Biosecurity Risk: Sharing bits and suckers

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Good biosecurity starts with using clean planting material.

Using tissue cultured plantlets,  is the best way to ensure your farm is pest and disease free – and prevent any further spread.

It’s the law

There are actually many laws that govern the movement of planting material, including bits and suckers.

There are restrictions on what you can take across state and quarantine borders, as well as biosecurity or quarantine zones within each state and territory. These borders and zones exist to limit the spread of pests that are localised to that area.

These state and federal laws mean that:

  • It is illegal to bring any banana planting material such as bits and suckers into Queensland or New South Wales from other states. There are also specific restrictions in WA and NT.
  • Within Queensland, it is illegal to move any banana planting material (including bits and suckers) out of any banana biosecurity zone or into the Northern Banana Biosecurity Zone unless you have a Biosecurity Certificate.
  • You can only get only get a Biosecurity Certificate to move banana plantlets if the plantlets have been produced under a clean planting material scheme such as the Quality Banana Approved Nursery (QBAN) Scheme and accompanied by the appropriate label.
  • Banana planting material that does not meet the above requirements may be moved only if it has been grown from tissue culture; and has been tested and found free of:
    • Banana bunchy top
    • Cavendish-competent Panama disease race 1
    • Panama disease tropical race 4
    • Banana freckle

It should also be packaged in a quarantine secure manner and have not been exposed to banana pests.

Bits and suckers do not meet any of these requirements and therefore would not meet the requirements for a Biosecurity Certificate.

So what’s your responsibility?

Within Queensland, the law says you are expected to comply with your general biosecurity obligation (GBO) which means that you are responsible for managing biosecurity risks that you know about or could reasonably be expected to know about.

You are not expected to know about all biosecurity risks, but you are expected to know about risks associated with your day-to-day work and your hobbies.


You are expected to stay informed about the pests and diseases that could affect or be carried by your crops (e.g TR4 or Bunchy top), as well as weeds and pest animals that could be on your property. You are also expected to manage them appropriately.


You are expected to check whether the transportation could spread diseases or pests. If it could, you are expected to manage this appropriately.



What is considered ‘reasonable and practical’ will vary depending on the situation and the risks involved. Key factors include:

  • how likely an activity is to pose a risk—the more likely it is, the more action you are expected to take
  • how harmful an activity could be—the more potentially harmful the activity is, the more action you are expected to take. (For example, extensive productivity and economic losses could occur if TR4 or bunchy top were to spread further).
  • how much the person managing the activity knows, or should reasonably be expected to know, about the risk (e.g. growers are expected to know what TR4 and Bunchy Top are, how dangerous they are and how they spread)—the more you know, or should be expected to know, the more action you are expected to take.
  • what methods are available to minimise the risk (e.g. equipment and work practices)—the more readily available a method is, the more action you are expected to take. E.g. Using tissue cultured plants is a more effective way to manage risks compared to using bits and suckers; or, the use of your own bits and suckers as is more effective way to of managing risk compared to sourcing them from a friend or relative’s farm.

What happens if you don’t comply

In most cases, you can reduce biosecurity risks by following simple steps to manage pests and diseases on your property. This includes Panama TR4, leaf spot and bunchy top – which could not only affect your farm, but your neighbours and the industry as a whole. Sharing bits and suckers between farms is significant biosecurity risk and is not recommended.

Not complying with the GBO is an offence under the Biosecurity Act. When necessary, Biosecurity Queensland takes formal compliance action to ensure an individual, business or other organisation improves the way they manage biosecurity risks.

Biosecurity Queensland may also seek a court order or the amendment, suspension or cancellation of a permit or other approval.

Where to go for more information

Information is widely available on reasonable and practical steps that can be taken to meet the GBO for many common pests and diseases. Some of these sources are: