Roadshow’s new mini format a hit with growers

New mini roadshow format a hit with growers

The latest banana roadshow series that ran throughout November has wrapped up for Queensland and New South Wales growers, with events held in Innisfail, Tully, Mareeba, Murwillumbah, and Coffs Harbour. 

This series focused on providing updates of industry’s banana variety research and development activities, including the latest results from the Panama TR4 screening trial in the Northern Territory, South Johnstone’s agronomic varietal evaluations and industry’s pre-commercialisation trials. 

In addition, growers were given an overview of the activities included in the new National Banana Development and Extension Project and participated in a discussion on Rust Thrips management. Growers frequently report Rust Thrips as a pest affecting fruit quality. 

Taking the lead on running the events this year was the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Stewart Lindsay ‘It was great to have attendance at the events during a difficult year. The roadshows offer a mutual benefit for growers, researchers and other industry stakeholders getting together in the same room, talking about the latest R&D and banana farming in general. These one-on-one and group discussions facilitated as part of the event are highly valued by all parties. It’s certainly not just about information delivery, it’s about collaborating together as an industry’.

Like many activities and events in 2020, COVID-19 forced a rethink on how the series would be delivered this year. As a result, the extension team ran ‘mini’ roadshows with less people and a shorter format running over an afternoon, instead of the full day events that previously ran every two years. Many growers that attended said that they preferred the shorter format. DAF’s extension team is now looking at holding mini roadshows more frequently, themed on different topics as new research and development emerges. 

Interstate travel restrictions also meant that some researchers couldn’t make it to all the events, so some presentations were pre-recorded, and researchers joined group discussions live online via the internet. 

The extension team would like to thank all growers and industry stakeholders who attended, as well as banana researchers Sharl Mintoff (NT DITT), Jeff Daniells, Katie Ferro and Richard Piper (DAF) for their contribution and Leanne Davis (NSW DPI) for her support with the NSW events. The team would also like to thank ABGC’s communication team for promoting the events.

Future mini roadshow events are planned for 2021, so keep an eye out via ABGC communications.

Photos of Queensland roadshows courtesy of Sonia Campbell (ABGC).
DAF's Stewart Lindsay, Jeff Daniells, Shanara Veivers, Ingrid Jenkins and Rob Mayers at Mareeba roadshow

Recordings available

If you missed the roadshows, click on the links below for a recording of the presentations.

Update on banana variety importation and development

Presented by Stewart Lindsay

November 2020

South Johnstone agronomic trials

Presented by Jeff Daniells
November 2020

The National Banana Roadshow series is delivered as part of the National Banana and Development Extension Program (BA19004) funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana research and development levy, co-investment from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian Horticulture. 

The project works in close collaboration and is supported by the Australian Banana Growers’ Association (ABGC).

Meet a researcher – Kathy Grice

Kathy Grice

Horticulture’s jewel in the north!

For horticultural producers, plant diseases can be the bane of your existence. That’s why many turn to Kathy Grice for assistance. Working in plant pathology for the past 33 years, Kathy offers a wealth of knowledge and experience to help diagnose plant diseases as well as providing management options. With her career based in Far North Queensland a large portion of Kathy’s time has been working on solutions for Australian banana growers.

Kathy’s work is primarily in diagnostics. Banana samples sent to her lab in Mareeba vary from leaf and fruit disorders to corm and root diseases.

Kathy Grice
Senior Experimentalist (Plant Pathology)
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Mareeba Research Station, Mareeba, Qld

The primary objective of Kathy’s work in diagnostics is to ensure exotic plant pathogens are not present in our local banana industry. The importance of her diagnostic work is best exemplified by her key role in the black Sigatoka response that resulted in the successful eradication of the disease in Far North Queensland in the early-mid 2000s. 

More recently, Kathy and colleague Peter Trevorrow have focussed their research on the post-harvest quality issue of Crown end rot. As part of this work they have looked into ‘softer’ control options as an alternative to registered fungicides, with some biological products showing promising results.
 

Recently Kathy was awarded the prestigious ‘Lester Burgess Diagnostics and Extension Award’ for her contribution to her field of plant pathology and service to horticultural industries.

When asked what she enjoyed most about her work, Kathy responded, ‘The most exciting or rewarding part of any research is being able to provide a grower/s or an industry with a solution to a particular problem or issue.  I think I enjoy the variety in the work (a mix of laboratory and field work) and learning new ways of tackling research.’

