Panama TR4 variety screening trial
Coastal Plains Research Farm, Northern Territory

Latest update...

Williams Cavendish was the first variety to express disease symptoms in April 2019, approximately five months after planting. Disease assessments have been undertaken on a fortnightly basis since this time.
Assessments of the plant crop are still in progress. However, initial observations are promising, with three more Cavendish types as well as some CIRAD hybrids and parental lines showing good disease resistance.

Coastal Plains trial site
Plant crop of latest screening trial taken in August 2019, 8 months after planting.

Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4) continues to be a major threat to the Australian banana industry. Finding varieties that are resistant to Panama disease TR4 is a key component for continuing to produce bananas in the presence of the disease.

Over recent years variety screening trials have been running in the Northern Territory where the disease was declared endemic after its detection in the late 1990s. Work is well underway in the latest screening trial assessing resistance to Panama disease TR4 as well as agronomic traits. 

A mixture of varieties are being screened including Cavendish, novel CIRAD hybrids, and CIRAD parental lines. 

About the trial

Conducted at the Coastal Plains Research Farm the trial was established on a site infested with Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4). In summary the trial includes:

Main trial

  • 18 varieties, planted in December 2018

  • plants artificially inoculated with Panama disease TR4

  • 24 plants of each variety (6 plants per replicate over 4 replicates)

  • randomised complete block design

  • three varieties with known response to Panama disease TR4 are included in the trial; Goldfinger                                   
    (resistant), 
Formosana/GCTCV218 (intermediate) and Williams Cavendish (susceptible)

  • fortnightly assessments.

Tissue culture plants received in mid-September 2018 (Image courtesy of Northern Territory DPIR).
Planting and inoculation occured in mid-December 2018 (Image courtesy of Northern Territory DPIR).

List of varieties

Sub-trial

The sub-trial consists mainly of parental lines from the CIRAD breeding program. This is a smaller trial in number due to difficulty replicating the lines using tissue culture. Results from this trial will provide useful information back to the breeding program on the level of resistance that parent material and hybrids have to Panama disease TR4. The trial includes:

17 varieties, planted in December 2018

plants artificially inoculated with Panama disease TR4

10 plants of each variety (1 plant per replicate over 10 replicates)

randomised complete block design

fortnightly assessments.

List of varieties

Trial progress

Williams Cavendish was the first variety to show disease symptoms in April 2019, approximately five months after planting. Disease assessments have been undertaken on a fortnightly basis since this time.

Assessments of the plant crop are still in progress. However, initial observations are promising, with three more Cavendish types as well as some CIRAD hybrids and parental lines showing good disease resistance. Results will be published when available.

Image of Williams Cavendish taken in late May 2019, approximately 6 months after planting. The plant crop showing external symptoms of Panama disease TR4.
Cut pseudostem of Williams Cavendish. Image shows severe internal symptoms of the disease, with discolouration and blockage of vascular tissue. (Image courtesy of Northern Territory DPIR).
Goldfinger variety showing good disease resistance (August 2019).

More information...

This research has been funded as part of the Improved Plant Protection for the Banana Industry Program (BA16001), which is funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana research and development levy, co-investment from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.