Biosecurity a habit for banana growing award finalists

August 22, 2014

Michael and Lisa Lankester from Walkamin on the Atherton Tablelands in far north Queensland are finalists in the 2014 Plant Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Award.

Lankester Bananas grows 60 hectares of Lady Finger bananas and 5 hectares (3650 trees) of trellised custard apples. The remainder of their land is dedicated to grazing.

At the time the Lankesters purchased their new farm, Race 1 Panama disease (Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense) had just been detected on a commercial Lady Finger farm on the Atherton Tablelands.

Panama disease is a soil borne disease capable of significant yield reductions and potentially plant death. In most cases, Lady Finger plantations are no longer viable once this disease becomes established.

The Lankesters felt they had invested too much in establishing their farm to allow their business to be at risk from disease. Having owned other farms in the past the new farm provided an opportunity to ‘get it right’.

While Panama disease was the immediate disease priority, the on-farm biosecurity measures also help to protect the business from other banana pests and diseases, such as the more virulent Race 4 Panama disease.

“The greatest cost to the business would be losing what we had already invested to establish the farm, not the cost of implementing biosecurity practices,” said Mr Lankester.

The property was already fenced, so this provided an opportunity to restrict access to a single entry point.

A dip charged with Farmcleanse® was placed at the entry to make sure all vehicles driving onto the farm have to pass through the dip, killing all soil borne pests and diseases as they do.

“Because it’s so easy to use the dip, people are happy to comply,” he said.

“Contractors who regularly drive on or use equipment on other banana farms, including local irrigation scheme and other energy service providers, are asked to leave their vehicles outside the property.”

“When our transport company arrives on the Tablelands, they always pick up our fruit first. This is something that we arrange, so the trucks haven’t been on other farms first.”

Dedicated farm vehicles or equipment are provided for use on-farm.

An easement for the local irrigation scheme providers was also identified as a potential risk pathway onto their property.

“We approached the company to request that they close this easement and use the main entrance.”

The biosecurity measures that Lankester Bananas have adopted appear to be effective.

“Panama disease has been present on farms close by for over six years and we are yet to see the disease on our farm.”

The Lankesters believe people are creatures of habit.

“Once you are in the habit of using particular practices, they become the norm and ‘routine’. We now consider our biosecurity measures as ‘standard’ practice,” said Mr Lankester.

Sponsored by Plant Health Australia, the Plant Biosecurity Farmer of the Year award recognises the efforts of producers dedicated to keeping their operations free of diseases, pests and weeds.

The award is part of the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards, hosted by Kondinin Group and ABC Rural. Winners of all award categories will be announced at a ceremony in Melbourne on 10 September.

For more information or images contact media@phau.com.au or call 02 6215 7700.