News

Banana rust thrips

Rust thrips – a persistent and pesky pest!

Rust thrips, a tiny pest that can lead to large economic losses, is consistently popping up as a priority pest for banana growers. This is the feedback the banana extension team has been given by growers at recent farm visits. The team is continuing to gain valuable information from growers on issues affecting fruit yield and quality. Discussions so far have highlighted some commonalities across farms, with Rust thrips being raised as the most common issue amongst growers.
What exactly is it though, that makes Rust thrips such a headache for growers? To help answer this, the extension team asked growers and consultants at the 2020 roadshows to share their experience with managing the pest. Here’s what was learnt.
Rust thrips damage on banana fruit
Most growers who attended the roadshows said that they were reasonably satisfied with the level of control they were getting. However, they weren’t happy with the way in which they must achieve it.
Rust thrips is a persistent pest of bananas, and management practices to control it are on-going and must be undertaken in a timely manner. If not adequately managed, the damage can very quickly become severe and economic losses high. Growers agreed that timely application of chemicals is critical, using the example of bell injection and the need to ensure chemical is injected in the correct position when the bell is still upright. Some growers expressed it wasn’t always easy to be on top of everything that needs to be done, especially given the current labour shortages within industry. Unfortunately, the consequences for growers falling behind in managing this unrelenting pest are almost always high levels of damage to fruit that doesn’t meet market specifications.
Concern was also raised that the current control methods rely too heavily on chemicals, with an over-reliance on their use, with some growers stating they would like to see industry move to alternative softer/biological control options. Workplace health and safety issues surrounding chemical application was also raised, reinforcing the desire to move towards softer biological options. Some growers also indicated their chemical control was no longer effective, suspecting chemical resistance has developed. Rust thrips’ fast life cycle and their relatively sedentary population means they can quickly build resistance to chemicals. This feedback serves as an important reminder for growers to rotate chemical groups as part of their bunch pest management to minimise the risk of chemical resistance.
So where to from here? Project activities included in the project Improved Plant Protection for the Banana Industry (BA16001) include evaluating new chemistries and biological products for bunch pest management. The latest screening of new chemistries, including biological products used for bell injection, commenced in early 2021. Chemical companies will be encouraged to seek registration on any products that perform well in these trials. As part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, the project has also investigated cultural controls for Rust thrips. Bunch cover trials have shown that damage levels varied between different coloured bunch covers. Orange covers had significantly higher level of thrips damage compared to all other colours. White covers had the lowest levels of damage. Read more on the bunch cover trials.
While researchers continue to investigate new alternative management strategies for rust thrips, it’s encouraged that growers familiarize themselves with this pest and the current monitoring and control recommendations. 

Keep an eye out on the home page for updates on bunch pest research.

Click for more information

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

NextGen—planting the seed for succession

NextGen—planting the seed for succession

When is the right time to start the conversation about farm succession and passing on the reins to the next generation?

Far North Queensland NextGen growers met for the first time in 2021, with succession planning being a key agenda item. With many growers coming from a family farming history, succession planning can be tricky in navigating the needs and wants of family members at different ages and stages of life, with different motivations. 

Guest speakers Nick Birchley and Alison Larard shared their knowledge and experiences on farming succession with the group. Nick, a Financial Councillor for the Rural Financial Counselling Service has extensive agricultural counselling experience and offers financial counselling to banana growers. Coming from a farming background, Alison is a Senior Beef Extension officer for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and a 2018 Nuffield Scholar, completing her scholarship in Succession Planning and Business Management. Stepping through the process of succession, Nick and Alison shared their experiences with the group on what farm business succession is, when to start planning, the stages of a business’s life cycle and how the Rural Financial Counselling Service can assist banana growers with succession and financial counselling. 

The group also discussed the need for labour saving technologies, with a discussion on agricultural compliance management software available to assist growers with compliance, digital record keeping and audits. As an example, insight into an up and coming system to help with record keeping for compliance management was given by Jennifer McKee from Growers Support. 

If you would like further information on how your business can prepare for succession please contact Nick Birchley (RFCS) via email nick@rfcsnq.com.au or phone 0448 460 309. If you are interested in getting involved in NextGen get in touch with Tegan Kukulies (DAF) – tegan.kukulies@daf.qld.gov.au or 0459 846 053.  

Nick Birchley talking with NextGen growers at the Queens Hotel in Innisfail

The NextGen initiative is part of the National Banana Development and Extension Program (BA19004). This project has been funded by Hort Innovation, using the Hort Innovation banana research and development levy, co-investment from the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, 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.

Preparing for cyclones

Have a plan for your farm this cyclone season

This year’s monsoon activity is certainly living up to predicted forecasts because of the current La Nina weather pattern. Above average rainfall and an increase in cyclone activity has made for a wet and nervous start for 2021. While many banana growers are well accustomed to these conditions, it never hurts for growers to review their action plan in preparation of a cyclone hitting.

The following information runs through pre-and-post-cyclone management options and mainly focuses on the effects of canopy removal of unbunched plants before the cyclone hits, and the impact of staggering the return to cropping on the subsequent fruit supply. The management options were investigated as part of an industry project in 2011/12 and remain current.

Figure 1 Canopy removal reduces wind resistance and significantly reduces plant losses from 'roll outs'

What to consider when preparing for tropical cyclones

Bananas are very prone to wind damage and losses can be severe, even with low-category cyclones or severe thunderstorms. The likelihood of banana crop damage relates directly to wind strength, the wind resistance presented by a plant and the presence or absence of a bunch. 

