Paw paw crop peril

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Scott Tib­balls

PA­PAYA crops through­out Dou­glas Shire have been struck by yel­low crin­kle dis­ease, forc­ing farm­ers to cut down sig­nif­i­cant swaths of trees.

Moss­man cane farmer Don Mur­day has a crop of 4000 pa­paya trees, and was re­cently forced to cut down 15 per cent of them due to the dis­ease, which re­duces the qual­ity of pa­paya be­fore killing the plant en­tirely.

The dis­ease has af­fected the en­tire pa­paya in­dus­try in Queens­land, ac­cord­ing to prin­ci­pal plant pathol­o­gist at the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries, Lyn­ton Vaw­drey.

“This is statewide across all the pa­paya grow­ing ar­eas, and we’re just now start­ing to pick it up on the Table­lands in higher in­ci­dences than you nor­mally see,” said Mr Vaw­drey.

He ex­plained that yel­low crin­kle is be­lieved to be caused by phy­to­plas­mas which are car­ried by leaf­hop­pers.

“They’re very small in­sects a few mm in length. They look like minia­ture grasshop­pers or ci­cadas, but very tiny.”

He ex­plained that dry weather ap­pears to be the cat­a­lyst for the in­sects in­fect­ing pa­paya trees.

“These in­sects nor­mally feed on veg­e­ta­tion – maybe other crops like sugar cane. As the sur­round­ing grasses and veg­e­ta­tion dry out they’re look­ing for some­thing green to feed on.

Picture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

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