Kathy is a Mareeba resident and an amateur twitcher, so you may find her bird watching in her free time. She also enjoys yoga and travelling overseas to experience different cultures and food. 

New extension team hit the road

It’s certainly going to be a busy time for the team working on the new five-year National Banana Development and Extension Program (BA19004) which commenced in June this year. This project is funded by the banana research and development levy, with co-investment from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and contributions from the Australian Government. Building on the achievements of previous extension projects, it seeks to continue to help build capacity within industry, giving growers the best possible opportunity to make informed positive changes to their businesses. 

The team is about to hit the road visiting banana farms, with a renewed focus on one-on-one grower contact.  This will give the team a greater understanding of the current needs and issues of growers as well as identifying any opportunities for assistance specific to their farm.

The project will continue to deliver information on the latest banana research and development through events such as the National Banana Roadshows, field days/workshops, Better Bananas website, the Australian Banana Congress, and other special events. The extension team is taking a flexible approach to dealing with COVID-19. Some activities may be delayed or modified in the short-term, for example linking interstate researchers into workshops via webinar. The main aim is to continue the momentum of the National Banana Development and Extension Program. 

Keep an eye out for future extension opportunities, such as the banana variety field walks previously held at South Johnstone Research Facility

This also includes exciting collaborative initiatives such as continuing to support NextGen, the industry’s young grower groups. NextGen groups in both Queensland and New South Wales are open to young growers or for those ‘young at heart’, who are willing to contribute and share with other group members. The team is looking forward to future NextGen activities, which have previously involved visiting businesses from other industries and in other regions, with a focus on innovation and technology. 

The extension team will also be keeping an eye out for any opportunities to work closely with growers doing small on-farm innovation trials. These will be regionally focused and selected based on industry priorities.

The team has some new and familiar faces to industry. Tegan Kukulies from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) leads the project and is currently on maternity leave. Sue Heisswolf (DAF) is acting in Tegan’s role while she is on leave, supporting the team with project management activities. Sue is a Principal Horticulturlist with the Department and is a great addition to the team, having a lot of experience in delivering extension services to horticultural industries.

Other project members include Stewart Lindsay (DAF), Shanara Veivers (DAF) and Ingrid Jenkins (DAF) who are all based at the South Johnstone Research Facility in Far North Queensland, and Tom Flanagan from New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. Tom is based at Wollongbar and is the main contact for New South Wales growers.

Meet the new National banana development and extension team

Contact us!

We encourage all growers to get in touch for more information on project activities or to arrange a visit with the extension team.

Contact us:

Email: betterbananas@daf.qld.gov.au
Phone: (07) 4220 4177 (South Johnstone team)
Phone: (02) 6626 1352 (Tom Flanagan – Subtropical enquiries)

This National Banana and Development Extension Program (BA19004) has been funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana research and development levy, co-investment from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian Horticulture. 
The project works in close collaboration and is supported by the Australian Banana Growers’ Association (ABGC).

Postharvest

Postharvest research and development

Postharvest research plays an important part in guaranteeing that Australian’s keep enjoying great quality bananas. A lot of time and effort goes into producing each and every bunch. Therefore, having correct postharvest processes in place for handling, storing and ripening fruit is essential to get the best quality fruit onto retail shelves and to maximise the fruit’s value back to growers.

Research looking into postharvest processes on-farm, as well as within the supply chain, has gone a long way in understanding and addressing some important quality issues. The links below provide more information on recent postharvest research.

If you have a postharvest issue that you would like to discuss or would like further information, contact the Better Bananas team at betterbananas@daf.qld.gov.au.

Results from the Subtropical packed product analysis – minor defects

Results from the Subtropical packed product analysis

Minor defects

There was a far greater number of minor defects than major defects found as part of the Subtropical packed product analysis. Results showed that of the 709 clusters, 235 or 31.15% had a minor defect. This is again over Woolworths specifications requiring no more than 10% of clusters with minor defects per consignment. 

The figure below shows 16 minor defects found in the study and lists them from the most common on the left through to less common on the right.

Proportions of minor defects (31.15% of consignment) identified during the packed product analysis.

The six most common minor defects which accounted for almost 70% of clusters included, abrasion, thrips damage, bruising, damage caused by rub, dry scars and sap stains.

Broadly speaking these minor defects can be addressed through altering in-crop management and handling practices, early identification of pests and establishing effective control methods and post-harvest handling and packing procedures. 

