Banana freckle eradication program

Introduction

Banana freckle is a fungus that attacks the leaves and fruit of all varieties of banana in both commercial crops and backyard plants. It reduces the yield and health of plants, but does not affect human health.

Banana freckle was detected in the Top End of the Northern Territory (NT) in 2013, and a campaign to eradicate it is under way.

Planting begins for permit holders

Before May 2015, all banana plants were removed from the six red zones to ensure the NT was in the best position to eradicate banana freckle.

From May 2016 you can now buy and plant banana plants in the red zones if you have a permit. Read how to apply for a banana permit.

Banana plants can be bought from accredited nurseries or from your local nursery if they have obtained the plants from an accredited source. Read about buying banana plants.

If you are a participant of the sentinel planting program your permit will be sent to you once you have completed and returned the acceptance form.

Sentinel planting program

The third and final distribution of sentinel banana plants has been completed in the Darwin red zone.

Over 3,200 properties in the six red zones are now growing sentinel banana plants.

Sentinel plants must be inspected by program plant health inspectors for signs of banana freckle. In accordance with the permit participants received, you must provide access to your property for plant health inspectors to inspect your banana plants for any signs of banana freckle. 

These inspections are a vital step in proving we have eradicated banana freckle from the NT.

Program staff will contact sentinel participants when an inspection is due to occur.

Read more about the sentinel planting program.

Contacts

You can contact the banana freckle hotline by calling 1800 771 163 or emailing banana@nt.gov.au.

Media 

You can contact the communications officer by calling (08) 8999 2107.


About banana freckle

Banana freckle was detected in the Top End of the Northern Territory (NT) in 2013, and a campaign to eradicate it is under way.

Eradicating banana freckle

Banana freckle fungus cannot be eradicated by the use of chemicals, the banana plants have to be removed to eradicate the disease.

Read about how diseased plants have been removed under the banana freckle eradication program and how sentinel planting is being used to test that the fungus has been eradicated.

What it looks and feels like

Banana freckle makes leaves and fruit spotty and feel like sandpaper, which is caused by the fungal spore vessels sticking up through the surface of the leaf or skin.

Banana freckle on fruitBanana freckle on leaves

How it spreads

The spores are spread by water movement.

When the spore vessels mature, they release spores on contact with water.

Run-off spreads the spores across the host plant and can splash or be carried by wind to neighbouring plants.

It also spreads on infected suckers and fruit.

Types of banana freckle

There are three known types of banana freckle fungus, which can only be distinguished by genetic testing. 

Only one type of banana freckle, Phyllostica cavendishii, is known to infect the Cavendish banana, as well as other varieties. It reduces the yield and health of banana plants.

This species of banana freckle is listed under the Australian Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed to be targeted for eradication as it is a significant threat to commercial banana production across Australia.

The Cavendish banana is the main variety grown by the Australian banana industry. If we want a successful banana industry in the future we need to eradicate banana freckle today.

More information

Go to the following websites for more information on banana freckle:

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 

Western Australia Department of Food and Agriculture

Plant Health Australia.


Sentinel planting program

The sentinel planting is the most important part of phase three of the National Banana Freckle Eradication Program. 

The sentinel planting program is a ‘test planting’ in red zones to see if the banana freckle fungus has been eradicated from the Northern Territory (NT).

Sentinel banana plants are planted and then monitored for signs of banana freckle.

If the fungus is still present it will infect these plants, as it only survives on live plants.

Monitoring of banana plants

All banana plants in red zones, whether bought or supplied as part of the sentinel planting, will be monitored for signs of banana freckle.

Monitoring of your banana plants is part of the permit conditions and will help the NT prove we have eradicated banana freckle.

After April 2017 the results of the monitoring will be used to scientifically prove that banana freckle has been eradicated.

If all goes to plan it is anticipated that banana growing can return to normal in mid-2017.

Permit controls will remain in place until the NT is recognised as being free of banana freckle.

Sentinel planting program – Darwin red zone

About 3,000 Greater Darwin area residents and growers who had banana plants destroyed in phase one have been invited to participate in the sentinel planting program.

If you are not taking part in the program, but would like to grow bananas in the red zone, read more about buying banana plants.

About the sentinel banana plants

Sentinel banana plants provided by the program are free and not genetically modified.

Seedlings are brought from Queensland and grown to pot-size at Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries sites in the green zone.


Buying a banana plant

From May 2016, you will need a permit to buy, move, plant and grow bananas in red zones.

This includes the Greater Darwin and Rural Area red zone.

Before you buy a plant

You must obtain a permit to buy banana plants in red zones.

Your permit allows you to move plants from a nursery to the address on your permit, and to plant and grow (propagate) them at the address on your permit.

To apply for a banana permit, fill in this online form.

Where to buy plants

Your local nursery may have plants for sale or you can buy directly from an accredited nursery.

Your local nursery must have a permit to sell banana plants that have been sourced from an accredited nursery.

How to buy a plant

You must have your permit and identification to buy banana plants from a nursery.

Move your banana plants to the address on your permit and plant them as soon as possible.

Inspection and monitoring

All banana plants planted from 1 May 2016 in red zones will be inspected by authorised plant health inspectors.

If a plant is moved, planted or cultivated in a red zone without a permit it will be destroyed. You may also receive a fine.

Read more about inspection and monitoring.


Apply for a banana plant permit

All banana plants in red zones must be covered by a permit. Permits are free of charge.

A permit gives you the legal right to:

  • buy a banana plant from an authorised nursery
  • move banana plants within the red zone between point of collection and the address shown on the permit
  • plant and cultivate banana plants at the address shown on your permit.

