchange, and vehicle decontamination – were recorded and assessed. This baseline data will be used to cross-reference changes in the adoption of on-farm biosecurity measures on an on-going basis.

The project continues to have very positive engagement with industry and key stakeholders, including new participants, transport companies, agronomists, chemical resellers and aerial sprayers. The Plant Health Officer visits all farms on a regular basis and is a trusted source of information for growers, the Australian Banana Growers’ Council and government.

The project’s Plant Health Officer (PHO) has been busy engaging with the banana industry, resulting in improved grower appreciation of the importance of effectively controlling endemic pests and diseases, and increased community awareness of biosecurity issues.

Some specific activities and results have included:

  • Approximately 81 per cent of inspected farms were compliant with relevant Bananas Queensland requirements at the first farm visit, with 100 per cent voluntarily compliant after a follow-up visit, which is well above the 80 per cent compliance target
  • All commercial farms in the region were visually surveyed for leaf spot, which is in line with the requirement to do this twice yearly
  • Adoption of biosecurity best management practices has been enhanced by discussion with individual growers, with additional support and advice provided by the PHO
  • Many growers now have biosecurity signage at their property entrances, with support of the project provided where needed
  • The risk of black sigatoka and other exotic diseases has been decreased by surveillance of all growers in the northern production area. Diagnostic results of 47 specimens collected indicated the continued absence of black sigatoka and that the most common leaf disease over this time was yellow sigatoka.

Related levy funds

This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Banana Fund