The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) has begun a new project aimed at managing Bunchy Top, one of the most devastating viral diseases affecting bananas worldwide.
ABGC’s CEO Jim Pekin appointed well-known banana-advocate David Peasley as Project Manager of the new National Banana Bunchy Top Virus project, which is a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Banana Fund.
Mr Peasley and Mr Pekin attended the Tweed Banana Growers’ Asscociation meeting last night to provide an insight into future management of Bunchy Top, discuss new research findings and answer any questions.
“It was a great chance to speak with growers and provide outline of what we hope to achieve if we all work together,” Mr Peasley said.
Mr Peasley has extensive history in the industry, including leading earlier Bunchy Top projects.
“This is unfinished business for me. I hope to achieve more effective control of this devastating viral disease by working closely with growers in a joint effort with the detection team to help growers recognise symptoms of Bunchy Top in their plantations,” he added.
The objectives of the project are to prevent Bunchy Top from spreading outside the area where it currently occurs and reduce infections on commercial banana farms within these areas. The project will use a system of surveillance and control activities, as well as a grower education and training component and will garner the support from both NSW and Queensland biosecurity agencies.
A community engagement program using popular gardening programs is also being planned to create public awareness of the risk of spread from backyards to commercial plantations.
“I have some practical aids to help both commercial and non-commercial growers identify the symptoms of Bunchy Top, how to stop it spreading within their plantation and prevent it from moving outside the infection zone.
“It’s important for growers to learn how to detect Bunchy Top and destroy infected plants,” Mr Peasley said.
Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) has been present in Australia for over a century, but successfully contained to southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales.
Plants affected by BBTV very rarely produce fruit and researchers have estimated the benefit of containment at $15.9-27.0 million in annual losses for the Australian banana industry.*
*Statistic provided by Cook et al 2012