New Banana Bunchy Top Project starts

Bunchy Top project manager David Peasley.

Bunchy Top project manager David Peasley.

The Australian Banana Growers’ Council was recently awarded a Hort Innovation contract to manage the new three-year National Banana Bunchy Top Project.

By Amy Spear

Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) is the most devastating viral disease affecting bananas globally.

Earlier this year, ABGC tendered for the new National BBTV project due to its serious nature and the importance to the national industry of keeping it contained.

The objective of this new project is to prevent BBTV from spreading outside the area where it currently occurs and reduce BBTV infections on commercial banana farms within these areas.

BBTV has been in Australia for a century, but successfully contained to southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales, from Cooroy in the north to Broadwater in the south. 97 per cent of the Australian industry remains free of BBTV, with the benefit of excluding the disease estimated at $15.9-27.0 million in annual losses for the banana industry (Cook et al 2012).

The project will be achieved through a system of surveillance and control activities, as well as education and training programs for growers and support from both NSW and Queensland biosecurity agencies.

The ABGC has appointed David Peasley as the Project Manager for this project. David has a career in horticulture, particularly in banana research and development, and led Phases 1 and 2 of the National Bunchy Top project.

“This is unfinished business for me. I hope to achieve more effective control of this devastating virus disease by working closely with growers in a joint effort with the detection team to help growers recognise symptoms of Bunchy Top in their plantation,” Mr Peasley said.

“I have some practical aids to help growers both commercial and non-commercial identify the critical early stages of this disease, how to stop it spreading within the plantation and prevent Bunchy Top from spreading outside the infection zone.”

The inspection strategy will be informed by levels of BBTV incidence, and focus on:

• Commercial plantations in the BBTV zone of northern NSW and southeast QLD

• Non-commercial banana plantings within 0.5km of an infected farm and along the northern line of the QLD BBTV zone

• The collection and management of surveillance data.

The surveillance data is now being analysed to inform project monitoring and evaluation, optimise surveillance practices and be retained for research purposes.

In addition to maintaining high standards for property inspections and destruction of infected plants, the project will focus on growers across the country – particularly in the control zone – to ensure greater awareness around BBTV management.

Consultants, other collaborating parties and the wider community will also be part of this campaign, through targeted messaging and appearances at relevant events.

One of the key challenges is that the control area is home to many backyard and abandoned banana plants and plots. This includes land in the northern part of the Bunchy Top zone around Cooroy.

The new National Banana Bunchy Top Virus Project commenced in July 2019 and is funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government. 

DAVID PEASLEY TAKES ON PROJECT MANAGER ROLE

It seems almost fifty years in the banana industry wasn’t quite enough for David Peasley, who has recently been appointed Project Manager for the new National Banana Bunchy Top Virus Project.

The long-time industry advocate’s passion for growers and a bright banana future is clear, electing to come out of retirement to apply for the role.

Of course, Mr Peasley has a long history with Bunchy Top, having led Phases 1 and 2 of the Project in previous years.

Mr Peasley was also instrumental in the banana industry’s fight against Philippine banana imports, spent time in various roles including District Horticulturalist and has always been happy to share his knowledge – with growers, researchers and other industry representatives.

Mr Peasley was an ABGC Award of Honour recipient in 2015 “in recognition of outstanding dedication and service to the Australian banana industry.”

For Bunchy Top inquiries, David Peasley can now be reached on E: peasleyhort@bigpond.com or david.peasley@abgc.org.au M: 0427126245