New resource to help growers fight Banana Bunchy Top

Banana Bunchy Top is the industry’s most devastating viral disease, found across the globe and capable of infecting all varieties of the much-loved fruit. The disease is also incredibly hard to detect.

The National Bunchy Top Project, funded by Hort Innovation and run through the Australian Banana Growers’ Council, is on a mission to make the task easier for both commercial and backyard growers.

The Bunchy Top team have recently released a detailed video for commercial growers, outlining symptoms, tactics for spotting them and the most effective destruction methods.

In Australia, Bunchy Top is currently contained to Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland. If it were to find its way to Far North Queensland, where 94% of production takes place, the consequences would be severe. The disease, spread by banana aphids or infected planting material, stunts plant growth and stops fruit production.   

Experienced Bunchy Top detector Samantha Stringer said the new video aims to ensure growers feel better equipped to protect their property – and the broader industry – from the disease.

“Early detection is key,” Ms Stringer said. “Once it’s established on a farm it will move quickly – so the sooner an infected plant can be destroyed, the better.

“In this video we’ve given growers some tips on spotting the symptoms before they take hold. For example, we know it’s important to keep an eye on any new leaves coming through. The best way to do this is walk through each row, looking up and about 4-6 plants ahead. This will give you an overall view of each plant and if you spot anything concerning, that’s the time to take a closer look.”

Throughout the video Bunchy Top inspectors, including Ms Stringer, provide close-ups of infected leaves and fruit, as well as demonstrating how to safely and thoroughly destroy plants.

“Our inspectors are still available if anyone has any questions or concerns. We’ve been working closely with growers for the past decade to help contain this disease and our work isn’t done yet.” Growers, and members of the public, are welcome to call the Bunchy Top Hotline on 1800 068 371.

While there is no prevention against banana aphids, good on-farm practices such as deleafing, desuckering and maintaining weed control will help. In addition, growers should source planting material from QBAN certified businesses to ensure they arrive in high health and consult the Banana Industry Code of Practice for Planting Material.

In coming months, the National Bunchy Top Project will release a second video targeted at backyard growers.

To watch the video for commercial growers and access other information:

Please note – if you grow bananas and think you may have detected Bunchy Top within areas where BBTV is not known to be present in Queensland in the Southern banana biosecurity zone  or in New South Wales outside of the BBTV control zone you can also contact Biosecurity Queensland on 132523 or DPI NSW on 1800 680 244.

This project is being funded by Hort Innovation using the banana industry levy and funds from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture. Phase 4 of the Bunchy Top National Project is now underway. It is the fourth stage in a 10-year plan to eradicate/control Banana Bunchy Top disease from commercial plantations.