Agronomic evaluation of new varieties – South Johnstone

Latest update...

Harvesting in the trial commenced with Williams in mid-May 2019 – less than 8 months after planting! As of 5 July we have already cut about one quarter of the trial. However, several varieties are much slower in development so we expect the plant crop harvest will continue till about November.

All of the Taiwanese Cavendish selections are typically 1-4 months slower than Williams in the first crop. This in addition to sometimes smaller bunches will lead to lower productivity per unit time. Good reason to remain vigilant with biosecurity to keep TR4 off your property.

Bunches of the Rahan Meristem Cavendish selections have been impressive, being characterised by heavy bunches, long fruit, and good hand separation in the bunch which should help minimise fingertip scarring.

The dwarf selections of Cavendish – Brier and Dwarf Cavendish have yielded well with substantially shorter fruit than Williams. Several of the Taiwanese varieties also have shorter fruit. 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. 

The CIRAD hybrids are 50 cm or more taller than Williams in the plant crop; leaf petioles seem quite brittle and under wind often snapping off; fruit of the 4 hybrids have been tasted by staff at South Johnstone – CIRAD’s 03 & 05 were particularly liked whilst 04 and 06 were probably too fragrant. 

High incidence of tissue culture offtypes have been an issue for 3 varieties necessitating repeat evaluation in the future where true-to-type plants are available to propagate from.

About the trial

Growers are keeping a keen eye on the 32 varieties included in the latest agronomic evaluation at South Johnstone. This is the first step at looking at new introductions that may have commercial potential for the Australian banana industry. 

This research forms a significant part of the Improved Plant Protection for the Banana Industry Program (BA16001), looking at the agronomic traits as well as pest and disease tolerance of imported varieties. This project provides for 3 variety assessment trials across Australia at Duranbah (NSW), South Johnstone (Qld) and Coastal Plains (NT), assessing resistance to Panama disease Race 1 and TR4, agronomic performance, cold tolerance and yellow Sigatoka resistance. 

Several of the varieties included in the current South Johnstone trial are also being screened in the Northern Territory to determine or confirm resistance to TR4.

Varieties included in the current evaluation trial were planted in September 2018. Assessment of agronomic traits will be collected over three crop cycles and a yellow Sigatoka leaf spot screening in the fourth cycle. Several new varieties that have shown resistance to TR4 overseas are included in the evaluation. 

Tissue culture plants were established in September 2018. The trial block at South Johnstone Research Facility includes 11 single rows (120 m long) with guard plants.
Trial four months after planting in January 2019

Varieties being evaluated

  • A suite of Taiwanese selections of Cavendish present in Australia. Also included is a selection made in Australia from a former introduction. 
  • Agro-biotechnology company Rahan Meristem imported four of their elite Cavendish selections into Australia from Israel— Gal, Jaffa and two selections of Adi. The main features include reduced plant stature and large well-structured bunches. These selections are proving popular in various export production zones around the globe. However, these selections are not claimed to have any resistance to Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4). North Queensland producers that have seen them growing overseas have been keen to see them evaluated by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) for some time. Rahan Meristem own these varieties and have agreed that results from our evaluations can be made publicly available. 
  • Four hybrids from the breeding program of CIRAD in the French West Indies. Overseas these have shown resistance to leaf disease and Panama disease race 1. We are all eager to see how they fare against TR4 in the Northern Territory trials.
  • Two Cavendish selections from the Canary Islands. These selections of Dwarf Cavendish form the basis of their 400,000 t/yr. export industry to mainland Europe.
  • A new dwarf Lady Finger selection.

A list of varieties being evaluated is now available.

Trial 7 months after planting

Preliminary trial observations

Harvesting in the trial commenced with Williams in mid-May 2019 — less than 8 months after planting! As of 5 July we have already cut about one quarter of the trial. However, several varieties are much slower in development so we expect the plant crop harvest will continue till about November.

All of the Taiwanese Cavendish selections are typically 1–4 months slower than Williams in the first crop. This in addition to sometimes smaller bunches will lead to lower productivity per unit time. Good reason to remain vigilant with biosecurity to keep Panama disease tropical race 4 off your property.

Bunches of the Rahan Meristem Cavendish selections have been impressive, being characterised by heavy bunches, long fruit, and good hand separation in the bunch which should help minimise fingertip scarring.

The dwarf selections of Cavendish — Brier and Dwarf Cavendish have yielded well with substantially shorter fruit than Williams. Several of the Taiwanese varieties also have shorter fruit. 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. 

The CIRAD hybrids are 50 cm or more taller than Williams in the plant crop; leaf petioles seem quite brittle and under wind often snapping off; 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. 

High incidence of tissue culture offtypes have been an issue for 3 varieties necessitating repeat evaluation in the future where true-to-type plants are available to propagate from.

These dwarf selections of Cavendish are 20% shorter than Williams in the plant crop
Panama disease TR4 resistant Cavendish selections from Taiwan
Rahan Meristem selections like 'Jaffa' are performing well
Some of the leaf disease resistant CIRAD hybrids, including CIRAD 03 pictured, have been well received by DAF staff at informal tasting sessions

Growers will be given an opportunity periodically to come and see the varieties for themselves. Over 50 participants attended the latest field walk held in June 2019.

Jeff Daniells from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries giving a tour of the variety evaluation trial block on the South Johnstone Research Facility in June 2019.

More info...

Varieties included in the trial

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