Banana farmers to meet over disease threat

Brisbane [AAP]

Bananas being harvested in Queensland. Photo courtesy

Bananas being harvested in Queensland. Photo courtesy

Efforts to contain a potentially devastating disease threatening Queensland’s banana industry remain focused on a prime growing area in the state’s far north.

Fresh test results from a farm near Tully, south of Cairns, have confirmed it’s an outbreak of Panama TR4 disease, which wiped out the Northern Territory’s banana industry in the 1990s.

Testing and surveillance efforts will be stepped up this week, after wet weather last week frustrated the efforts of Biosecurity Queensland officers leading the response.

Growers are due to meet in Mareeba on Monday for an update on the threat posed by the fungal disease, which lives in soil and kills banana plants.

‘Probably at this point the focus remains on the Tully valley area,’ chief biosecurity officer Jim Thompson has told the ABC.

‘But if we find connections with properties that are outside that area, certainly we’ll be visiting those and conducting investigations.’

Dr Thompson says banana farmers must check their crops for signs of disease, particularly yellowing leaves, and report any suspected cases immediately.

At least three other farmers have already reported suspect crops in the region.

Last week the local mayor Bill Shannon declined a request from residents to shut down roads to try to stop the disease from spreading through vehicle movements.

He has warned the disease could have widespread consequences for the local economy if it takes hold.

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