TR4: a small grower’s experiences

Peter and Vivien Grant were quick to put in gates and signage after news of TR4’s arrival in northern Queensland.
Peter and Vivien Grant were quick to put in gates and signage after news of TR4’s arrival in northern Queensland.

Tim Liebelt, ABGC Biosecurity Extension officer, spent time with northern Queensland banana growers Peter and Vivien Grant, finding out about their farm and their experiences responding to the threat of Panama TR4 disease. Here is their story.

Peter and Vivien Grant own and operate a 12 acre plantation at South Johnstone, growing niche banana varieties.

They had previous experience with Race 1 Panama disease in northern NSW and, about 10 years ago, Race 1 Panama disease was detected on their NQ property.

They have continued as a viable business using TR1 resistant varieties since then, while experimenting with various production systems.

One of their aims is to improve soil and plant health in order to increase general disease resistance on their property.

The Grants had observed the demise of the NT banana industry due to TR4, and were fully aware of the seriousness of the TR4 detection at Tully.

They recall their initial reaction after hearing about the detection on ABC radio was to be “a bit in denial” and were somewhat skeptical of the potential for the disease to become widespread.

However, prior experience with TR1 on their farm prompted them to quickly install a gate and signage at the main entry to their farm in order to restrict access.

They subsequently set up a spray unit near their entrance to decontaminate essential vehicles entering and exiting the property.

As their knowledge has expanded they have added to and improved their biosecurity system as it is tested, implementing low cost options proportional to their level of risk.

For example they have minimal people movement onto and off their farm and disinfect footwear at the front gate.

The Grants have visited other growers to see their biosecurity systems and learned a lot from them, as well as from other people in the industry.

Seeing what other growers have done has inspired and informed the couple, assisting to continue improving their own biosecurity system.

Specific technical information provided by DAF and BQ, such as that presented at the Wangan TR4 field day in October 2015 has also been useful to them.

Peter and Vivien are still ‘bedding down’ their biosecurity system and are continually improving it.

They are considering a record keeping system and are continuing to improve drainage to divert runoff away from clean zones.

They plan to install boundary fencing in the future as part of their strategy.

The Grants say they are becoming accustomed to the new way of running their operation.

They have experienced some disruption, mostly around the entry and exit of vehicle to the property, but are generally finding the process of making their farm more biosecure easier as time goes by and their knowledge increases.