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BIOSECURITY & BANANAs – Panama Disease from RIG News #10

2010 December 29
by Webmaster

Something that food gardeners – new and old – need to be on the alert for…

Biosecurity – Panama Disease in Bananas

Given the range of new garden projects and people moving themselves, plant stock and soils between communities, one thing that surprisingly didn’t come up at the workshop – and is really important – is the issue of bio-security and the potential danger of infecting otherwise clean areas and soils. There are many potential pest and plant disease risks – it pays to be alert, and if you have any concerns or queries contact your local Department of Primary Industries for further information and advice.

For example, Panama disease can wipe out potential banana production for up to 30 years. For further information see The information below is excerpted from Information Sheet IS27, Dept. Primary Industries, NT Government.

Panama Disease in Bananas – Your banana plant suddenly goes yellow and begins to wilt. Panama disease could be killing your plants. What do you need to do?


  • Do not cut it down.
  • Do not try to dig it up and cart it away.
  • Both the above will spread the disease and make it worse. .
  • Please contact the Department of Resources – Primary Industries for assistance. Ph: 08 8999 5511. Someone will contact you and arrange a visit to identify the cause and assist you to take the best action.
  • There is no known cure or treatment for the disease once infection has occurred.
  • The disease is moved in infected soil and plant parts and on tools and footwear.

If it is Panama Disease:

  • It is capable of killing all banana varieties currently grown in the Northern Territory.
  • It lives in the soil and enters the plant via its roots.
  • The plant wilts and dies.
  • There is no known cure.
  • You will have to take special measures to destroy the plants and ensure the disease does not spread.
  • Seek Department of Primary Industries support to assist you with this.
  • Bananas planted back into diseased sites will die.

You could be lucky:

  • There are other things that can look similar but are a lot less serious and your plants could be saved.
  • An expert can quickly determine the cause of a problem and assist you with control.

Current Situation with Panama Disease (Tropical Race 4) in the NT:

  • The disease is common in Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • The disease was first discovered on a property at Berry Springs in 1996 and has since spread to commercial plantings at Lambell’s Lagoon, Middle Point and Wanderrie Road and is currently restricted to those areas only. It is not been found in Darwin or Palmerston or other rural areas.
  • It is an exotic disease. Any new outbreak should be reported so it can be treated to restrict its further spread.

Things that look like Panama Disease:

  • There is a bacterial disease can causes a sudden yellowing and wilting of bananas. While it can kill individual stems, it is not a serious problem and it can be controlled by cultural methods.
  • Severe nutrient and water deficiencies can also occasionally look like Fusarium Wilt Disease.

RIG News is written and produced by Anthea Fawcett for RIG Network.


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