Freckle eradication to next phase

Eradication of the Banana Freckle disease in the Northern Territory is right on track, according to outgoing State Co-ordinator Kevin Cooper. Here, he brings us up to date with the latest developments, building up to the program’s end in 2017

The program is on track to eradicate banana freckle from the Top End and the Northern Territory by May 2017.

In May this year, we transitioned from the Phase Two host-free period to the Phase Three sentinel planting.

Efforts in Phase Two continued to focus on building and maintaining community support for the program. Inspectors spent much of Phase Two looking for and treating regrowth, while being on the lookout for any illegal plant movements. The level of compliance with movement controls continues to be good.

The planning for the Phase Three sentinel planting, involving the man-aged reintroduction of host plants into the six eradication zones (Red Zones), began in January 2015. Now we have detailed plans for their reintroduction.

From May this year plants sourced from Queensland and propagated out of Katherine Research Station started to move into the red zones. The first plants went to Indigenous communi-ties in the Ramingining, Tiwi and Daly Nauiyu red zones. These communities actively supported the Program and were the first to have all their banana plants destroyed.

In late May the first plants went into the Darwin red zone (close to 5000 square kilometres – twice the size of the ACT) and were distributed to a small number of addresses including schools and community gardens.

In September this year, the second shipment of sentinel plants will be distributed to the rural areas outside Darwin, including the Dundee and Rum Jungle Batchelor red zones.

The final shipment in late November will go to the northern suburbs of Darwin. By that time, more than 3000 randomly selected addresses will have plants in place to act as sentinels to show freckle fungus has been eradicated.

Throughout Phase Three, efforts will continue to ensure compliance with movement controls, and detections of any non-compliant propagation and cultivation of host plants in red zones. A permit is required for every plant being introduced and cultivated in each red zone.

An important activity in Phase Three will be confirmation of shared responsibility for biosecurity. The collaborative approach between the program, community and industry, both locally and elsewhere leaves us in the best possible position to eradicate banana freckle.

By May 2017 all involved will be able to share in the success of the hard work and effort put in to eradicate this serious plant pest.