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Grower case study. Reinventing the pod into a spray shuttle

Grower case study

Reinventing the pod
Spray down with the Randhawa brothers

1000 litre pods can be useful in many ways. After Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4) was found in Tully, brothers Paramadeep and Harpreet Randhawa, like many banana growers, recycled one to use as a disinfectant spray down unit at the entrance to their farm.
Paramadeep and Harpreet Randhawa started growing bananas in 2015, the same year that Panama disease TR4 was found in Tully. To help protect their farm, they purchased a pod from a local fertiliser distributor and engaged a local electrical contractor to install a 12-volt pump, hose and spray wand. They used a spare tractor battery to power the pump and installed a solar trickle charger to keep it charged. The whole setup cost around $500 at the time.
Harpreet said, ‘We placed the pod right at the start of the driveway to our shed. The position of the pod is good as I can see it from the packing shed, so I can make sure everyone that comes onto the farm sprays their vehicle down.’ In busy times the pod lasts about a month, so Harpreet tops up the pod with fresh disinfectant mixture as required. 
Disinfectant spray pod located at entrance to farm.
Paramadeep and Harpreet use a quaternary ammonium based disinfectant product which has been shown to be effective in killing the fungal spores that cause Panama disease. They have also installed a water supply to make refilling the pod easier.

The only hitch the brothers have come across is the solar panel doesn’t keep the battery charged when there are long periods of overcast wet weather. On these occasions they just take the battery back to the shed to charge it.
Paramadeep said ‘Make sure that the hose is long enough to be able to spray all around the longest truck that comes onto your farm. We have found that most people that come to our farm follow our instructions to spray down to help us to protect our business.’
Pod located at entrance to farm. Boom gate to restrict unauthorised access.
Thank you to Paramadeep and Harpreet Randhawa who provided their time and gave permission to use this case study for the benefit of the wider industry.
Tips on disinfectants!
  • Use disinfectant products containing Didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC) or Benzalkonium chloride (BZK). These quaternary ammonium (QA) compounds have been tested and solutions mixed as per the label rate do kill the fungal spores that cause Panama disease.
  • It is important to remove all soil and organic matter before applying any disinfectant product.
  • Research has shown that DDAC and BZK disinfectants used in infrastructure such as spray shuttles, that isn’t contaminated with soil and organic matter, will be effective for an extended period of time when exposed to outdoor conditions. 
  • Easy-to-use test strips can be used to regularly test QA concentration of solutions in footbaths, spray shuttles and wash-down facilities. 
Click here for information on disinfectants.

If you would like further information or assistance with setting up or improving biosecurity practices for your farm, please contact the National Banana Development and Extension team on email betterbananas@daf.qld.gov.au or phone 07) 4220 4152.

This case study has been produced as part of project BA19004 the National Banana Development and Extension Program which is funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana industry research and development levies, co-investment from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture. 

Grower case study Reinventing the pod into a footbath

Grower case study

Reinventing the pod into a footbath

Steps to help protect your farm from Panama disease don’t need to cost big dollars. There are some great examples of innovative and cost-effective solutions that banana growers have implemented to help manage their biosecurity risk. Something as simple as cutting down a 1000 litre pod to use as a footbath can be a big saving. The banana extension team recently had a chat with a grower about why he uses a pod.
The grower said that he purchased the pod as they are easy to come by with most of the fungicides applied by the aerial operators coming in 1000 litre pods.
1000 litre pod modified for use as a footbath.
‘We cut the supporting frame and the plastic liner down to 200 mm, the same as a normal step, so it was easy to step in and out of,’ the grower said. ‘We then placed a piece of expanded mesh in the bottom of the pod, mainly to prevent anyone slipping’, said the grower. ‘When we started using the pod as a footbath, we found that we had to protect the pod from the mesh with irrigation pipe so that it wouldn’t wear a hole in the plastic. We also put pipe on the edge of the pod to cover any sharp edges,’ the grower explained.
Positioning of any footbath is important. When you walk into the shed the pod is located between a shed wall and the bench seat where you change shoes before walking through the footbath. ‘The pod is also good as it is long enough and wide enough that it is difficult to step over and you need to put both feet in,’ the grower said. There are also signs to direct people to use the footbath.
‘Another point with using a pod is that it comes with a built-in valve, making it easy to drain and clean. If we want to shift the pod for cleaning, we can do that with our forklift,’ said the grower.
Overall, the grower said, ‘We have found that if you make biosecurity easy to do, practices will be followed’.
Pod footbath placed at boot exchange at entrance to shed.

