Suspected new case of Panama TR4

Queensland Government – Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Australian Banana Growers’ Council 

Media Release

5 February 2020

New case of suspected Panama TR4

A suspected new case of Panama disease tropical race 4 (Panama TR4) has been detected on a Tully Valley banana farm in Far North Queensland.

Biosecurity Queensland’s Panama TR4 Program Leader Rhiannon Evans said our surveillance team identified banana plants displaying symptoms typical of Panama TR4 during a routine inspection of a property last month.

“We have a positive result from preliminary diagnostic testing for Panama TR4, however further testing is required before a conclusive result can be determined and this testing can take up to four weeks to complete,” she said.

“The grower was notified immediately and we are working with them to ensure strict on-farm biosecurity measures are maintained with a focus on preventing disease spread and minimising any production downtime.

“The property with the suspect detection is in close proximity to the three previously confirmed infested properties.”

Australian Banana Growers’ Council Chair Stephen Lowe said while the industry knew the disease would eventually spread, it’s still news no one wants to hear.

“First and foremost, our thoughts are with the grower affected. This is no doubt going to be a challenging time for them and their family, and we will look to help them through this in any way we can,” he said.

“This is definitely news that no-one in our industry wanted to hear. Biosecurity Queensland has a strong surveillance program in place and this has assisted with early detection of the disease in this instance.”

Mr Lowe added that the new suspect detection was another reminder that Panama TR4 was here to stay and encouraged all growers to maintain strong biosecurity practices.

“It is an incredible feat that the disease has been contained to such a small area so far. Indeed, this latest case is in close proximity to the other affected farms in Tully. However, there can be no doubt that it is spreading – and sadly it will continue to do so.”

Ms Evans said the Queensland Government would continue to stand with the banana industry to meet the challenges of Panama TR4. 

“Since the first detection of Panama TR4 in Queensland in 2015, banana growers have made strong biosecurity measures part of their day-to-day operations, and the ‘come clean, leave clean’ message is well and truly embedded in the community,” Ms Evans said.

“It is important for growers to report suspect looking plants as soon as possible.

“Early detection and destruction of infected plants helps to slow disease spread and can extend the on-going viability of farms.

“This suspect detection reinforces the need for growers to implement and maintain robust on-farm biosecurity measures to protect their farms and the wider banana industry.

“It is equally important for growers to introduce strategies that will minimise production downtime if the disease is detected on their property.”

If anyone suspects Panama TR4, report it immediately to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23. To find out more about Panama TR4 .

Panama TR4 is not harmful to humans and does not affect the fruit.

Follow Biosecurity Queensland on Facebook and Twitter (@BiosecurityQld)


DAF – Sarah Flenley M 0400 867 264

ABGC – Sonia Campbell M 0428 038 330




  • Panama disease tropical race 4 (PanamaTR4, the disease) is a soil-borne fungal disease that is present in Far North Queensland and the Northern Territory.
  • It was first detected in Queensland on a commercial banana farm in the Tully Valley in March 2015. It was detected on a second property in July 2017 and a third property in February 2018. All three properties are in close proximity to each other.
  • The suspected new detection was identified by Biosecurity Queensland surveillance officers during routine Panama TR4 surveillance activities on the property.
  • Biosecurity Queensland officers identified physical symptoms of the disease in banana plants and took samples. This was sent to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Plant Biosecurity Laboratory in Brisbane for a range of diagnostic tests including several DNA-based tests. A molecular test known as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) will indicate if the presence of Panama TR4 is suspected in the sample. If suspect, the laboratory progresses the sample through a more detailed vegetative compatibility group (VGC) test. It can take up to four weeks to receive a conclusive result.
  • If the VGC test is positive, this will be the fourth detection of Panama TR4 in Far North Queensland.
  • Since the first detection of Panama TR4 disease in Queensland in 2015, banana growers, the Australian Banana Growers’ Council and government have worked together to successfully manage the spread of the disease. However, it remains the biggest biosecurity threat to Australia’s $580 million banana industry.
  • To date, the Queensland Government has invested more than $42 million to manage the disease Far North Queensland.
  • Eradication of Panama TR4 is not feasible.
  • The disease is easily spread by the movement of infected banana plants and planting material, and contaminated soil and water. Anything that moves soil and water can move the disease – people, vehicles, machinery, equipment and animals. Natural processes such as heavy rainfall and floods can move the fungus as well. People and machinery movement are the biggest threat of disease spread.
  • There is no practical way to test for presence of the disease in soil and water. The most effective way for detecting Panama TR4 is to identify visual symptoms in the banana plant. 
  • Prevention through on-farm biosecurity is the best line of defence against Panama TR4 disease.
  • Panama TR4 is not harmful to humans and does not affect the fruit.