BANANA plants will get the chop on more than 40 properties in the Northern Territory in a national plan to head off the outbreak of banana freckle.
All banana plants, not just those identified as infected with the disease on those properties, will be removed and destroyed in a biosecurity sweep across the Top End.
National experts believe the outbreak can still be contained.
Government staff have visited 1832 properties since May in an effort to control the disease, which had spread to 29 properties by August.
That number continues to rise, reaching 42 since it was discovered again in May.
Australia's National Management Group, which responds to biosecurity breaches, still believes banana freckle "remains technically feasible to eradicate".
ALL banana plants on the 42 properties will be removed by cutting them off at the base and removing the plant material for disposal.
The roots of the plant will be treated with a herbicide.
The Territory had hoped it had seen the last of the disease after a long and costly fight saw it declared banana freckle free early in 2019.
In 2013, the banana industry was systematically wiped out around Darwin to stop it spreading.
Banana plants around Darwin, Ramingining and the Tiwi Islands, were destroyed under the previous program, the largest plant pest eradication ever attempted in Australia.
More than 500,000 banana plants were destroyed on 9500 properties.
The eradication program coordinated by national biosecurity authorities cost an estimated $26 million.
Most of the most recent cases are in the Batchelor and Rum Jungle region.
But the disease has also been found on a government research farm at Middle Point and also on private properties at Marrakai, Fly Creek and on the Tiwi Islands.
Banana plants on a property free of the disease will not be removed.
Biosecurity staff are now identifying businesses with the capacity to start the removal of plants.
Samples will be taken from all plants on an infected property to allow plant biosecurity staff to learn more about banana freckle and how it has spread.
Plant biosecurity staff have been working with affected property owners to keep them informed throughout the process.
Surveillance has been conducted at 1832 properties in the Top End by plant biosecurity staff since banana freckle was first detected to gather as much information as possible about the spread of the disease.
For those unsure whether they have banana freckle, contact the plant biosecurity team on (08) 8999 2136.
Chief plant health officer Dr Anne Walters said surveillance efforts would continue.
"The department will now begin the process of removing banana plants from infected premises and continue to work with affected property owners," she said.
"Staff from the department's biosecurity team will now focus on collecting as much information as possible through continued surveillance about where banana freckle is being detected to try and establish how far the disease has spread."
Banana growing states including Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland have banned banana fruit and/or banana plant material being brought in from the Northern Territory.
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