To apply for a banana permit, fill in this online form.

If you are part of the sentinel planting program you will automatically receive your permit prior to collection of your banana plants.


Movement and quarantine controls

The best way to stop the spread of banana freckle is by observing the movement and quarantine controls. 

If you buy banana plants, or are part of the sentinel program, your plants must stay at the address listed on your permit.

You must not move banana plants and other banana plant-related material such as suckers, fruit and leaves into, within or out of red zones without a permit. You may be fined and your plants will be destroyed.

These controls will remain in place until the NT is nationally recognised as being free of banana freckle.

Following these controls is the best way to stop the spread of banana freckle.


Inspection and monitoring of red and green zones

Monitoring of your banana plants will help the Northern Territory prove we have eradicated banana freckle.

After April 2017 the results of the monitoring will be used to scientifically prove that banana freckle has been eradicated.

If all goes to plan it is anticipated that banana growing can return to normal sometime in mid-2017.

Red zones 

All banana plants in red zones, whether bought or supplied as part of the sentinel planting, will be monitored for signs of banana freckle.

Plant health inspectors routinely visit properties to inspect banana plants and to ensure plants are covered by a permit. Inspectors are only interested in banana plants.

All properties which had banana plants removed in phase one will be checked again as part of the National Banana Freckle Eradication Program.

If you move, plant or cultivate banana plant/s in a red zone without a permit you may be fined and the plant/s will be destroyed.

Green zone

Properties in the green zone will continue to be monitored for banana freckle.

To date no banana freckle fungus has been found in the green zone.


Eradication program information

The nationally accepted campaign to eradicate banana freckle in the Northern Territory (NT) has four phases.

Phase one: October 2014 to April 2015

In this phase, all banana plants were destroyed in the areas where banana freckle was found. This included all banana plants in backyards as well as commercial crops.

Movement of banana plants was restricted to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The six areas where the fungus was found are called red zones. View maps of the eradication red zones.

Phase two: May 2015 to April 2016

This was a host-free period during which no planting of bananas was allowed in red zones and any regrowth that was detected was destroyed.

This six-month fallow period, followed by a wet season, was designed to ensure the banana freckle fungus had no host plant material to survive on.

Phase three: May 2016 to April 2017 — sentinel planting

From 1 May 2016 sentinel (test) plants will be planted in the six red zones. 

If you are not part of the sentinel planting program but are in a red zones, you can buy disease-free tissue culture banana plants from authorised suppliers with a permit. Read more about how to apply for a permit.

All banana plants, either supplied by the sentinel program or purchased, will be regularly monitored for signs of banana freckle.

Read more about the sentinel planting program.

Phase four:  May 2017 onwards

The results from the sentinel planting and other monitoring in the red zone will show if banana freckle has been successfully eradicated.

If there have been no further detection of the fungus, the Territory will then apply to the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for a declaration the NT has area freedom from banana freckle.

History of the eradication program

A strain of banana freckle fungus, Phyllostica cavendishii, capable of infecting Cavendish bananas was detected in the NT in July 2013. This strain has not been found elsewhere in Australia as confirmed by ongoing surveillance.

The National Banana Freckle Eradication Program was nationally approved and launched in October 2014. The Program is being carried out in four phases over at least three years.

At completion, the Northern Territory will then apply to the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for a declaration that the NT has area freedom from banana freckle.

Endorsement and funding for the program

The National Banana Freckle Eradication Program has been endorsed by all state governments, the Federal government, the Australian Banana Growers’ Council, the Nursery & Garden Industry Australia, and Plant Health Australia. All bodies unanimously endorsed the National Banana Freckle Eradication Program.

The National Banana Freckle Eradication Program is Australia’s largest cost-sharing emergency plant pest response under the National Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed.

Funding is provided by federal and state governments. Significant funding is being provided by the Australian Banana Growers’ Council. The NT Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries has also given financial and in-kind support.

By eradicating banana freckle we are ensuring people in the NT can grow healthy bananas in the future. By eradicating banana freckle the NT is making an important contribution to Australian biosecurity.

More information

Go to the following websites for more information about biosecurity and banana freckle response:

Australian Banana Growers’ Council banana freckle information link

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources: Communique - National Management Group endorses National Banana Freckle Response Plan.


Eradication zones

The Northern Territory (NT) is divided into zones for the banana freckle eradication program.

Red zones

Red zones are areas where banana freckle was found. There are six red zones in the NT. The largest covers the Darwin and Palmerston area.

You must not move banana plants into, out of or within a red zone without a permit.

Below is the list of all of the red zones:

  • Darwin with all premises north of Manton Dam, west to the NT coastline, and east of Marrakai
  • Rum Jungle / Batchelor
  • Dundee Beach
  • Daly area
  • Milikapiti
  • Ramingining.

Green zones

Green zones are areas where banana freckle has not been found.

Map of eradication zones

For more information about where the eradication zones are, refer to the map of eradication zones.

Click on each map to see a larger version of the image.

Zone 1

Zone 1 (2.4 mb)

Zone 2

Zone 2 (1.1 mb)

Zone 3

Zone 3 (1.2 mb)

Zone 4

Zone 4 (752.8 kb)

Zone 5

Zone 5 (1.2 mb)

Zone 6

Zone 6 (865.6 kb)

Zone - all

All zones (2.2 mb)


Laws about banana freckle


Contacts

Banana Freckle hotline

You can call the hotline on 1800 771 163 or email banana@nt.gov.au.

Media contact

You can call the communications officer on (08) 8999 2107.