AUSTRALIA: No ‘bananageddon’; Bright future for banana industry in northern Australia


by Courtney Fowler, abc news

 

 

The collaborative research project between the Northern Territory and Queensland governments has seen 27 varieties of banana planted, looking for signs of tolerance or resistance to the disease.

 

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) director of plant industries Bob Williams said three months into the project, there were several trial crops demonstrating resistance to Panama disease.

 

“There are a number in there that are resistant but how they perform or whether they’ve got any commercial reality is what we aim to find out,” he said.

 

“The plants have only been in the ground for three months; we would anticipate seeing some disease maybe in another two to three months’ time and then we’ll aim to take this crop until the end of the first return.”

 

Taiwanese Cavendish showing resistance to TR4
Mr Williams said researchers were particularly interested in studying Cavendish bananas from Taiwan, which had been performing well in the presence of Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4).

 

“The Taiwanese, who have had TR4 since 1990, have been maintaining their trade with Japan,” he said.

 

“There’s a large number of plantings through a number of Asian countries,” he said.

 

“There are large plantings in China, in the southern Philippines and a few other evaluation sites throughout the Asia Pacific and also now in Mozambique and South Africa.

 

“These are true Cavendish, performing well in soils quite high in the fusarium inoculum, so it’s the evaluation of those we think will be of some immediate benefit to the Australian industry.

 

“We will be putting these [rotational] trials down up here on a former commercial farm, looking at suppressing the disease inoculums in the soil with a range of strategies, then also working with Queensland researchers on identifying how well we reduce that inoculum in the soil.”

 

Saving industry time and money

Since the banana freckle outbreak, current legislation prevents the industry from moving bananas from the Territory into Queensland without first going through an 18-month quarantine period.

 

Dr Williams said another component of his research aimed to demonstrate it was possible to transport banana tissue culture samples to Queensland safely without the movement of Panama disease.

 

“We will be initiating tissue culture material from infected plants, initiating material from clean plants and inoculating it with fusarium, then pushing it through the full tissue culture process,” he said.

 

“We will then be putting those plants back out into clean areas to see if there’s any Panama disease.

 

“[If successful] this will save the industry a lot of time; then we will be able to continually send elite material from our trials here back into Queensland so they can evaluate the commercial reality and hopefully save years of work.”

 

Mr Williams said another aspect of the project was focusing on the radio mutation of a number of banana parent lines selected by the Queensland Government and the industry.

 

“We will be getting those varieties towards the end of this year through to probably middle of next year. The aim is to get around 2,500 of these,” he said.

 

“Each plant will be an individual mutated, so we will identify anything that has a disease resistance initially or something we know that already has resistance and we’re trying to improve those base qualities.

 

“Anything that looks good, we will put into tissue culture and put that back out into our field here and then return some of that material to Queensland for further evaluation.”

 

Bright future for bananas
Mr Williams said he was optimistic about the future of the banana industry in northern Australia, with research already providing valuable knowledge back to growers in the Top End and northern Queensland.

 

“The bio-security measures the Queenslanders are putting in place will significantly reduce the potential movement of it,” he said.

 

“The management strategies that we have been researching and are continuing to look at will benefit both North Queensland and up here.

 

“And with the resistant or tolerant clones that are coming out, there’s a bright future.

“The world has not fallen over, no bananangeddon — we’ve seen that from Taiwan, we’ve seen it from China and now we’ve seen it from the Philippines.

“We believe that opportunity will allow North Queensland and the Territory to move ahead.”

 

Growers recovering from banana freckle

Mr Williams said local growers were showing positive signs of recovery from the banana freckle outbreak, with bananas slowly being planted in quarantine zones around the Northern Territory.

 

“There are bananas outside of the red zone and they’re expanding, with planting in Katherine and the Douglas Daly,” he said.

 

“Plant industries within the Department have been growing varieties for the Freckle Replacement Program and we’ve got another 5,000 coming up in the next couple of weeks that will take us through until November or December to get back out to the public.

 

“Id say commercially, after this coming wet season, you’ll see a lot more going in.”

 

Source: abc news




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