Fighting Panama TR4 with aerial enforcement

By on 25 February, 2020

Biosecurity Queensland is using drones to conduct aerial inspections of banana plantations in Far North Queensland to minimise the risk of personnel spreading the fungus.

Biosecurity Queensland is policing compliance for banana plantations affected by the Panama TR4 soil-borne fungus with UAVs.

Panama disease tropical race 4 is a fungal disease considered to be the biggest threat to Australia’s $580 million commercial banana industry.

A possible new detection on a Tully Valley farm in Far North Queensland in January 2020, the fourth in the area, triggering biosecurity controls to contain the disease in Australia’s prime banana growing district.

Contaminated farms may still sell produce, but no soil or plant material may leave the property.

Biosecurity Queensland is now using UAVs to monitor affected farms for regrowth, according to Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner.

“Using a drone allows us to quickly map an area and take detailed photos of the destruction zone. This eliminates the need for boots on the ground.

“If the drone detects any plant regrowth in a destruction zone, the grower is advised so they can remove the plants in accordance with strict biosecurity protocols,” he said.

Further diagnostic testing to conclusively prove the presence of Panama TR4 on the recently-quarantined property are currently underway.

Mr. Furner said that the relatively localised spread of Panama TR4 to four farms within close proximity of each other in a tropical climate was an achievement.

“This is largely due to the combined efforts of government, industry and research bodies working together,” he said.

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