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March 3, 2024

Banana disease on the loose

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Banana growers beware: one of the world’s worst viral diseases to affect banana plants is being detected in the region, and Byron and Ballina shire residents are being asked to help stop its spread southwards.

National Bunchy Top Project manager Mr David Peasley says that there have been isolated findings of Bunchy Top in the Byron and Ballina shires’ border area on commercial plantations and on other properties in recent months.

‘The Bunchy Top virus has the potential to wipe out the Australian banana industry as well as stop people from having healthy home grown bananas, unless we are vigilant.’

It’s a statement supported by the NSW department of primary industries.

A spokesperson told The Echo that it is a ‘massive threat’, and has been a problem for some time. They added that a permit is required if you have more than one plant.

No cure

As there is no cure, Mr Peasley says it’s important to destroy the plants if they think they are diseased, ‘as they could unknowingly spread the disease further.’

Talofa resident Roz Borrell says she noticed some of her bananas were not forming bunches. ‘So I went onto the bunchy top website and saw the symptoms were similar. The inspectors confirmed that, so I am pleased that we have now stopped any potential spread of the disease further,’ Ms Borrell said.

Mr Peasley says aphids blown in the wind after feeding on infected plants carry the virus. It is also spread by transplanting infected suckers, so any infected plants pose the risk of spreading the disease further.

The virus stunts the growth of leaves and an infected plant will not produce a healthy bunch of bananas.

Bunchy Top will inspect and destroy any infected plants free of charge, according to Mr Peasley.

For more visit www.bunchytop.org.au for call the hotline 1800 068 371.

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