Sixteen local and imported varieties are currently being screened in the Panama disease R1 high pressure site. Varieties are rated according to their resistance or susceptibility to the disease by rating both the development of external and internal symptoms. External symptoms include yellowing of leaves and splitting of pseudostem, while vascular discolouration is rated internally at harvest or when plants die. Samples from plants suspected to be infected with Panama disease R1 are sent for laboratory diagnostics to confirm the presence of the disease.
The plants in this evaluation were deleafed and desuckered as per commercial practice and growth data, including cycle time, bunch weight, number of fingers and finger size are being collected.
Varieties that are showing good disease resistance at the plant crop stage in the latest screening trial include:
• Brier – a Dwarf Cavendish selection from the Canary Islands
• D5 – a Cavendish clone from South Africa
• JV 42.41 – a Lady Finger hybrid from Brazil.
The three ‘best bets’ varieties, PKZ, FHIA-17 and FHIA-25 were established in a semi-commercial planting in February 2018, in a separate block from the disease resistance evaluation trial. These varieties are managed in accordance with commercial practices to evaluate their agronomic performance under typical subtropical growing conditions. The first bunches were harvested in August 2019. Agronomic data is being collected from these plantings and the fruit is being used to develop growing, ripening and handling recommendations, and to undertake consumer acceptance testing. PKZ and FHIA-17 are dessert cultivars and FHIA-25 is a cooking banana.
And finally, due to interest from local markets the trial is also looking at some niche varieties such as Pacific Plantain and Santa Catarina Prata. Unfortunately, early observations indicate that these varieties are susceptible to Panama disease R1.