Brisbane biosecurity officials battle banana disease threat

Friday, 07 June, 2019

Brisbane biosecurity officials battle banana disease threat

People are being encouraged to familiarise themselves with what items are allowed in Australia, after a passenger at Brisbane Airport almost brought live plants that were potentially carrying a devastating banana disease into the country.

Head of Biosecurity Lyn O’Connell said the intercepted plants showed symptoms of Fusarium wilt, also known as Panama disease.

Panama disease infects the roots of banana plants and then chokes the plant’s water supply, eventually killing it. The fungus survives in the soil for decades and prevents the growth of new banana plants. The most damaging strain is Tropical Race 4 because it is incurable and can attack nearly all known banana varieties.

“A passenger arrived at Brisbane Airport with empty water bottles containing two banana corms that showed fungal growth and had roots and soil attached.

“The passenger did the right thing and declared the plants on their incoming passenger card, but they never should have brought them here in the first place.

“The plants were sent to our pathology team who identified a fungal disease known as Fusarium, but they also identified the potential for Panama disease,” O’Connell said.

In this case, the plants were destroyed, but O’Connell said the disease has the potential to seriously damage Australia’s banana industry if it spreads beyond its current restricted distribution.

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