Abrasion and rub

Dry, brown and calloused to fresh, wet appearing, black patches on the peel. Caused by rubbing of bract, flower tip, leaf, bag or adjacent fruit against the peel or poor post-harvest handling. 

Abrasion and rub damage to fruit was the most common minor defect identified during the study. An accurate assessment of the reasons for abrasion and rub damage in your paddock will help guide which strategies are appropriate to reducing its impact.

 

Thrips damage

The damage caused by Flower and Rust Thrips can be significant. It was the second most common minor defect found during the packed product analysis. Effective management of these pests is possible through consistent crop monitoring and putting in place effective control strategies.

Damage causing bruising

Bruising

Occurs when enough impact or compression forces are applied to fruit. Appears as a flat, sunken or partially broken area of peel which will darken and become increasingly obvious as fruit ripens. 

Bruising proved to be a very common minor defect identified in this study and can be reduced by evaluating and adapting post-harvest handling strategies and equipment.

There are a broad range of reasons why physical damage may occur to bunches, such as abrasion, bruising, rub and dry scars. Some of these may be easily avoided and there are others that cannot be prevented. Rub, abrasion and dry scars caused by wind are not easily preventable. However, the use of clips-slips can be used to improve fruit quality, by placing between hands to reduce abrasion and rub of the bract, flower tip or adjacent fruit against the peel. Undertaking a cost-benefit analysis on the use of clips-slips may be a worthy exercise for the subtropical banana industry, as higher prices for blemish free fruit may very well outweigh the cost of use. 

Post-harvest handling is one area where small changes to equipment, techniques or practices can have large impacts on fruit quality. Changes to post-harvest handling on your farm should be investigated to determine whether small, cost-effective changes can be easily implemented to help decrease defects, increasing quality and ultimately profitability.

Thrips damage was the second most common minor defect found in this study and included damage from rust thrips and flower thrips, including corky scab. Effective management of these pests is possible through consistent crop monitoring and putting in place effective control strategies. Monitoring and control strategies for thrips species vary and should be tailored to your specific conditions before being applied on-farm.  

Sap stains are another minor defect that can be easily addressed with changes to post-harvest handling techniques and equipment. Packing too quickly, allowing de-handed clusters to sit for too long, failing to wash fruit in a trough and a lack of  paper/plastic sheets between fruit in cartons are a few factors that can increase the likelihood of sap stains. These can be addressed simply by training fruit packers or making changes to equipment and packing processes. Watch the ‘Developing a standard industry banana carton’ video for some handy information on best practice packing standards.

*Fruit in this study was assessed against the most recently released Woolworths subtropical Cavendish produce specifications, issued 9 December 2014. Always make sure you’re referring to the latest specifications relevant to your business.

More information...

A poster is now available showing common quality issues and packing guidelines for subtropical banana growers. To receive a hard copy or for more information contact NSW DPI Industry Development Officer Tom Flanagan on (02) 6626 1352 or email tom.flanagan@dpi.nsw.gov.au 

NSW DPI would like to acknowledge all growers who agreed to participate in the study, Matt Weinert, Leanne Davis from NSW DPI and Valerie Shrubb, Anastasia Van Blommestein and Brett Renton from WA DPIRD for undertaking the research. 

This research has been funded as part of the Subtropical Banana Development and Extension Program (BA16007), which is funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana research and development levy and co-investment from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.

Results from the Subtropical packed product analysis – major defects

Results from the Subtropical packed product analysis

Major defects

Let’s take a closer look at the major defects found as part of the Subtropical packed product analysis. Results showed that 4.65% of clusters in the consignment had a major defect. This is over the Woolworths’ specifications requiring no more than 2% of clusters with major defects per consignment. This could result in the consignment being rejected by the retailer. Although this number may sound small, the potential financial impact to growers is much larger, and that’s not even taking into account minor defects.

For example, if you were to receive $20 per carton for a consignment of 71 cartons, the total value is equal to $1,420. A grower could risk a reduction in the value or the complete rejection of their consignment in this instance. Further, the value of this potential loss doesn’t include any additional costs associated with packing or getting the fruit to market, such as transportation costs.

So, what were the major defects found and which were more common? The answer to those questions is presented in the figure below. All five of these are largely associated with poor post-harvest handling and packing procedures. 

