The second phase of the National Bunchy Top Project will end in June but work on the challenge to eradicate the disease from commercial plantations will continue in a planned third phase.
While extensive progress has been made in the eradication effort, Bunchy Top has not yet be completely removed from plantations in South East Queensland and northern New South Wales.
Freeing plantations from the disease and protecting them from infestations originating in backyard and feral bananas plants have been the main objectives of the project.
Project Manager David Peasley said there had been substantial increases in the numbers of banana plantations free of the disease.
“Since our benchmarks were established in 2010, we have made major progress in both New South Wales and South East Queensland in controlling Bunchy Top in our commercial plantations,” Mr Peasley said.
“We have monitored a large number of plantations – 230 in New South Wales and 44 in South East Queensland – and our results show the benefits of our work to categorise the plantations and make planned inspections.”
The project’s Phase 2 review was conducted by consultant Fiona Macbeth of Blackwood and Kemp Pty Ltd an commissioned by Horticulture Australia Ltd. Ms Macbeth said: “It is not likely that total eradication can be achieved with the current resource and regulatory restraints and within the current project ending in June 2015. However, there is a compelling economic argument to continue to contain and reduce the pest population.” Of growing importance have been communication activities to get the message out to the wider community, particularly in South East Queensland.
“Getting the message out to backyarders remains a critical part of the project, particularly with the likely change of regulations in Queensland where general biosecurity obligations will rest with the community and not government,” Mr Peasley said.
“And critical to our success has been the commitment of our dedicated team across both states and I would like to thank them all for their efforts and the growers for their support,” said Mr Peasley.