Panama disease: declared pest

Page last updated: Friday, 2 October 2020 - 12:17pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Panama disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) is considered one of the most destructive diseases of banana plants worldwide. It is caused by the soil-borne fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Tropical Race 4). 

In March 2015 it was detected on Cavendish banana plants at a property in the Tully Valley, North Queensland.

This pest is not known to occur in Western Australia. Early detection and reporting of Panama disease TR4 will help protect the Western Australian banana industry.

Current biosecurity measures

The Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) has implemented biosecurity measures to restrict the intrastate movement of containers into an area within 50 km of the Kununurra and Carnarvon post offices—that contain or have contained banana fruit grown or packed in Queensland—unless each container has been:

  • inspected by a DAFWA Quarantine WA Inspector, and found free from soil and plant debris; and
  • marked with a 'passed quarantine' stamp or sticker by Quarantine WA.

The re-packing of bananas on arrival in Western Australia does not negate the requirement for inspection and identification.

What plants are affected?

Panama disease TR4 infects most banana varieties including the main commercial variety Cavendish.

What do I look for?

Initial external symptoms of Panama disease TR4 include yellowing leaf margins on older leaves. As the disease progresses, older leaves die and form a skirt around the lower part of the plant. Internal browning of stems and corms is the key diagnostic symptom, where if the stem is cut near the base, rings of discoloured tissue can be seen. Affected plants rarely produce marketable fruit.

What damage can this disease cause?

Once established, the fungus persists in the soil for many years, making the production of susceptible banana varieties such as Cavendish economically unviable.

The fruit itself does not pose a risk to human health.

What do I do if I find it?

Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense W.C. Snyder & H.N. Hansen 1940 (Tropical Race 4)—the soil-borne fungus that causes Panama disease TR4—is a prohibited organism for Western Australia. It is important that any suspect occurrences are reported. Early detection and eradication will help protect the Western Australian banana industry. Please contact the Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS) to report this pest.

Contact information

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
+61 (0)8 9368 3080