Weedy plantations risk to fight against Bunchy Top Virus

Banana growers who don’t keep their weeds under control are threatening the fight to stop the spread of Bunchy Top (BT) disease.

David Peasley, project manager for the National Bunchy Top Project, is urging growers to clean up their plantations after 26 of the 180 plantations in the NSW Bunchy Top zone were considered too weedy to inspect.

“Some of the plantations have a history of BT but unfortunately our inspectors cannot carry out their inspections because plants and suckers are obscured by weed growth,” Mr Peasley said.

Legislation recently passed in NSW and Queensland means that growers must control weeds in their plantations as part of their general biosecurity obligation /duty.

Unkept plantations are not just a huge biosecurity risk to the industry, they also pose a workplace health and safety risk to the inspectors who need to enter plantations to conduct bunchy top surveillance.

It is industry’s expectation that growers will maintain weeds in their plant below the height of 30 cm to minimise these risks.

“We have no hope of controlling the spread of BT if we can’t carry out the necessary frequency of inspections to keep the disease under control or eradicate it from plantations,” Mr Peasley said.

“It is not fair on other growers who do the right thing and keep their plantations weed free.”

Mr Peasley said the number of weedy plantations had increased markedly over the past couple of years and this had put the future of the whole control program at risk.

“A considerable amount of money, funded through grower levies and government, is being invested to run the national program,” Mr Peasley said.

“It is not fair on growers who are contributing through their levies to have to keep paying when some growers don’t take their responsibility seriously.”

Bunchy Top inspector Wayne Shoobridge attempts to inspect plants in an overgrown plantation