Plants infected with banana freckle have been found at 12 new sites, raising the number of infected areas to 29 in the NT, the government has said.
The majority of the sites are in the Batchelor-Rum Jungle region, but the NT Farmers Association has urged everyone to check their banana plants for signs of the disease.
Banana freckle was recently discovered by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade’s biosecurity team on premises in Fly Creek, Batchelor, Marrakai and the Tiwi Islands. The team’s surveillance of infected plants is continuing.
“The latest positive samples show that banana freckle is more widespread than was initially thought,” said NT Chief Plant Health Officer Dr Anne Walters.
“Staff from Biosecurity Northern Territory will continue to collect as much information as possible through continued surveillance about where banana freckle is being detected to try and establish how far the disease has spread.”
Dr Walters said surveillance is a crucial part of the government’s efforts to protect the Territory’s banana industry as it provides important information for the biosecurity team.
The government’s current response plan has temporarily been put on hold until more detailed surveillance is completed to better understand the extent of the spread and to enable it to develop the best strategy to combat the disease.
Check your banana plants: NT Farmers Association
NT Farmers Association CEO Paul Burke said there is an urgent need for everyone to check their banana plants for signs of a Banana freckle.
“The department’s biosecurity team have been working on the development of a response plan, with the input from industry. Strong partnerships with industry, government and community will deliver the best outcomes,” Mr Burke said.
More information about the signs of the disease is available online at nt.gov.au/banana-freckle.
“If you suspect that you have banana freckle please contact the 24-hour Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881,” he said.
Banana Freckle is a ‘wet spore’ organism affecting banana leaves and fruit but is not considered a health risk to humans consuming affected bananas. It can spread through splashes of water droplets, wind-driven rain or by people moving infected fruits and plants and suckers used for planting.
Signs of a banana freckle include sandpaper-like texture on leaves and fruit; spotting of flower bracts, leaves and bunch stalks; fruit blemishes and blackening of large areas of the fruit’s surface due to dense spotting.