Project Leader, Organisation

Andre Drenth, University of Queensland




A key strength of Australia’s banana industry is the relative freedom from disease, achieved through exclusion, early detection, containment or eradication. IN addition to a range of known emerging diseases, Indonesia has a unique disease called banana blood disease caused by the bacterium Ralstonia syzgii subsp. Celebesensis. In the last two decades banana blood disease has spread dramatically and is now present across a large part of the Indonesian archipelago as well as peninsular Malaysia. No effective resistance to this disease has been identified which means that management of this disease relies on early detection, exclusion and eradication of infected plants.

Objectives and impact

A Small Initiative project funded by the Plant Biosecurity CRC revealed that banana blood disease has spread significantly in the last decade in Indonesia. Indonesia’s most widely grown banana ‘Pisang kepok’ is highly susceptible to banana blood disease. The presence and spread of this disease has a major impact on banana production in Indonesia and beyond, including Australia which is till disease-free.

Diagnostics has been validated as part of the previous CRC project and there is evidence that the disease spreads locally by insects that visit the male bell of the banana inflorescence, contaminated tools and soil, and longer distances by infected planting material. Options to contain and manage the disease still need to be evaluated. To this end, we plan field trials in Indonesia aimed to:

  • Determine when and how infection of the banana plant occurs
  • Investigate differences in transmission between banana varieties P. kapok (ABB) and AAA varieties including Cavendish
  • Determine the critical timing of covering or removing male flowers to prevent infection
  • Determine the importance of tool and soil transmission
  • Develop management strategies with Indonesian researchers
  • Develop strong enduring collaboration between Indonesian and Australian researchers

We will report on banana blood disease:

  • Scientific evidence concerning biology of infection
  • Evidence concerning the differences in varieties with regards to susceptibility to infection
  • Integration of all our findings into a science based management plan for banana blood disease
  • Increased awareness of banana blood disease by policy makers, Dept of Agriculture and industry stakeholders through delivery of quality information about banana blood disease in leaflets and electronic format distributed widely by the end of the project.