Proportion of major defects (4.65% of consignment) identified during the packed product analysis.

Cut, hole or puncture

Physical damage that is deep enough to expose pulp. This may be caused by a knife, animal, bird or insect.

Cuts, holes or punctures were the most common major defect identified during the study and accounted for 45% of all major defects assessed.

Pesticide residue

White powdery residue on the surface of the peel from talc-based powder pesticide application.

Pesticide residue was identified as the second most common major defect and can be avoided by ensuring fruit are washed thoroughly prior to packing.

Cigar end rot

Fungus causes dry rot at the flower tip end of the finger with infection extending 10 to 20 mm into fruit. Affected area is blackened, becoming grey to white due to spores resembling ash on the end of a cigar.

The fourth most common major defect, Cigar end rot can be managed by implementing appropriate best management practices.

A cut, hole or puncture through to the pulp of the fruit was the most common major defect found in the study. There are a wide range of reasons that the pulp may become exposed before or after harvest such as de-leafing, de-handing, poor handling following harvest or animal and insect damage. Care needs to be taken to ensure that any affected fingers are found and removed prior to packing.

White residue from talc-based pesticides was the next most common major defect with immature or thin fruit, cigar end rot and live insects within a carton following in that order. It is possible to reduce the frequency of these issues with appropriate post-harvest handling and packing strategies. For example, washing fruit thoroughly prior to packing will remove any pesticide residue, whereas increased screening for underdeveloped fruit, or using callipers to check girth, would prevent thin and immature fruit from being packed. When applied to the data from this study, employing these two simple strategies could reduce the occurrence of major defects by 45%. 

*Fruit in this study was assessed against the most recently released Woolworths subtropical Cavendish produce specifications, issued 9 December 2014. Always make sure you’re referring to the latest specifications relevant to your business.

More information...

A poster is now available showing common quality issues and packing guidelines for subtropical banana growers. To receive a hard copy or for more information contact NSW DPI Industry Development Officer Tom Flanagan on (02) 6626 1352 or email tom.flanagan@dpi.nsw.gov.au 

NSW DPI would like to acknowledge all growers who agreed to participate in the study, Matt Weinert, Leanne Davis from NSW DPI and Valerie Shrubb, Anastasia Van Blommestein and Brett Renton from WA DPIRD for undertaking the research. 

This research has been funded as part of the Subtropical Banana Development and Extension Program (BA16007), which is funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana research and development levy and co-investment from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.

Subtropical packed product analysis

Is reject fruit causing growers to leave money on the table?

Subtropical packed product analysis

Supplying consumers with good quality fruit all year round is at the top of the list for many banana growers, especially in a competitive fresh fruit market. To do this however it’s important to understand why some fruit sent to market may not be up to spec.

About the study

In Coffs Harbour NSW, a packed product analysis was carried out to provide a clearer picture. It looked at fruit after ripening to see what issues were causing fruit to be rejected at retail outlets. The findings from this study provide growers and industry with information that can assist in recognising and addressing the most common reasons for fruit being rejected.

Fruit was assessed at Golden Dawn, a major banana ripening and wholesale company in the Coffs Harbour region. Assessments were made on fruit supplied by 12 banana growers, consisting of 71 cartons that contained a total of 709 clusters.

Sydney retail display of Lady Finger fruit

Fruit was checked against the most recent specifications released for Woolworths subtropical Cavendish produce, issued December 2014. These specifications have the most strictest criteria compared to other retailers. In broad terms, the specs state that ‘total minor defects should not exceed 10% of consignment’ and ‘total major defects must not exceed 2% of consignment’ with a ‘combined total not to exceed 10%’ of clusters with a defect. If defect levels are found higher than this, retailers are well within their rights to pay suppliers less for the fruit or reject the consignment entirely. This is what could have happened to the fruit that was assessed as part of this study. 

As an example, the potential loss of this consignment could be as much as $1420 (71 cartons @ $20/carton price).

This doesn’t include any additional costs associated with packing or getting the fruit to market, such as transportation costs.

Results

The results showed that 38% of all clusters inspected were deemed to have either a major or minor defect, more than 3 times above the levels specified by Woolworths. Figure 1 below provides a breakdown of that percentage and lists the most common defects found.

Results of fruit assessment showing percentage of clusters with major and minor defects. Assessment based on a consignment of 71 cartons.
Cuts, holes or punctures were the most common major defect identified during the study and accounted for 45% of all major defects assessed.

