Recent reports about the discovery of cucumber green mottle mosaic virus in some parts of Queensland have left many growers devastated. While this is not really a pest control issue and more a biosecurity problem we though it was important news and worth reporting on regardless. How the fruits and vegetable rotting disease broke out in the Bundaberg region the the north of Brisbane, remain a mystery. Though it’s a big blow to the farmers, the main concern has been extent damage by the virus. The biosecurity authorities have not released a report on the extent of damage done by the virus, particularly how much it has spread in the region.
Although cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) has only been discovered on five local properties owned by two growers, the biosecurity authorities are trying to identify symptoms in the rest of the farms growing susceptible crops. If the suspicion that the virus came from the imported seed is true, then more farmers could be affected.
Vegetations Affected by CGMMV
CGMMV is known for causing discolouration and internal rot in some cucurbit family fruit and vegetables. Most of the affected cucurbit species are the melons, cucumber, bottle gourd, Zucchini, squash and zucchini. It’s also important to note that the virus is transmitted mechanically by wounds made with farm equipment, cutting tool, or chewing by insects such as the beetles. It is also possible to have it passed via root grafting or any handling of the crop.
According to Mile Aston, the Biosecurity Queensland spokesman, the virus was not harmful to humans. But it could ravage parts of the agricultural industry in case a widespread outbreak occurs. When asked about the source, could provide a direct answer. “It is high unlikely that we will ever be able to pinpoint exactly how the virus got introduced,” Mr Ashton said.
In spite of this, the spokesman confirmed that the authority is tracing the investigation to try and identify the source of the virus. But this has not given farmers the confidence to invest in growing fruits and vegetables. In fact, a majority of growers are moving away from these crops to less risky ones.
Gino Marcon is one of the many farmers moving away from vegetables and fruits that are susceptible to CGMMV attacks. Although he typically grows an array of vegetables, this year Mr Marcon is growing tomatoes only to avoid the virus. According to him, most of the farmers are a bit worried about the disease, and they have adopted a wait-and-see attitude at the moment. “We are a bit concerned that our Zucchini production could be affected by the virus and that’s why we have switched over to 100% tomato production in our greenhouses,” Mr Marcon said.
Biosecurity Authorities To Blame For The Outbreak
According to the farmers, biosecurity authorities are to blame for the outbreak. They believe that the situation could have been tamed if the authority was proactive. According to Mr Marcon, most of the growers have lost confidence in the biosecurity system.
“We think it is not broken, it’s shredded to bits and simply not working,” he said. Most farmers Queensland share the same opinion about the institution that was meant to protect them from such disasters. The opinion resonating from the ground is the overhaul of the entire system since the growers cannot see the value of money that is allocated to the authority. They also believe that the politicians are not giving this sector the due attention it deserves.
But Mr Ashton was quick to refute the allegation that the system has failed. According to the spokesman, they should be applauded for managing to restrict the spread of the virus. “We have managed to restrict the disease to a very small number of properties in Queensland,” he said. According to him, were it not for the system intervention, the situation could be worse. He also noted that Bundaberg region cannot compare with other areas such as Northern Territory and Western Australia where the disease has become quite established.
According to Mr Ashton, their priority is to continue working with the affected growers to develop a proper management plan to eradicate the virus from the greenhouse. They have also restricted the affected places in accordance with the Biosecurity Act 2014 to curb the spread.
There have been previous CGMMV outbreaks in the Territory and WA, and an isolated case at the Charters Towers in North Queensland in 2015. But the Biosecurity Queensland is optimistic that the Charters Tower farm will be declared free of the disease late this year.
Federal Agriculture Department introduced mandatory testing of the imported seeds to try and combat CGMMV in 2014. The department has increased the size of the sample more than for times that of internationally recognised standards. The increment rose from 2000 seeds to 9,400 seeds to ensure that the results almost 100 per cent accurate.
Such measures are expected to give a higher level of confidence in the results. With the tested seeds, it will be difficult to have the virus coming from overseas. Farmers can also get the confidence to start growing the crops again.