Bunchy Top inspectors have hit the steep slopes of South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales, with Phase Four of the National Project now in full swing.
The Hort Innovation Banana Fund project, which commenced on July 15 under Manager David Peasley, is focused on protecting commercial plantations, as well as driving increased community and grower involvement in detecting the viral disease.
“Our first priority was to ensure we had access to accurate data, including grower details, plantation numbers, surveillance information and correct infection risk categories,” Mr Peasley explained.
“We’ve been having monthly meetings and field checking with our inspectors to verify and update our records.”
The latest data for the New South Wales Bunchy Top zone shows that plantation numbers have fallen by 25 per cent in a period of just over three years.
The area under banana production is down by 172 hectares. The team is currently working on obtaining the same information for the target area in South East Queensland.
In the field, inspectors have been working with hot spot plantations and achieving solid results.
In a plantation of particular concern to industry, the numbers of infection have decreased significantly with improved plantation hygiene, a thorough inspection and destruction program, and drier weather conditions.
Mr Peasley also noted the valuable work being done by Associate Professor John Thomas and his researchers looking at latency and aphid transmission.
“Our project team is actively assisting in this essential work. Reducing sites for aphid breeding in hanging dead leaves and excess suckers, as well as aphid suppression spraying, appears to reduce infections,” he said.
The Bunchy Top project team was also represented at the recent Murwillumbah Show. Mr Peasley used cryovaced banana leaves to clearly demonstrate the difference between healthy and infected leaves.
“It’s a great tool to show both growers and the general public some of the key symptoms to keep an eye out for – and how we can use a torch or sunlight to make the process easier,” he said.
A new trainee will be appointed to the Project in early 2020 to ensure the inspection capacity is maintained.
Bunchy Top Hotline: 1800 068 371
Community members and backyard banana lovers now have access to the Bunchy Top team in the palm of their hands.
The Project is using Instagram and Facebook to showcase the symptoms of Bunchy Top and encourage non-commercial growers within the Bunchy Top zone to report their concerns.
Videos and photos are posted regularly, including demonstrating the best way to take a photo of a potentially infected plant so inspectors can diagnose the problem on the spot.
You can check out the channels by searching for ‘Banana Bunchy Top Project’ on either platform.