Banana growers are being urged to be extra cyclone prepared this summer.
At this time of year, cyclones can cause massive damage. In addition to the usual pre-cyclone preparation, there is now the issue of Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4) for northern banana farmers to consider.
Australian Banana Growers’ Council CEO Jim Pekin said it could prove useful to consider preparing a strategy for minimising the spread of TR4 during and after a cyclonic weather event.
“There would be some things that are beyond anyone’s control – such as flooding and wind – however, the ABGCs Biosecurity Extension team has recommended several actions in a Factsheet to reduce the risk of spreading TR4 in the event of a cyclone,” Mr Pekin said.
“ABGC recognises that the following checklist could be useful to consider and keep.”
The Factsheet notes key components for growers that include:
Ensure you have access to clean planting material
– It is preferable for all growers to plan ahead and set up a tissue culture-sourced nursery on their own property in a biosecure area, away from flood-prone sites. Bits and suckers from the nursery can then be used for replanting. This is a good strategy for biosecurity, cyclone or no cyclone.
– Access to clean, safe planting material may not be possible after a cyclone. Nurseries may not be able to cope with the surge in demand and they may sustain damage from the cyclone themselves.
– Planting material is a high risk pathway for the spread of Panama TR4. Avoid sourcing bits and suckers from other properties and don’t be tempted to donate or sell bits and suckers to other grower following a cyclone
– A lot of waste banana plant material will need to be cleaned up after a cyclone. Avoid dumping it in areas outside your farm if possible.
– Material (including soil) carried in floodwaters is beyond anyone’s control, however growers may be able to control the movement of people, vehicles, machinery, tools and equipment carrying potentially contaminated soil.
– After previous severe cyclones there was an influx of people into the district with little or no knowledge of biosecurity. If workers, emergency services and volunteers need to access your property, after a cyclone, try to ensure that good biosecurity practices are maintained. Excluding them won’t always be an option, so check and ensure biosecurity signs (with contact phone number) are at all entry points.
– Electricity outages are likely, therefore backup generators or fuel-driven pumps will be needed to continue operating electricity-driven wash-downs. Manually operated sprayers will allow for backup disinfection of emergency staff, vehicles and footwear.
– Having someone trained in biosecurity and decontamination procedures stationed at your farm entry/exit points will help to ensure any non-essential visitors are excluded and disinfection of essential vehicles, machinery and footwear is carried out properly.
– Restore critical barriers that may be downed after a cyclone or with flooding. Temporary barriers may be sufficient to stop accidental access.
– Before a cyclone, it is preferable to define and segregate areas where flooding may bring soil or banana plant material onto the farm.
– Items used in the paddock for banana production such as bunch bags, string, dripper tube, bunch slips etc. may become contaminated by TR4 spores in a cyclone and subsequent flooding. These items would preferably be stored in a low risk place on the property until they can be disposed of by deep burying on the farm.
– Feral animals roam more widely after a cyclone due to reduced food sources. They are more likely to enter your farm searching for food. Fencing should be replaced as soon as possible.
– Growers could plan to reduce the number of visits by off- farm supply vehicles after a cyclone by stocking up on things like fuel, cartons, fertilisers and irrigation equipment before a cyclone.
Salvaging fruit after a cyclone
– Salvaging downed fruit (in contact with the soil), or bunches that were in contact with floodwaters (and the suspended silt), may pose a risk to TR4 spread. So, growers need to comply with the General Biosecurity Obligation (GBO) and not enable soil or leaf matter to leave the farm.
For the Factsheet on pre-cyclone preparations go to the ABGC website and look at the ‘Notices’ section – www.abgc.org.au