Papaya sticky disease: biosecurity alert

Page last updated: Wednesday, 22 June 2022 - 10:17am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Papaya sticky disease is absent from Western Australia. It has recently been reported from the Northern Territory, after being detected in Queensland in 2014. It is caused by two viruses and infected fruit is unmarketable as it is unsightly, and flavour is compromised. 

Papaya growers are urged to check their papaya plants for signs of discharge of watery translucent latex from undamaged green fruit that hardens and darkens upon contact with air. If you suspect papaya sticky disease in your plants, please report it; it is a declared pest in Western Australia.

Papaya sticky disease (caused by Papaya meleira virus 2 and Papaya meleira virus) can spread rapidly through papaya plantings, making the fruit unattractive and unmarketable. This disease is not known to occur in Western Australia. Early detection and reporting of papaya sticky disease will help protect the Western Australian papaya industry.

What plants are affected? 

Papaya sticky disease only affects papaya (pawpaw).

What do I look for?

  • The most obvious sign of papaya sticky disease is discharge of watery latex from undamaged green fruit.
  • The latex is translucent and more liquid than latex from healthy fruit.
  • The latex turns brown and hardens after contact with the air.
  • Latex is also secreted from the edge of young leaves at the top of the plant, and leaf tips and borders turn brown.
  • Diseased fruit tastes unpleasant.

How does the disease survive and spread?

  • Papaya sticky disease is caused by a virus which is present in all parts of the plant.
  • Infected seeds produce infected plants.
  • The disease can spread from plant to plant through pruning and fruit picking.
  • Papaya sticky disease can be spread in infected tissue culture plants.
  • It is suspected that leafhoppers or whiteflies may also spread papaya sticky disease, but this has not been proved.

What damage can this pest cause? 

  • Plants with papaya sticky disease cannot be cured.
  • Spread of the disease to healthy plants may be reduced by pulling out infected plants, but papaya sticky disease can spread to 100% of a crop by the time harvest would normally begin.
  • The fruit from infected plants cannot be marketed.

Status in Western Australia 

Papaya sticky disease (caused by Umbravirus papaya meleira virus 2 and Totivirus papaya meleira virus) is absent from Western Australia and is a quarantine pest.

It is a prohibited organism under section 12 of the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007.

Western Australia's Pest Freedom for Papaya sticky disease is supported by general and specific surveillance, and specific import requirements to prevent its entry. A person who finds or suspects the presence of Papaya sticky disease must report it to DPIRD.

What do I do if I find it?

It is important that any suspect papaya sticky disease occurrence is reported. Early detection and eradication will help protect Western Australian papaya growers. Please make a report on MyPestGuide or contact the Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS) to report this pest.

Report your observations using the MyPestGuide Reporter app or online at mypestguide.agric.wa.gov.au.

Contact information

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