THE Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries has confirmed cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) has been detected in a pumpkin crop in the Northern Territory.
The department made the announcement as Katherine watermelon producers impacted by the highly contagious virus continued to destroy their crops.
An additional quarantine area has been declared in Marrakai following the detection of the infected pumpkin crop.
Properties in declared quarantine areas will not be able to move, sell or plant any of the virus’ declared host plants, which include watermelons, cucumbers and squash.
To date CGMMV has not been detected in Queensland.
Queensland, along with other states, is currently preparing to undertake a specific, nationally consistent, surveillance program for CGMMV.
Biosecurity Queensland has asked growers to check their melon crops and report any signs of the virus.
A Biosecurity Queensland spokesperson said they had been looking for the virus and responding to reports of suspect symptoms through its normal surveillance, market access and diagnostic programs.
“Trace-back investigations between Queensland businesses and the detections of CGMMV in the Northern Territory are ongoing,” the spokesperson said.
Growers are strongly encouraged to implement good farm biosecurity practices, such as those described in the Melon Industry and Nursery and Garden Industry Biosecurity Plans or the Nursery and Garden Industry Farm Biosecurity Manual.
CGMMV can produce mottling or mosaic symptoms on leaves, similar to those caused by other endemic potyviruses such as Watermelon mosaic virus, Papaya ringspot virus (strain P) and Zucchini yellow mosaic virus.
CGMMV can result in the malformation, internal rotting, or discoloration of fruit, resulting in unsaleable produce.
CGMMV is easily transmitted through plant material; by infected sap on equipment, vehicles or people; in seed or pollen; and possibly water.
ABC Radio recently reported a Queensland nursery had been linked to the virus, however Biosecurity Queensland would not confirm specific details.
The Federal Department of Agriculture has promised strengthened biosecurity measures for imported cucurbit seeds will include testing for CGMMV, while the importation of plant genetic materials and nursery stocks will also be suspended until further notice.
Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said that the new measures follow-on from the multi-government response to combat the virus in the Northern Territory.
“Under the new arrangements, only seeds that have been tested and found free of the virus will be allowed entry into Australia,” Mr Joyce said.
“My department is working closely with industry to ensure the new measures will minimise disruption to trade and crop production, while providing a high level of protection for Australian producers.
“These are temporary measures and will be reviewed as new evidence comes to hand.
“I know this is an extremely challenging time for producers and their families, we are taking action to ensure impacts from the virus are minimised.”
Growcom CEO Alex Livingstone said the occurrence of the disease in the Northern Territory is concerning and needs to be managed in Queensland according to established response procedures to prevent the disease entering the state.
“The government needs to set up a committee of industry and government representatives urgently to manage the situation by ensuring good communication of biosecurity procedures to Queensland farms,” he said.
“Those who grow a range of cucurbits should note that apart from watermelon, the virus can infect cucumber, zucchini, melon, pumpkin, squash, bitter gourd and bottle gourd crops, and can survive for long periods on machinery and equipment surfaces.
“Unfortunately, the watermelon industry is not eligible for financial compensation because the Australian Melon Association is not a signatory to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed.
“I urge all growers to voluntarily introduce appropriate biosecurity measures on their farms. This particularly includes those growers who have melon-production areas both in the Northern Territory and Queensland.”
Vegetable group Ausveg has thrown its support behind the Federal response but says it will be monitoring the situation in an effort to minimise the impact on supply of seed to growers
Ausveg biosecurity coordinator Dr Jessica Lye said the group has been liaising with representatives of its state member NT Farmers Association, and is offering the services of dedicated biosecurity staff to provide advice.
“We are also eager to provide growers with as much information as possible about the incursion, and the new seed testing arrangements, with those wanting to know more asked to contact Ausveg on (03) 9882 0277,” Dr Lye said.