Passenger slips up with banana corms

6 June 2019

(Issued by Department of Agriculture)

Biosecurity officers at Brisbane Airport have intercepted live plants that were potentially carrying a devastating banana disease.

Head of biosecurity, Lyn O’Connell, said the plants showed symptoms of Fusarium wilt, also known as Panama disease.

“Panama disease is present in Australia, but if it was to spread beyond its current restricted distribution it could seriously damage our banana industry,” Ms O’Connell said.

“One way it could spread is by passengers bringing infected plant material in through the airport.

“A passenger arrived at Brisbane Airport with empty water bottles containing two banana corms that showed fungal growth and had roots and soil attached.

“The passenger did the right thing and declared the plants on their incoming passenger card, but they never should have brought them here in the first place.

“The plants were sent to our pathology team who identified a fungal disease known as Fusarium, but they also identified the potential for Panama disease.”

The plants were promptly destroyed to ensure they did not pose an ongoing risk to the Australian banana industry.

Panama disease infects the roots of banana plants and then chokes the plant’s water supply, eventually killing it. The fungus survives in the soil for decades and prevents the growth of new banana plants.

Panama disease Tropical Race 4 is the most damaging strain, because it can attack nearly all known banana varieties. There is also no cure, so preventing and controlling the movement of risk material is the only way to deal with the disease.

If you are travelling to Australia, make sure you are aware of items that should not be brought with you.

For more information visit agriculture.gov.au/traveling.