Leaf curl leaves futures in doubt

DAVID Da Pra has seen what yellow leaf curl virus can do to tomato crops, but his biggest fear is not knowing when, or if, it will effect him.

"We've only got undercover crops and we've got fairly compact growing conditions, so it would spread quickly," Mr Da Pra said.

"Not many people know what to expect, which is probably the most worrying thing."

Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) plant and biosecurity general manager Chris Adriaansen said there had been no more detections of the virus in Bundaberg since surveillance was completed in the area two weeks ago.

He said surveillance was being completed by the DPI&F in the tomato growing regions of Bowen and Burdekin yesterday, and the results would be known in the next couple of days.

"Obviously the slightly warmer climate in Bowen could produce a slightly faster build up of white fly - if left unattended," Mr Adriaansen said.

"We've got nothing at this stage which says what the situation is likely to be.

"We've got a number of farms (in Bundaberg) that have got infestation - it's a matter of managing white fly."

CropTech chief agronomist Malcolm Frick said most growers were aware of keeping white fly down and cleaning up properly after a harvest.

"Everyone expects it to get worse as the virus spreads throughout the region," Mr Frick said.

"Farmers need to have a proactive but wait-and-see approach - not thinking the sky is going to fall on their head."

Mr Frick said it was unclear when the effects of the virus would hit.

"It may be a short period of time, or it could be longer," he said.

"Once we start finding a higher percentage of virus turning up in the field, growers will start to see a level of crop loss.

"A lot of it depends on the skill of the farmer and the location of the farm."

Tomato grower John Manera said he believed the problem was "pretty well under control" at the moment.

He said he was not expecting tomato prices to rise in the immediate future as a result of the virus.

Mr Da Pra said unless Bowen became affected by the virus, prices were unlikely to go up.

"In winter-time Bowen comes in so it keeps prices down," he said.

"Maybe late spring or early summer we might have a problem with pricing - I don't think the pricing will change for the next six to eight months."

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