The findings of this study suggest that at present there is too much fruit with major or minor defects that is being packed, increasing the risk of consignments being rejected or their value reduced. As a result growers are potentially leaving money on the table.

However, the good news for growers is, there are opportunities to improve quality by taking a closer look at the defects found in this study. This includes simple and cost-effective changes that can be made in the paddock, in the pack shed and in the supply chain. All of these can increase profitability for growers and further improve the quality of fruit we see on retail shelves. 

A new banana packing poster is now available for subtropical banana growers. The poster highlights some of the most common banana defects identified in this study and provides a guide to help growers determine whether they should be packed or rejected. See below for details on how to get a copy.

More detailed information on the types of defects found in the study, as well as management strategies are available via the links below.

More information...

A poster is now available showing common quality issues and packing guidelines for subtropical banana growers. To receive a hard copy or for more information contact NSW DPI Industry Development Officer Tom Flanagan on (02) 6626 1352 or email tom.flanagan@dpi.nsw.gov.au 

NSW DPI would like to acknowledge the contributions made to this study by Geoff Bridgfoot, Paul Gibbins, Paul Thorburn, Kaye Adriaansz from Golden Dawn, Dave Norberry from D&D Ripeners, all NSW banana growers that supplied fruit.
This research has been funded as part of the Subtropical Banana Development and Extension Program (BA16007), which is funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana research and development levy and co-investment from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.

Results for Lady Finger fruit rejects

Results for Lady Finger fruit rejects

Subtropical banana reject analysis

The following are the results for reject Lady Finger fruit assessed as part of the Subtropical Banana Reject Analysis. The figure below shows the proportion of reject fruit that fell within each of the defect categories. As can be seen, pre-harvest physical defects were responsible for the rejection of 83% of all Lady Finger fruit assessed. Pest and disease defects accounted for 10%, whilst post-harvest defects were the cause of 7% of reject fruit. As was the case with results from the Cavendish assessment, pre-harvest defects again offers the greatest opportunity for improving fruit quality and reducing the number of rejected fruit. 

Proportion of Lady Finger fruit rejects that fall within the three defect categories

Let’s take a closer look at the defect types resulting in the rejection of Lady Finger bananas.  The graph below shows the 15 most prevalent defect types resulting in rejection of Lady Finger bananas. In descending order from left to right they account for almost 90% of all reject fruit for this variety. Again, there are several defects that cannot be prevented or doing so would require too much time and resources to make it financially beneficial. For example, misshapen fruit and doubles or fused fruit cannot be prevented to a large degree as they are caused by factors beyond our control. However, animal damage, rub, pruning damage and damage caused by bunch pests are issues that could addressed through changes to on-farm practices.

Proportion of defect types contributing to Lady Finger fruit rejects across all three defect categories
Animal damage was one of the largest causes of fruit rejection, contributing significantly to the total number of defects found for both Lady Finger and Cavendish fruit
The image provides an example of misshapen Lady Finger fruit evaluated in the study
The damage caused by Rust Thrips can be significant, highlighting the importance of having effective management strategies in place to manage this bunch pest

It is worth noting that misshapen fruit occurs more commonly in Lady Finger than Cavendish due to varietal differences in fruit development. However, it is believed that the dry conditions experienced across the NSW growing regions during the study  significantly worsened the problem, contributing to the high proportion of rejects resulting from misshapen fruit. Further reject analyses under ‘normal’ growing conditions or over a longer period would need to be undertaken to confirm this result.

The aim of this reject analysis study was to identify the predominant causes for rejection of fruit by growers within our subtropical banana growing regions. With a better understanding it will now allow resources to be best prioritised to address, demonstrate &/or trial innovative practices to reduce these defects. Overall reducing the quantity of fruit rejected through the implementation of cost effective practices will increase profitability. 

A poster is now available showing common quality issues and packing guidelines for subtropical banana growers. To receive a hard copy or for more information contact NSW DPI Industry Development Officer Tom Flanagan on (02) 6626 1352 or email tom.flanagan@dpi.nsw.gov.au 

NSW DPI would like to acknowledge all growers who agreed to participate in the study, Matt Weinert, Leanne Davis from NSW DPI and Valerie Shrubb from AGRIC for undertaking the research. 
This research has been funded as part of the Subtropical Banana Development and Extension Program (BA16007), which is funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana research and development levy and co-investment from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.