Evaluation of the plant crop is now complete, and some promising varieties have been identified. A summary of the observations is now available, including data for selected yield and plant characteristics included in the trial.
Harvest of the first ratoon is almost completed except for a few varieties which are slower to cycle. Data from the first ratoon is yet to be finalised but the various trends described in yield and pseudostem height for the plant crop have continued into the first ratoon except that the TR4 resistant Cavendish have fallen away considerably in yield compared to Williams. This is not the first time that poor ratooning has been noted for such selections.
The CIRAD hybrids have been cycling quicker than Williams which has helped them to improve their yield in the first ratoon compared to what it was in the plant crop, relative to Williams.
About the trial
Growers are keeping a keen eye on the 32 varieties included in the latest agronomic evaluation at South Johnstone. This is the first step at looking at new introductions that may have commercial potential for the Australian banana industry.
This research forms a significant part of the Improved Plant Protection for the Banana Industry Program (BA16001), looking at the agronomic traits as well as pest and disease tolerance of imported varieties. This project provides for 3 variety assessment trials across Australia at Alstonville (previously Duranbah NSW), South Johnstone (Qld) and Coastal Plains (NT), assessing resistance to Panama disease Race 1 and TR4, agronomic performance, cold tolerance and yellow Sigatoka resistance.
Several of the varieties included in the current South Johnstone trial are also being screened in the Northern Territory to determine or confirm resistance to TR4.
Varieties included in the current evaluation trial were planted in September 2018. Assessment of agronomic traits will be collected over three crop cycles and a yellow Sigatoka leaf spot screening in the fourth cycle. Several new varieties that have shown resistance to TR4 overseas are included in the evaluation.
With an agreement now in place with the Taiwan Banana Research Institute, it will be possible to progress some of the better performing Taiwanese varieties to on-farm trials. The ability to grow these varieties as part of on-farm trials will allow for a greater number of plants than what is possible at South Johnstone Research Facility.
Varieties being evaluated
- A suite of Taiwanese selections of Cavendish present in Australia. Also included is a selection made in Australia from a former introduction.
- Agro-biotechnology company Rahan Meristem imported four of their elite Cavendish selections into Australia from Israel— Gal, Jaffa and two selections of Adi. The main features include reduced plant stature and large well-structured bunches. These selections are proving popular in various export production zones around the globe. However, these selections are not claimed to have any resistance to Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4). North Queensland producers that have seen them growing overseas have been keen to see them evaluated by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) for some time. Rahan Meristem own these varieties and have agreed that results from our evaluations can be made publicly available.
- Four hybrids from the breeding program of CIRAD in the French West Indies. Overseas these have shown resistance to leaf disease and Panama disease race 1. We are all eager to see how they fare against TR4 in the Northern Territory trials.
- Two Cavendish selections from the Canary Islands. These selections of Dwarf Cavendish form the basis of their 400,000 t/yr. export industry to mainland Europe.
- A new dwarf Lady Finger selection.
A list of varieties being evaluated is now available.
Plant crop observations
Promising varieties based on plant crop observations
All of the Taiwanese Cavendish selections available in Australia are included in this trial. These selections were typically two to five months slower than Williams in the plant crop, however several had heavier bunches. When taking into account bunch weight relative to time taken, there are some promising results with two new selections, Asia Pacific #3 and GCTCV 217 having comparable results with Williams. Two Formosana (GCTCV 218) selections have shown promising results with comparable yields to Williams.
Other Taiwanese varieties yielded from 77 to 94% compared to Williams in the plant crop. Some had significantly shorter fruit, as indicated by the percentage of fruit in the 22-26 cm size category. Depending on the time of year fruit are harvested, this could be an advantage or a disadvantage in achieving more fruit in the desired size range for the market compared to Williams. Several of the Taiwanese varieties were taller than Williams.
Rahan Meristem Cavendish selections
Bunches of the Rahan Meristem Cavendish selections have been impressive, with all four selections being characterised by heavy bunches, long fruit, and good hand separation in the bunch which should help minimise fingertip scarring.
Gal and Jaffa were the only varieties in the trial that yielded significantly higher (per unit time) than Williams. These selections have not been tested against Panama disease TR4 but are not expected to have any resistance.
These selections are owned in Australia by Rahan Meristem and it is expected they will be made available to some growers as part of on-farm evaluations towards the end of 2020.
The dwarf selections of Cavendish, Brier and Dwarf Cavendish, have yielded well with substantially shorter fruit than Williams.
CIRAD hybrids only yielded 52% to 58% to that of Williams and were 12 to 46% taller than Williams in the plant crop. Their leaf petioles seem quite brittle and under wind often snapped off. Fruit of the four hybrids have been tasted by staff at South Johnstone – CIRAD’s 03 & 05 were particularly liked whilst 04 and 06 were probably too fragrant.
A repeat evaluation is required of some varieties which had a high incidence of tissue culture offtypes.
Growers and industry stakeholders have had opportunities to view bunches hanging during the plant and first ratoon crops. The last field walk was held in March 2020.