A potentially devastating plant virus able to infect a number of horticultural crops has been detected for the first time in Western Australia.
The Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus has been found in a continental cucumber crop near Geraldton, about 400 kilometres north of Perth.
In 2014 the virus was first found in Australia in watermelon crops near Katherine in the Northern Territory. Crops were destroyed and the region was placed under quarantine restrictions for nearly two years.
Geraldton is a significant production region for Australia’s continental cucumber crop.
CGMMV affects a range of cucurbit crops such as cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash and can cause substantial crop losses.
Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia Chief plant biosecurity officer John van Schagen said DAFWA would investigate the disease source, however the obvious pathway was from infected seed.
“One of our staff is going up to Geraldton. It’s definitely on the one property, possibly a second one and maybe even more, we don’t know at this stage,” he said.
“We diagnosed it from cucumber leaf samples that were submitted by an agronomist.
“Diagnosis was completed late the week before last.
“We notified Vegetables WA and we also notified people up in Kununurra.
Mr van Schagen said it was yet to be seen how the Geraldton cucumber crop would be effected by the virus.
“It’s got potential to be fairly serious,” he said.
“We haven’t quarantined the property because last year a scientific expert panel looked at what is the risk of spreading this disease through movement of produce, they deemed that was a very low risk, so I think this disease can best be managed by good on farm biosecurity practices.
“Measures include not permitting vehicles, equipment and machinery to move between farms without being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
“This also applies to farm workers, by making sure they wear clean clothing when they leave or move between properties.”
Local cucumber growers told ABC Rural they were worried about the virus and were paying close attention to farm hygiene, such as foot baths and hand sanitising.
“There is a national management plan being developed for this disease, that was started after the cases in the Northern Territory, so that’s currently sitting with some national industry bodies for finalising, but we hope to push that through fairly quickly, and that’s got all the information on how best to manage this disease for growers,” Mr van Schagen said.
“We are also doing some research ourselves in management of this disease as well.
“My understanding is once you’ve got it, it’s very difficult to treat. Basically if it’s in the crop you can’t really get it out of the crop. It’s through good on farm biosecurity and also crop rotation, you may be able to minimise the impact of the disease.
“I think that’s what they do in the Northern Territory, they have a two year period where they don’t plant any host plants on the property. Thereby they try to eliminate it from the soil.”
Mr van Schagen said the department would meet with growers to discuss possible crop rotations and gain feedback from growers on the impact the virus had caused in their cucumber crops.
DAFWA will host an information meeting at the Geraldton office on Wednesday, July 27 at 4.30pm.