Thank you to the banana grower who provided his time and gave permission to use this case study for the benefit of the wider industry.

Tips on disinfectants!
  • Use disinfectant products containing Didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC) or Benzalkonium chloride (BZK). These quaternary ammonium (QA) compounds have been tested and solutions mixed as per the label rate do kill the fungal spores that cause Panama disease.
  • It is important to remove all soil and organic matter before applying any disinfectant product.
  • Easy-to-use test strips can be used to regularly test QA concentration of solutions in footbaths, spray shuttles and wash-down facilities. 
Click here for information on disinfectants.

If you would like further information or assistance with setting up or improving biosecurity practices for your farm, please contact the National Banana Development and Extension team on email betterbananas@daf.qld.gov.au or phone 07) 4220 4152.

This case study has been produced as part of project BA19004 the National Banana Development and Extension Program which is funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana industry research and development levies, co-investment from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture. 

Getting the best from your tissue culture

Recent trial work has found that undertaking an additional early desuckering application in the plant crop of tissue-cultured plants can significantly improve yield and stability in the following ratoon crop.

A different approach to desuckering tissue cultured plants

Desuckering is one of the most important management requirements in a banana plantation. When using Cavendish cv. Williams tissue culture, a different approach to sucker management needs to be adopted as opposed to managing suckers from conventional planting material such as bits. 

The corm from the mother plant grown from tissue culture is generally ‘V-shaped’, rather than a ‘U-shaped’ corm, typical of bits and suckers (Figure 1). A ‘V-shaped’ corm means that sucker development of tissue culture plants comes from underneath the corm in a spiral sequence upwards (Figure 1). 

The connection of these early suckers (referred to as ‘first flush’ suckers) to the mother plant are small and weak (Figure 2). A small and weak connection from the mother to the follower can restrict flow of nutrients, leading to the follower having reduced growth, poor vigour, and snapping away from the mother plant. 

Figure 1 Sucker development from bits or suckers is generally a ‘U’ shape originating higher up the corm. Suckers derived from tissue culture develop from underneath the mother plant and lower down the corm.

What is a flush of suckers?

The first series of suckers that emerge all at once are known as the first flush. These suckers are early suckers and are set low down on the corm.
Figure 2 First flush suckers from tissue culture plants have a small and weak connection to the mother plant. Whereas second and third flush suckers have stronger connections.

About the trial

A trial conducted at South Johnstone Research Facility investigated whether plant agronomic characteristics significantly improved by undertaking an additional early desuckering application in the plant crop. The trial also looked at the physical connection between the sucker and mother plant. 

Comparing agronomic performance

The trial consisting of 330 Williams Cavendish tissue culture plants had two desuckering treatments applied.

1. Desuckering twice (early & late) – Fifty percent of plants were desuckered twice, once at 3 months after planting, where all of the first flush suckers were removed (via cut and kerosene). The second desuckering treatment was at the commencement of bunch emergence, when sucker selection for the first ratoon crop was conducted.

2. Desuckering once (late only) – The remaining 50% of plants were only desuckered once, at the commencement of bunch emergence. This is when sucker selection for the first ratoon was undertaken.

Comparing sucker connection

A small number of plants not included in the agronomic assessments were used to inspect the physical connection between the suckers and mother plant. Half of the plants received no desuckering (Figure 3) and the other half received an early desuckering where the first flush of suckers were removed at three months after planting (Figure 4).

