Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

Give banana growers a hand to eliminate bunchy top

July 23, 2012

BananasBiosecurity Queensland is calling on all banana growers and the community to assist in efforts to eradicate banana bunchy top disease from Australia.

Bunchy top is the most devastating viral disease of bananas world-wide. The disease is characterised by the ‘bunched’ appearance of newly emerging leaves and dot-dash flecking of leaves and stem sheaths. Affected plants do not produce fruit, resulting in significant loss of production on commercial farms.

Banana bunchy top virus (BBTV, Babuvirus) is currently limited to northern NSW and south east Queensland. If it was to spread to the main growing regions in far north Queensland, it would be disastrous for Queensland´s banana industry, so prevention is imperative.

The virus was introduced with imported banana plants in early 1900s. The disease almost destroyed the banana industry in the 1920s before it was controlled and eradicated in north Queensland, and still remains a threat to the banana industry today.

The virus is spread in infected plant material, or by the banana aphid (Pentalonia nigronervosa). Aphids can retain the virus for several weeks and may cover large distances especially when blown by the wind. Plants can also be infected without showing symptoms.

Because there is no cure, control depends on prompt detection and destruction of infected plants. There are strict quarantine restrictions to prevent movement of contaminated planting material. Control also depends on the use of planting material free of the virus and intensive eradication schemes.

Key strategies for bunchy top control are:

  • regular inspection of crops and prompt removal of plants with symptoms
  • use of tissue-cultured, pest-free planting material.

Plants produced using tissue culture under the Quality Banana Approved Nursery (QBAN) scheme are tested for BBTV to provide industry with a source of quality virus-free plants.

If you see anything unusual, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881. Do not cut or disturb infected plants or move plant material off your property – this can spread the disease. Plants should be treated only by a trained inspector.

Growers are reminded that is it illegal to move a banana plant without an Inspector’s Approval. To access an Inspector’s Approval and arrange clean planting material, contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

For further information, including how to obtain a permit and common myths about the disease, visit the Australian Banana Growers’ Council website.

Plant Health Australia, the Australian Banana Growers’ Council and the Queensland Government have developed the Farm Biosecurity Manual for the Banana Industry to help reduce the risk of exotic and endemic pests becoming established in crops. The manual is designed to assist you in protecting your banana farm and your industry from invasive pests using simple, yet effective preventative strategies.

The manual includes pest fact sheets; tips on crop monitoring and limiting movement of people, vehicles and equipment near your plants; sources of planting and propagation material; farm hygiene; and the use of signs to indicate to visitors and workers the need for cleanliness while on your property. To encourage record keeping, a farm biosecurity checklist, visitor record sheet and pest monitoring record sheet are available from the manual.