Containment the priority

Tracing and surveillance work is a priority for the current phase of the TR4 response with a focus on properties found to have links to the first infested property, TR4 Response Program Leader Rebecca Sapuppo said.

“The aim of the surveillance program is to detect new areas of TR4 infestation as early as possible so that more effective containment of the pathogen can be achieved and risk to the industry can be minimised.

“The surveillance program is currently conducted on properties once an established link to the infested property has been identified through our comprehensive tracing program.

“Links are identified through the movement of risk items such as plant material or machinery to and from the infested property.

“Our surveillance officers will visit the properties and work with the property owner to ensure strict biosecurity protocols are in place whilst carrying out surveillance activities on farms. They will follow up with any reasonable requests the property owner may have in regards to biosecurity and surveillance.

“Surveillance officers will walk every fourth row on the farm looking for symptomatic plants consistent with Panama disease. Any suspect plants will be flagged and samples will be sent to the lab for diagnostic testing. A more intensive surveillance program is in place on quarantined properties.”

More than 1,400 banana plant samples have been collected from across Far North Queensland and, as at March 2016, only one property was confirmed as infested.

“So far our program has covered more than 70 per cent of the commercially planted area between Kennedy and Lakeland,” Rebecca said.

The Program may extend its work to include a broader scope of properties.