At the commencement of bunch emergence, plants were dug up to determine if there was a visual difference in the connection to the mother plant and whether sucker development improves with early desuckering.     

Figure 3 Left: Plant not desuckered. Right: The same plant dug up at commencement of bunch emergence with the soil and roots removed. Visual observations showed first, second and third flush sucker development, with smaller and weaker connections compared to the plant that received the early desuckeringtreatment below (Figure 4).
Figure 4 Left: Plant desuckered early (First flush suckers removed 3 months after planting). Right: The same plant dug up at the commencement of bunch emergence with the soil and roots removed. Visual observations showed fewer suckers with stronger and larger connections compared to the plant that received no desuckering treatment above (Figure 3).

Results

  • Plants desuckered once (late only) produced significantly shorter plants in both the plant and first ratoon crop (Table 1).
  • Plants desuckered twice (early & late) produced significantly heavier bunches in the plant and first ratoon crop compared to plants desuckered once (Table 1).
Table 1 Effect of desuckering treatments on plant agronomics in the plant and first ratoon crop
Average plant height and bunch weight for plant and ratoon crop cycles
  • The largest difference in bunch weight was in the first ratoon crop. Bunches were 26.9% heavier in plants that were desuckered twice than plants desuckered once. The heavier bunch weight was a result of a higher number of hands per bunch, finger length and average fingers per bunch.
  • First flush suckers have smaller and weaker connections, approximately the size of a 10 cent piece. Second and third flush suckers have larger and stronger connections (Figure 5), making ratoon plants less vulnerable to uprooting and snapping.
  • Undertaking the first desuckering at or close to the commencement of bunching can result in:
     – Poor sucker selection, due to difficulty in determining first, second or third flush suckers.
     – Increased risk of uprooting, due to removal of unwanted suckers all at once, destabilising the plant.
Figure 5 Size of sucker connections to mother plant

Take home messages

  • Removing suckers early improves yield and plant stability of ratoon crops.
  • Tissue culture produced under the Quality Banana Approved Nursery Scheme (QBAN) is recommended best practice when establishing a new farm or replanting old blocks. QBAN tissue culture ensures that pests and diseases are not introduced and/or spread within and between farms.

More information

Click on the video below to watch a field day presentation on this work, presented by  Research Horticulturist Shanara Veivers.

This research has been funded as part of the National Banana Development and Extension Program (BA19004), which is funded by Hort Innovation, using the banana research and development levy, co-investment from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and contributions from the Australian Government.
Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.

Panama TR4 variety screening trial

Contributions by:
Sharl Mintoff1, Samantha Cullen1, Chris Kelly1, Maxine Piggott1 and Jeff Daniells2
1Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Darwin, NT
2Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, South Johnstone, QLD

Main trial results (plant and first ratoon)

Disease assessments

Disease assessments were carried out fortnightly once external symptoms became apparent in a susceptible variety. Assessments included noting the appearance of external disease symptoms and internal symptoms at plant death or harvest. Disease performances of a particular variety were given a score and grouped into one of the following categories:
Highly resistant (HR) – No disease symptoms were observed within the crop cycle and may not show symptoms under high inoculum pressures.
Resistant (R) – Plants normally show no signs of infection in the presence of the pathogen. However, under high inoculum pressures low amounts of symptoms or losses may occur.
Intermediate (I) – Plants which can withstand some infection and suffer low losses under natural infestation conditions, with most completing their crop cycle. However, its susceptibility or resistance can be highly dependent on the inoculum pressure already present. With the appropriate crop management or environment to lower the inoculum levels, these should be commercially viable. 
Susceptible (S) – More than 50% of plants show symptoms and/or killed due to pathogen infection. 
Very susceptible (VS) – Majority of plants (more than 70%) showed severe symptoms, most of which died due to TR4.

Results

Interestingly there appeared to be a reduction in disease severity observed across the first ratoon crop compared to the plant crop, with dramatic shifts occurring for a couple of varieties (Table 1). 

