Article by: Hari Yellina
A shocking discovery of the deadly plant disease banana freckle has been uncovered in the Northern Territory, approximately 100 kilometres from where it first emerged. The NT’s thirteenth surprising case was found on a government research farm. The patient is the first to be identified outside the outbreak zone. Biosecurity officials had hoped they had the epidemic restricted to the Batchelor-Rum Jungle area, roughly 100 kilometres south of Darwin, before last Friday’s unwelcome revelation. In the Batchelor region, there are now 12 affected houses. At the government’s own research site, perhaps the Beatrice Hill Research Farm at Middle Point, banana freckle was confirmed on Friday afternoon, July 8.
Officials claimed that a single leaf from a single plant in a guarded area of the research farm provided conclusive evidence of the case. Additional research is being conducted on the banana trees close to the affected plant. The site’s whole collection of banana trees is being cut down and disposed of there. Dr. Anne Walters, the chief plant health officer for the Northern Territory, said: “We’re looking into how this incidence of banana freckle developed at a guarded government research centre and we’re warning people to be on the lookout for the illness, which is spread by wind and rain. Federal officials are developing a containment strategy. The official biosecurity view was that the outbreak was “still technically eradicable” prior to this most recent discovery.
The terrible response that followed the last epidemic in 2013 is something that officials are determined to avoid. The largest plant disease reaction ever seen in Australia was triggered by that epidemic, which led to the total eradication of all banana plants in the Territory. The decision to declare the Northern Territory (NT) free of the deadly disease in 2019 is currently being questioned. Since the first cases were identified at the beginning of June, biosecurity officials have been scouring the neighbourhood to check on further plants. A fungus called banana freckle affects banana leaves and fruit. The 12 affected properties’ owners have been informed that they cannot remove plant products, materials, or equipment from the premises. Samples believed to be from four other homes in the Batchelor-Rum Jungle area are underway.
More than 130 residences have been inspected so far as part of surveillance efforts to gauge the scope of the outbreak. Plant biosecurity officers adhere to strict biosecurity decontamination measures when entering and leaving any locations, according to the NT Industry, Tourism, and Trade Department, to reduce the risk of disease transmission. Dr. Anne Walters, the chief plant health officer for the Northern Territory, said that people have been sending in pictures of strange symptoms on their plants to assist track the spread. According to her, “banana freckle is a real danger to the industry.” “Even though the fruit is still safe to consume, it lowers fruit quality and appearance and reduces plant health and productivity by reducing the amount of healthy leaf area.”
Growers are being helped, according to NT Farmers chief executive Paul Burke, “to secure the best conclusion for all parties concerned during this challenging period.” Farmers, he claimed, pleaded with anyone who has banana plants that don’t seem natural to phone the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline at 1800 084 881. Bananas or banana plants cannot leave the Territory due to quarantine regulations. According to officials, the 2013 incident, the cleanup of which cost close to $30 million, was unrelated to the present outbreak.
More than 500,000 banana plants were killed on 9500 homes back then as part of an NT-wide surveillance programme involving 43,589 properties.