Media Release

Swift action to combat exotic plant virus in NT

11 October 2014

A team of specialists from around the country, funded through the Australian Government’s Stronger Biosecurity and Quarantine Initiative, will be deployed by the Northern Territory Government to combat an exotic plant virus attacking watermelon crops.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, had discussions yesterday with Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries, Willem Westra van Holthe, about the status of the virus incursion in the NT and details of the Australian Government’s rapid response deployment. 

This is the first time the rapid response function has been activated since the Coalition’s $20 million Stronger Biosecurity and Quarantine Initiative was announced in the 2014-15 Budget.

A rapid response team is now working to manage an incursion of Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus (CGMMV), an exotic plant virus that has the potential to reduce watermelon yields by up to 50 per cent with total losses in some situations.

The response team, including plant virologists, emergency response planning specialists and analytical staff, is now working as part of the NT government’s response team. These experts will help to identify and quarantine properties affected by the virus, prepare an emergency containment plan under the national Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed and trace the origin of the virus.

CGMMV can infect a range of cucurbits including cucumbers, melons, watermelons, bitter-gourds, bottle gourds and zucchinis. In affected plants the virus can appear as a mosaic-like mottling on leaves.

 The virus can cause severe symptoms in infected watermelon plants and other cucurbits. Symptoms include early fall of fruit, rotting, yellowing, or dirty red discolouring of the internal fruit.

CGMMV can be transmitted in a variety of ways, including in seed material, mechanical transmission by contact of infect plant material with any surface, including machinery, clothing and plant material and through infected water and pollen.

“Biosecurity is everyone’s business so it is essential that pest and disease threats are identified early and reported to the appropriate authorities so swift action can be taken to manage the risk,” Minister Joyce said.

If you see CGMMV in your local area, please call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Visit the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries (DPIF) website for more information on CGMMV www.nt.gov.au.