Highly resistant
CIRAD 03 and CIRAD 04 retained their resistance seen in the previous crop cycle continuing to be classified as highly resistant into the first ratoon. Dwarf French Plantain moved up into this category with no disease symptoms noted in the ratoon crop.

Resistant

Varieties Asia Pacific No. 1 and CIRAD 05 both displayed low incidences of TR4 infection in the first ratoon moving them down into the resistant category. GCTCV 105 and GCTCV 217 (Figure 1) both moved up into the resistant category after displaying a slight reduction in disease development in the ratoon crop. The resistant reference Goldfinger remained in this category.

Intermediate

Asia Pacific No. 3 moved down into this category due to an increase in plants infected with TR4 in the ratoon crop cycle. CIRAD 06 and High Noon, showed a dramatic reduction in the number of affected plants in the ratoon crop moving them up from very susceptible (in the plant crop) into the intermediate category.

Susceptible and very susceptible

Varieties that were deemed susceptible within the first ratoon crop cycle included Hom Thong Mokho, Pisang Ceylan, PKZ and the CJ19 Selection. The intermediate reference variety Formosana displayed an increase in disease severity in the first ratoon crop and as a result was moved down into the susceptible category. The susceptibility of the very susceptible reference variety Williams did not change.

Table 1 Resistance rating of trial plants in plant crop and first ratoon

HR = highly resistant, R = resistant, I = intermediate, S = susceptible, VS = very susceptible

GCTCV 105
GCTCV 217
Williams

Figure 1 Representative resistance for certain Cavendish varieties exposed to TR4 in the first ratoon. Williams displayed prominent disease symptoms with leaf yellowing, necrosis and eventual death. The majority of plants for the resistant varieties GCTCV 105 and 217 displayed no symptoms during first ratoon. Photos courtesy of Sharl Mintoff.

Generally, the focus of the NT screening trials is to identify resistant varieties, especially those that display similar or better resistance than Formosana, as it is used as the benchmark for the lowest acceptable level of resistance. In this trial eight varieties demonstrated better resistance than Formosana, which include Cavendish and CIRAD lines.
The Cavendish selections Asia Pacific No. 3 and GCTCV 217 both performed better than Formosana against TR4 and have also performed fairly well agronomically in north Queensland, so they are being considered for on-farm pre-commercialisation trials in 2022. There were two other Cavendish with intermediate or resistant reactions: the Asia Pacific No. 1 plants were all tissue culture offtypes (very slow and low yielding), whilst the fruit of GCTCV 105 was too short in South Johnstone trials, with significantly less fruit in the currently required size range for market. 
The continued good performance of Dwarf French Plantain against TR4 is encouraging for the few commercial producers of this type of niche variety. The CIRAD lines 03, 04 and 05 all had outstanding resistance against TR4 across the 2 crops which is very encouraging for the French breeding program. However, growers must understand that these are not Cavendish and so the fruit they produce does not slot readily into the current market requirements. The plants are taller making them more difficult to manage and subject to greater wind damage. 
Although apparent ‘recovery’ occurred in some varieties within the first ratoon crop, a degree of caution is required when interpreting these results, particularly in the case of CIRAD 06 and High Noon. Although the results of those two varieties are very interesting, this would need to be investigated further to determine how repeatable such a recovery is, and whether indeed, it would continue into later ratoon crops. 
This research has been funded as part of the project Improved Plant Protection for the Banana Industry (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 Industry, Tourism and Trade and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.

