Far North banana farms still under strict Panama disease surveillance

MORE than 100 banana farms in four different growing regions across the Far North are under strict surveillance as authorities try to keep Panama disease at bay.

They’re confident enough is being done to control Queensland’s first incursion of Panama disease Tropical Race 4 and have assured consumers their supply of Cavendish bananas will continue to remain unaffected.

About 150 farmers and industry partners yesterday gathered at the Wangan Community Hall near Innisfail for the Australian Banana Growers’ Council’s first TR4 Field Day.

They were briefed on research findings and the Panama response, hearing from experts such as Department of Agriculture and Fisheries banana production systems team leader, Stewart Lindsay.

“The most significant finding would probably be around the sanitising and disinfectant chemicals, and the fact we now have some really good data to support the practices we’ve been recommending all along,” he told The Cairns Post.

TR4-resistant and tolerant varieties were also on show but Mr Lindsay said these would only be rolled out across the industry if the disease became widespread.

“Banana consumers in Australia can be really confident that we’re going to have plenty of bananas available and they’re safe to eat,” Mr Lindsay said. “In no way are we talking about any shortages or undersupply.

“This is a situation that will progress slowly over years and possibly decades, if we do everything right.

“So, in that sense, Australian consumers should notice almost nothing different.

“It will just be for those growers who are affected, how they manage their particular operation.”

Mr Lindsay’s optimism was shared by Mena Creek second-generation grower Jason Hampson, who was eager to learn more about decontaminants and find out what he could do to improve his on-farm biosecurity.

“Knowledge is power,” he said.

“Overall, I’m pretty confident about the future.”

Bevan Robson’s Tully Valley plantation remains the only confirmed case of Panama disease in Queensland.

Biosecurity Queensland program leader Rebecca Sapuppo said all infected plants had been destroyed and surveillance was being carried out at the property every two weeks.

A further 105 farms at Tully, Innisfail, Lakeland and the Tableland are being monitored.

“They’ve been prioritised for surveillance because they have a link to (the infected property) through the movement of risk items,” she said.

“We haven’t actually had to use legislative powers of entry on any of those properties.

“I think that’s a really good indication the industry is behind our efforts to try to contain the disease.”