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National effort to protect bananas

BANANA DISEASE: An example of Banana Bunchy Top.
BANANA DISEASE: An example of Banana Bunchy Top.

A NATIONAL effort to protect backyard and commercial banana crops is now targeting outbreaks of a devastating banana plant disease in the Northern Rivers.

Plant inspectors will soon be searching for banana plants infected with the disease Banana Bunchy Top Virus as part of their efforts to safeguard local bananas.

BBTV is one of the most significant viruses affecting worldwide banana production and its successful control is threatened by outbreaks of the disease on hobby farms and in backyards in villages in the Northern Rivers.

Several cases have been reported around Dorroughby and Goonengerry and it is feared that it may be found in other villages or farms nearby.

The National Bunchy Top Project is funded by the Australian banana industry's levy and the Federal Government to fight the disease and eradicate it from commercial plantations, as well as buffer zones around them.

Currently it is confined to northern New South Wales and South East Queensland, up to Cooroy, but in New South Wales it is largely under control on commercial plantations.

Bunchy Top slows the growth and stops the plants from producing bunches. It gets its name from the bunched effect of new leaf growth.

Manager of the National Bunchy Top Project David Peasley said banana aphids mostly spread the disease but it could also be carried by infected suckers being transplanted.

Infected plants do not recover and need to be eradicated to stop the spread of the virus to other plants in surrounding

backyards, hobby farms and plantations.

"We have had outbreaks of the disease in some plantations in the Northern Rivers where the winds must have carried aphids at least 10 kilometres, so it is important that we control any outbreaks," he said.

"We are calling for local residents to help us find plants in backyards, hobby farms, bushland or other areas that could be infected."

Infected plants can be difficult to identify but an indicator is if a plant is failing to produce bunches.

"One of our inspectors will be happy to conduct a free inspection in hobby farms or backyards if people suspect their banana plants are infected," Mr Peasley said.

"They can contact us by telephoning the Bunchy Top Hotline on 1800 068 371.

"We would advise that people don't try and tackle the problem themselves as they will increase the risk of spreading any infected aphids."

For further information on Bunchy Top disease visit abgc.org.au

Topics:  bananas horticulture