South Johnstone field walk

South Johnstone field walk

The latest research into new varieties, banana desuckering and nutrient rates was on display during a field walk at the South Johnstone Research Facility in July 2021.
Over 50 banana growers and industry stakeholders attended the event which was organised by the National Banana Development and Extension program.
The field walk featured:
  • A tour with Jeff Daniells through the new variety trial where the team are evaluating a suite of banana varieties. Growers had the opportunity to see firsthand plant crop bunches of these varieties, which included Lady Finger types, some CIRAD varieties, High Noon as well as a few Cavendish varieties, GCTCV 106 selection, Asia Pacific #1, Formosana and Williams. A video of Jeff’s presentation is available below.
  • Research updates from Shanara Veivers and Nandita Pathania on desuckering of tissue culture plants for improved productivity. The research showed that plants that were desuckered twice in the plant crop (12 weeks after planting and at bunch emergence) produced larger bunches in both the plant and first ratoon crops compared to plants that had only been desuckered once (at bunch emergence). The largest difference being in the first ratoon crop where bunches were 23.8% heavier. Keep an eye out for an update on the Better Bananas website coming soon that will detail more information about this research. A video of Shanara’s presentation is available below. 
  • An update from Curtis Lanham and Rebecca Murray on the Nitrogen and Phosphorus rate trials currently being run at the research station which are monitoring yield and nutrient losses.
Jeff Daniells showing field walk participants through the new variety evaluation trial

ABGC’s Sonia Campbell attended the event and captured two of the presentations. Click below to watch.

Extension events are funded as part of the National Banana Development and Extension Program (BA19004). This project is funded by Hort Innovation, using the Hort Innovation banana research and development levy, co-investment from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.

Agronomic evaluation of new varieties – South Johnstone (planted September 2018)

Plant crop observations and results (Trial planted September 2018)

Harvesting of the plant crop commenced with Williams in mid-May 2019 — less than 8 months after planting! However, several varieties were much slower in development and harvest of the plant crop continued until the end of the 2019 calendar year. Yield and plant characteristics recorded for the plant crop is available . It is worth noting when looking at these initial observations that this is the first time many of these varieties have been grown in Far North Queensland and the number of plants of each variety included in the screening is quite small. It is also important to keep in mind seasonal effects on the trial’s long harvest period of May to December. For example, winter bunch filling will be slower than summer bunch filling.

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.

GCTCV 217 plant bunch
GCTCV 218 (Formosana) Selection plant bunch
GCTCV 218 (Formosana) Selection plant bunch

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 were made available to some growers as part of on-farm evaluations towards the end of 2020.

Rahan Meristem Gal plant bunch
Rahan Meristem Jaffa plant bunch

Other varieties

The dwarf selections of Cavendish, Brier and Dwarf Cavendish both yielded well. However, fruit of Dwarf Cavendish had 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. 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 underway, as part of the new evaluation established at South Johnstone in 2020 for a few varieties which had a high incidence of tissue culture offtypes in the 2018 evaluation. 

CIRAD 05 plant bunch
Brier plant bunch
Some of the leaf disease resistant CIRAD hybrids, including CIRAD 03 pictured, have been well received by DAF staff at informal tasting sessions

Results

More information

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

Agronomic evaluation of new varieties – South Johnstone (planted September 2018)

The first ratoon crop is now completed in the variety trial at South Johnstone, and the results are encouraging with:

  • The TBRI Cavendish selection Asia Pacific #3 showing comparable yields and fruit length to Williams over the two crop cycles, combined with Panama disease TR4 resistance much better than Formosana in the Northern Territory trials. 
  • Continued good performance of the four Cavendish selections from Rahan Meristem with yields and finger length equivalent to Williams, with at least two of the selections being significantly shorter in stature.
  • The Dwarf Cavendish selection Brier, from the Canary Islands, having yields and fruit length equivalent to Williams while being significantly shorter in stature. 

First ratoon crop observations and results (Trial planted September 2018)

Most of these selections originate from international breeding programs (Taiwan, Israel, and Guadeloupe) and are being grown for the first time in Australia after clearing quarantine. Some have so far demonstrated promise, whilst the agronomic characteristics of others have been less desirable. A notable spread of cycle time between varieties was already observed in the plant crop. This meant that some of the early second ratoon bunches of the quicker cycling varieties had already begun to be harvested before all the first ratoon bunches had been completed for the much slower cycling ones. As a result of this, some varieties were experiencing quite different seasonal conditions during the period of bunch development compared to others.

