Banana freckle disease spreads to 12 new locations across the Northern Territory

The Northern Territory government has confirmed multiple outbreaks of the fungal disease known as banana freckle.

After initially being found on a single property near Rum Jungle in May, the government today identified 12 new sites of infection at Fly Creek, Batchelor, Marrakai and the Tiwi Islands.

The disease was detected last month on the government’s own Coastal Plains Research Farm and has also been confirmed on one commercial farm.

The total number of infected properties has grown to 29.

NT chief plant health officer Anne Walters said government and industry were ready to announced an eradication plan for the disease, but that had now been put on hold following widespread detections.

“I don’t think anything has gone wrong … it is obviously widespread but what seems to be the case is that it’s still quite localised in those areas we’ve found it,” she said.

“The pattern is not clear on how this disease is spreading, so obviously tracing will be a critical component in the next stage of the program.”

Dr Walters said it was promising that surveillance through Darwin and Palmerston had not detected the disease.

The government is urging people to check their banana plants for signs of the disease.(ABC Rural: Lydia Burton)

Check your bananas

NT Farmers Association chief executive Paul Burke said confirmation of banana freckle at 12 new sites demonstrated the need for everybody to check their banana plants for signs of the disease.

“If you have a banana plant in your backyard, or if you have a commercial farm, it is essential that you check your plants,” he said.

“If you suspect that you have banana freckle, please contact the 24-hour Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.”

The disease can affect the productivity of banana plants and, while affected bananas are safe to eat, the blemishes on the skin reduce their saleability.

According to the government’s website, banana freckle has been recorded in 27 countries across south-east Asia, Oceania and India.