Check on cane risks before harvest

The North Queensland cane industry has taken immediate action to minimise any risks posed to banana farms from cane operations following the detection of the soil-borne banana plant disease Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4) on a Tully Valley banana farm.
Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) community meetings in North Queensland have discussed how to reduce the risks of TR4 being spread through the inadvertent movement of soil and planting material carried on vehicles, equipment and workers.

ABGC directors have also met with Tully Sugar and sugar industry representatives to discuss the TR4 issue.

The banana and cane groups have talked on managing risks where farms grow both bananas and cane, share farm access points or have harvested cane transported through or near banana farms.

Canegrowers Tully manager Peter Lucy said the industry body had advised all members to observe banana farms’ on-farm biosecurity measures and the “Come Clean, Leave Clean” protocols for cleaning down vehicles, equipment and footwear before entering and leaving banana farms.

“We’ve also had a number of meetings and are identifying areas where we may need to make changes,” Mr Lucy said.

“We’re also identifying upcoming issues, particularly ones that will arise once we start the cane harvest. Right at the moment we’ve made all our members aware of the need to observe all the landholder protocols where possible.”

Tully Sugar CEO Alick Osborne also addressed one of the ABGC information meetings in March, saying the banana and cane industries had a “huge overlap” with cane keen to assist the banana industry to contain TR4.

He identified issues being considered as the movement of workers, trucks, trains and equipment on or near banana farms and the distribution of “mill mud” and ash used as a soil amendment.

ABGC Chairman Doug Phillips has thanked the cane industry for their participation in initiatives to contain TR4.

“We greatly appreciate the efforts of the cane industry and everyone in our banana-growing communities,” Mr Phillips said. “The great response that’s been generated at community meetings shows there’s enormous support for the banana industry and that TR4 is not just a banana issue, it’s a community issue.”