Papaya sticky disease: Exotic plant pest

Page last updated: Wednesday, 24 June 2020 - 9:49am

Papaya sticky disease (caused by the combined action of Papaya meleira virus and Papaya meleira virus 2) is a disease of papaya that can spread rapidly through plantings, making the fruit unattractive and unmarketable. This pest 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 combination of two viruses, which are 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.
  • Some species of leafhoppers and whiteflies can spread the viruses.
  • Papaya sticky disease can be spread in infected tissue culture plants.

What damage can this pest cause? 

  • Plants with papaya sticky disease cannot be cured.
  • Spread of the disease to healthy plants can be reduced by pulling out affected plants, but the viruses may 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 is considered absent from Western Australia. Western Australia's pest freedom from papaya sticky disease is supported by general and specific surveillance and import requirements to prevent its entry.

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