The preliminary results from this investigation are a useful first look, but pre-commercialisation trials for any of the better varieties will tell more accurately how these results reflect their broader performance. The data discussed next is displayed in Table 1.

Taiwanese Cavendish selections

The nine TR4 resistant selections from Taiwan took between 19.6 and 23.7 months to reach ratoon one harvest from planting, which was considerably slower than the 17 months taken by the industry standard Williams. The slower cycle times and lower bunch weights resulted in cumulative yields (plant + ratoon 1) 63–82% of that of Williams. The only exception was Asia Pacific #3, which had a comparable yield to Williams. The high cumulative yield of Asia Pacific #3 combined with its TR4 resistance, which was much better than Formosana in the NT trials, is very encouraging. This makes it a contender for inclusion in future pre-commercialisation trials.

The varieties GCTCV 119, 215, 217 and 247, along with Asia Pacific #3, were all significantly taller than Williams. However, rather than breaking over from wind damage, losses were typified by snapping at the point of connection of the prop to the pseudostem. It was a particular issue for Asia Pacific #3, where just over half the datum plants snapped at the prop or the bunch fell out at the throat. The same fate occurred to 38 and 31% of the GCTCV 217 and 119 plants, respectively. GCTCV 247 and 215 had very few bunches affected in this way. 
Perhaps if the varieties were grown in double rows supported by twine then losses would have been lessened (for the current single-row configuration, propping is done using metal wire affixed to wooden stakes inserted towards the top of the pseudostem).

A first ratoon bunch of Asia Pacific #3. This variety demonstrated good TR4 resistance in NT trials and its cumulative yield (plant + R1) was comparable to Williams
Snapping at the prop appeared to be a particular issue for Asia Pacific #3, GCTCV 217 and 119, and the CIRAD hybrids

Rahan Meristem Cavendish selections

As was the case in the plant crop, the four Rahan Meristem Cavendish selections (Jaffa, Gal, Adi 9001 and Adi 9168) have continued to perform well in all respects compared to Williams in the first ratoon. It is noteworthy that Adi 9001 (2.7 m) and Adi 9168 (2.3 m) were both significantly shorter than Williams (3.1 m) but there were no issues with choking. Several commercial farms have begun growing these varieties on a small-scale due to their promising agronomic qualities.

A first ratoon bunch of Rahan Meristem cavendish selection, Jaffa
In the first ratoon Adi 9168 plants were again significantly shorter than Williams and cumulative yield has been comparable

Guadeloupe CIRAD hybrids

It took around five months longer for CIRAD 04 to reach first ratoon harvest compared to the other three CIRAD hybrids . The cumulative yields of the CIRAD hybrids were slightly better than for the plant crop but were still only 57 – 66% of that of Williams. Plants remained significantly taller (11 – 31%) than Williams. Their brittle pseudostems were prone to snapping, and their long, narrow leaf stalks readily bent over leading to much reduced leaf area. Like some of the Taiwanese selections, these too were prone to snapping at the prop.

A first ratoon bunch of CIRAD hybrid, CIRAD 05
The CIRAD hybrids, including CIRAD 04 pictured, performed poorly. The plants are much taller than Williams and leave break readily

Other varieties

A first ratoon bunch of the dwarf Cavendish selection, Brier

The two dwarf selections of Cavendish, Brier and Dwarf Cavendish, had comparable cycle times and bunch weights to Williams. And as was the case in the plant crop, Dwarf Cavendish had shorter fruit than both Brier and Williams (indicated by the percentage of fruit in the 22–26 cm size category).

Results

More information

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

Meet a researcher — Robert Mayers

Robert Mayers

Bringing a banana grower’s perspective to extension

Rob has been a part of the Australian banana industry for over 25 years and is very passionate about its future. Born and raised at the foot of Mt Bartle Frere, Queensland’s highest mountain, Rob grew bananas for 16 years on his family’s farm and continues to grow cane today. 