Pre-and-post-cyclone management options were investigated in 2011/12 in an industry project, which looked at the effects of canopy removal of unbunched plants before the cyclone hits, and the impact of staggering the return to cropping on the subsequent fruit supply.

Step 1 — looking at your blocks

The first step is to develop a clear idea of the stage of development of the blocks on the farm. How many blocks are plant crops, early ratoons or nurse-suckered, all of which will be more uniform than older ratoons. Of the more uniform blocks, identify those which are heavily bunched, those where the bulk of plants are close to bunching (within 4-6 weeks) and those which are about 2-3 months from bunching.

The uniform unbunched blocks offer the best opportunity to efficiently apply techniques like canopy removal rather than older ratoon blocks.

Step 2 — deciding whether to remove the canopy

The next step is to decide which blocks are most appropriate for treatments like canopy removal, which depends not only on the plant development stage but also the likely wind strength. 

With any cyclone the bunched and large unbunched banana plants are most at risk, so strategies to reduce the wind resistance of these plants can help reduce the damage.

Canopy removal of unbunched plants prior to the cyclone helps to reduce the incidence of plants rolling out and can provide early bunch production. However, removing the canopy has major impacts on yield and fruit length, with 35- 50% reductions in bunch weight and 20-35% reductions in proportion of fruit in the extra large (220-260mm) fruit category (Table 1). Reductions in fruit length were most pronounced in the plants closest to bunching (4-5 weeks) while the biggest reductions in bunch weight occurred for plants that were 13-14 weeks from bunching.

Therefore a fair degree of certainty of damage is needed before embarking on canopy removal on a large scale. For a low-category or physically small cyclone, often the decision to remove the canopy is best left to the latest practical time possible.

Step 3 – how to cut if removing canopy

The way the canopy is removed is also important. ‘Full deleafing’ where the stem was not cut, resulted in a stronger stem that was better able to support a subsequent bunch compared to plants that had been cut through well below the ‘throat’ of the plant. See figures 2 and 3.

Figure 2 Full deleafing to remove leaf canopy, where the stem was not cut, provided a stronger stem to support the bunch
Figure 3 Canopy removal by cutting through the stem resulted in a weaker stem and reduced fruit length and bunch weight

Results — canopy removal by 'full deleafing' of unbunched plants

Table 1 Bunch and plant characteristics for the canopy removal treatments

More information...

For important information on minimising the spread of Panama disease during and after a cyclone event refer to the ABGC fact sheet.

Contact our team:

The Better Bananas team
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
South Johnstone
07 4220 4177 or email betterbananas@daf.qld.gov.au 

 

Horticulture Innovation Australia (Hort Innovation) and the Queensland Government make no representations and expressly disclaim all warranties (to the extent permitted by law) about the accuracy, completeness, or currency of information in this factsheet. Reliance on any information provided by Hort Innovation and the Queensland Government is entirely at your own risk. Hort Innovation and the Queensland Government are not responsible for, and will not be liable for, any loss, damage, claim, expense, cost (including legal costs) or other liability arising in any way (including from Hort Innovation and the Queensland Government or any other person’s negligence or otherwise) from your use or non-use of this factsheet or from reliance on information contained in the material or that Hort Innovation and the Queensland Government provides to you by any other means.
 

Innovation opportunity for Western Australian banana growers

Would $6000 help if you had:

  • A hunch you would like to explore in your banana production system?
  • A great idea you would like to try out in your banana crop or in your packing shed?
  • An ambitious R&D concept for bananas that you’d like to develop further?

An opportunity exists for Western Australian (WA) growers to apply for a grant. The grant is offered as part of the National Banana Development and Extension Program and would support the successful recipient to undertake a small innovative trial on their farm.

The Australian Banana Growers Council and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries are looking for brief proposals for small innovation trials which can be conducted in 2021 or 2022. In this first round of grants, the extension team would like to explore great ideas with WA growers that could lead to big advances locally and for the national banana industry.

Using the one-page application form, tell us: 

  • What are the benefits to banana growers in WA.
  • What resources you would need to run the innovation trial:
    –  Time – how long would it take (Trials need to be completed by mid-March 2022*).
    –  Who would be involved and what are their skills e.g. myself (20 years banana farming experience) with support from the local agronomist. If you are aware of an individual with suitable skills that would be helpful, please nominate them on the form.
    –  What operating funds you will need to cover cost of supplies and services.

Proposals must be submitted by Friday, 12 March 2021 to Robert Mayers to be considered by the WA innovation grant panel. Proposals will be compared on the basis of their innovativeness and the potential for significant gains in your production system and the industry.

Your proposal should be brief and your budget below $6000. Be sure to include your full contact details. We plan to announce the successful proposal by the end of March 2021 and sign off on contracts in early April 2021.

The trial will need to be completed by mid-March 2022. Assistance is available to compile a trial report which will need to be sent to ABGC by 31 March 2022.  

For further information or assistance putting your application together please don’t hesitate to contact:

Robert Mayers – Robert.Mayers@daf.qld.gov.au or 0467 960 412.

*Please let us know if you have an innovative idea that would take longer than a year to investigate.

This initiative is part of the National Banana Development and Extension Program (BA19004) and is facilitated by the Australian Banana Growers Council. This project has been funded by Hort Innovation, using the Hort Innovation banana research and development levy, co-investment from the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, 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.

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.