Paw paw crop peril
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.