Banana freckle eradication

This section has information about the 2014-19 eradication campaign and proof of freedom declaration of banana freckle in the Northern Territory.

The Northern Territory was declared banana freckle free in 2019. Proof of Freedom was endorsed by the National Management Group on 1 February 2019.

Proof of freedom was achieved through the collaborative efforts of industry, government, the community and other states and territories.

Banana freckle remains a declared pest under NT plant health legislation. The community is asked to remain vigilant for symptoms and signs of banana freckle, and to take measures to report the disease should it re-occur.

All Territorians are encouraged to:

  • check their banana plants regularly for any signs of banana freckle or other pests or diseases
  • avoid moving or sharing plants and
  • report any banana freckle or other pest and disease symptoms to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline, 1800 084 881.

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.

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.

The sentinel planting program finished on 30 April 2017.

Phase three: May 2016 to April 2017 - sentinel planting

From 1 May 2016, sentinel (test) plants were planted in the six red zones where banana freckle had originally been detected.

If you were not part of the sentinel planting program but were in one of the red zones, you could buy disease-free tissue culture banana plants from authorised suppliers with a permit.

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

Phase four:  May 2017 onwards

During Phase 4 of the surveillance, more than 360 residential properties, 12 banana farms and eight nurseries were surveyed, with no banana freckle detected.

In October 2018 - upon the successful completion of Phase 4 surveillance - a submission was made to the National Management Group for the NT to obtain Proof of Freedom from banana freckle.

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 mainland Australia as confirmed by ongoing surveillance.

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

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

Funding was provided by federal and state governments. Significant funding was also provided by the Australian Banana Growers’ Council. The Department of Primary Industry and Resources also provided financial and in-kind support.

By eradicating banana freckle we are ensuring people in the NT can grow healthy bananas in the future. The eradication of banana freckle in the NT was an important contribution to biosecurity in Australia.

More information

For more information about biosecurity and banana freckle response go to the Australian Banana Growers’ Council website.

Last updated: 08 June 2022

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