Tissue culture provides clean planting material but growers need to plan well ahead if they want plants, including a TR4-tolerant variety. Sharon Hamill reports
The incursion of Panama disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4), also known as Fusarium wilt, in North Queensland means growers need to reduce every risk of spreading or introducing the disease to their farm.
Ways that the disease spreads include via infected planting material and contaminated soil and water.
Using bits or suckers sourced from other farms brings a substantial risk of spreading TR4. Even though planting material appears healthy, it could be infected or covered in contaminated soil.
Tissue culture plants produced under the Quality Banana Approved Nursery Scheme (QBAN) are the recommended source of clean planting material. These plants are produced using virus indexed and inspected banana suckers that are multiplied in tissue culture under sterile conditions.
Order for 2016
However, growers need to be aware that it takes 12 to 18 months from time of ordering until plants are ready for the paddock. That means growers wanting plants for 2016 need to consider making their orders now.
QBAN laboratories and nurseries only produce plants to match grower orders – they don’t produce plants on speculation.
QBAN tissue culture laboratories can rapidly expand production of banana plants to suit industry demand, which is expected to be high in coming years, and should be able to supply orders.
Growers can purchase tissue culture banana potted plants ready to plant from accredited QBAN nurseries.
Growers can also obtain tissue culture plants directly from QBAN laboratories but will then have to harden off the tissue culture plants in their own shade house with irrigation and grow plants in pots for three to five months until they are big enough and sun-hardened, ready for planting.
The approximate wait of 12-18 months for plants is because the cultures must be initiated each year, specifically for orders, and multiplication is limited to a level that will maintain quality of plants and reduce off-types.
DPM25, a TR4-tolerant cultivar, is now available to growers directly from QBAN facilities.
It is not resistant to TR4 but succumbs to the pathogen more slowly than does the Williams cultivar. If present, the Fusarium pathogen will persist and increase in the soil until production becomes unsustainable.
The process for a grower to order tissue culture plants is to contact either the QBAN nursery or QBAN tissue culture facility directly.
Some QBAN businesses are both a laboratory and a nursery. The QBAN members are commercial businesses and there is no set price for the plants.
All QBAN businesses will require a deposit to confirm the order. At the time of ordering, growers will negotiate estimated supply time for the plants but must, to some extent, be flexible in this timing.
Since tissue culture plants require at least three months of growing-on in a shade house, it is not possible for the entire industry’s supply of plants to come from the nurseries at the same time.
Tissue culture plants have a much wider window of planting time compared to bits and suckers. Therefore the supply of plants will need to be staggered across the optimum months.
Obviously, growers who place orders earliest will have a better chance of obtaining the plants to their preferred timeline.
So, if you want tissue culture plants for next year order now or inquire with the QBAN facilities.