Rob has had a diverse working career.  After finishing Grade 10, he completed a Certificate 3 in mechanical engineering at the Babinda Sugar Mill, has worked on banana farms, built boats, sold farm machinery and driven cane harvesters.

In 2013 Rob chose a new career path in extension, accepting a role with the Australian Banana Growers’ Council as a Reef Extension Officer. In this role, Rob assisted Far North Queensland banana growers implement industry’s Environmental Best Management Practices and provided training in the use of the Better Bunch data recording app. Now his extension skills are being used in the National Banana Development & Extension Program helping deliver activities such as the National Banana Roadshows, workshops, field days, NextGen, BAGMan and innovation field trials. The program’s renewed focus on one-on-one extension will mean many banana growers will see a familiar face visiting their farms to discuss how the program can assist them.

In his spare time, Rob enjoys spending time with his family and friends and fishing (when time and weather permits). He also enjoys banana muffins and banana fritters with ice cream.

Rob Mayers
NQ Field Officer
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Centre for Wet Tropics Agriculture
South Johnstone

Subtropical banana research and resources

This section of our website has been developed to provide subtropical banana growers with information and resources developed specifically to address the production challenges faced in their regions.

About the subtropical industry

Australia’s subtropical banana growing regions extend from just south of Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales up to Bundaberg in southern Queensland, and in the west includes the production region of Carnarvon. Combined, subtropical banana production accounts for 6% (New South Wales 4% and Carnarvon 2%) of the national industry, with a mixture of both Lady Finger and Cavendish banana varieties predominately grown.

Unlike the tropical growing regions in the north, subtropical banana growers are impacted more by the seasonal influence of cold weather and cold-induced plant stress. Relatively low rainfall in these subtropical regions during winter in combination with the cold temperatures can exacerbate the effects of cold conditions.

For subtropical growers in New South Wales and Queensland, steeper terrain also proves challenging in terms of the mechanisation of farming systems for increased efficiency and limits the use of irrigation. These constraints can increase the difficulty of maintaining consistent fruit quality throughout the year and result in a decrease in overall yield. 

Presence of Panama disease in subtropical growing regions

The subtropical growing regions of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia are also affected by Panama disease caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense. 

Panama disease race 1 is present in all subtropical growing regions and infects Lady finger, Ducasse and Sugar banana varieties but not Cavendish bananas. Race 2 has been detected in northern New South Wales and infects cooking bananas such as Bluggoe and Blue Java. Panama disease subtropical race 4 is also present in all subtropical growing regions and infects most banana varieties including Cavendish cultivars, particularly after being exposed to a period of environmental stress. Subtropical race 4 is less virulent than Panama disease tropical race 4, which is under strict quarantine in the tropical growing regions of the Northern Territory and Far North Queensland. It is important that all banana growers implement good on-farm biosecurity measures to minimise the risk of further spread of the disease and potential introduction of Panama disease tropical race 4.

Banana bunchy top virus

Northern NSW and South East Queensland is also actively managing Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV), a serious plant pest that is regulated in both states. BBTV is spread from plant to plant by the banana aphid Pentalonia nigronervosa. Banana plants infected with BBTV rarely produce fruit. If a bunch is produced it is usually small, deformed and unmarketable. Industry continues to invest in a National Banana Bunchy Top Virus program that runs in South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales to contain and control the disease within the known bunchy top zone and prevent its spread to other production regions. Click here for more information.

Research and resources

Subtropical banana resources

Resource collection

(2021) NSW DPI - Banana soil and tissue analysis interpretation guidelines
(2021) NSW DPI - Panama disease race 1 (recorded presentation)
(2020) NSW DPI - Banana quality issues poster
(2017) DAF - Banana best management practices for on-farm biosecurity
(2016) NSW DPI - Subtropical banana nutrition
(2008) NSW DPI - Banana growing guide Cavendish bananas
(2008) NSW DPI - Soil and water best management practices for NSW banana growers
(2008) NSW DPI - Banana growing basics for NSW
(2004) DAF - Subtropical banana information kit