Banana Freckle
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Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries - Banana Freckle

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How to detect Banana Freckle

The most characteristic symptom of banana freckle is a sandpaper feel to the infected leaves and fruit when rubbed between your fingers. This is caused by the fungal spore structures sticking through the upper leaf surface of the leaf tissue or fruit peel.

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Please check your banana plants for banana freckle and if you suspect it is present call the
Banana Freckle Hotline on 1800 771 163, 7 days a week

 Banana freckle inspectors will be in Bayview, Fannie Bay, Larrakeyah, Leanyer, Ludmilla, Marrara, Moil, Parap and The Narrows*. If you have banana plants in your yard and they have not been inspected by a surveillance team from the National Banana Freckle Eradication Program, we need to hear from you! (04.09.2014)

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DESTROY OR REMOVE THE BANANA PLANTS YOURSELF!

Help make the NT banana freckle free!
Call 1800 771 163 | 7 Days a week

*subject to change

Banana Freckle

The Northern Territory (NT) Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries (DPIF)  has implemented a response to the detection of Banana Freckle (Phyllosticta cavendishii) on Cavendish bananas in the Howard Springs and Batchelor areas, in July 2013.

In Australia, Phyllosticta maculate is widely distributed and occurs in the NT and north Queensland.  It causes freckle symptoms on non-Cavendish banana cultivars including Lady Finger (AAB) and on a number of other varieties including on Blue Java, Goly-goly pot pot and Bluggoe (ABB) bananas.  In the NT and Queensland Phyllosticta cavendishii has been recorded causing banana freckle on Lady Finger (AAB) bananas.  To date, freckle disease symptoms had not been identified in the AAA genomic group of Cavendish subgroup in Australia except for two historical detections of Banana Freckle on Cavendish bananas in Western Australia at Kununurra in  1979 and Kalumburu in 2001.  In both instances these incursions were small and eradicated.

Banana Freckle is a fungal disease that affects only bananas, causing blemishes on fruits, reducing their commercial value but the eating qualities are not affected and there is no risk to human health from their consumption.

Banana Freckle (P. cavendishii) is a declared disease under the Northern Territory Plant Health Act.

Current situation

Affected properties are under quarantine in order to prevent further movement of the disease. We request that property owners not move any banana plant material or fruit until further notice.

Surveillance teams are on the ground visiting properties. If the owner is not at home, a visit letter is left on the gate. All property owners who receive such a letter are urged to call the Banana Freckle Hotline on 1800 771 163 (open 7 days a week) to arrange for a surveillance team to visit their property as soon as possible.

The NT has a small interstate market for bananas to South Australia and Victoria, but a significant amount of fruit is sold to local fruit markets. There is ongoing monitoring to ensure that market access for commercial banana farms can be maintained.

Notification has been made to the Australian Department of Agriculture, all states and territories, and the Australian Banana Growers’ Council. The Consultative Committee for Emergency Plant Pests has met and agreed to a range of actions by the NT to eradicate this pest.

The NT has established a control centre at the Berrimah farm to manage this incident.

About Banana Freckle

Banana Freckle is a disease cause by a fungus (Phyllosticta cavendishii), which infects the leaves and fruits of bananas.

What do the symptoms look like?

The most characteristic symptom of Banana Freckle is a sandpaper feel to the infected (spotted) leaves and fruit when rubbed between your fingers. This is caused by the fungal spore structures protruding through the upper leaf surface of the leaf tissue or fruit peel.
 

P. cavendishii symptoms on fruit P. cavendishii symptoms on banana leaf

P. cavendishii symptoms on fruit
(photo by Jose Liberato, copyright Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries)

P. cavendishii symptoms on banana leaf

The fungus produces raised structures that contain spores. When these structures are mature and there is contact with water on the plant surface from any source including rain, dew or irrigation these structures open and release spores. The free water will then transfer the spores across the leaf or fruit. If there is water splash occurring then spore movement can occur in that water as well. The spore must land on a banana host and that surface must also remain wet for between 4-6 hours to enable spore germination and infection to occur.

How is it spread?

The disease is spread by the movement of fungal spores in water on the leaf or fruit surface or via water droplets either through splash to adjoining plant parts or a short distance via wind assisted droplet movement. It can also be spread on infected suckers and fruit. Property owners in the affected areas should not move any banana plant material or fruit until further notice.

Which banana varieties belong to the Cavendish family?

Banana varieties are grouped according to their parentage and this is expressed as AAA or AAB for instance. Cavendish varieties form a subgroup of the AAA group. Cavendish banana varieties that may be present in the NT include:

  • Dwarf Cavendish
  • Williams Hybrid
  • Grand Naine
  • Mons Mari

Other Non-Cavendish AAA varieties that are/may be present in the NT include:

  • Red Dacca
  • Gros Michel

How do I tell the Cavendish strain of banana freckle from the Non-Cavendish strain of banana freckle already present in the NT?

The strain of banana freckle already present in the Darwin region does not infect Cavendish bananas. If you see any freckle like symptoms on any Cavendish bananas report it immediately to 1800 771 163 (open 7 days a week).