The mission to find the most productive banana varieties with good disease resistance has entered a new stage at the Duranbah trial site in Northern New South Wales.
By Paula Doran
Originally funded by the Banana Plant Protection Program (BPPP), and now by the new improved plant protection for the Australian banana industry, the Duranbah project is trialling semi-commercial plantings of three ‘best bet’ varieties that have been selected from the original 18 planted.
Led by David Peasley and Industry Development Officer Matt Weinert, the project is now focused on ripening behaviour and post-harvest handling, including temperature and storage requirements of these three varieties.
“Phase one of the project was about screening for disease, phase two was looking at yield/productivity and now phase three is focused on commercial trials so that we can tell growers how these plants grow best,” Mr Peasley said.
“What we’re looking at now is ripening behaviour for the three varieties, and then the post-harvest handling requirements, especially ripening temperature and storage,” Mr Peasley said.
“We’re looking at varieties for three different market segments. The first variety is for the fresh fruit market, and may be an option to replace Williams. It has a flavour similar to Cavendish. It is robust, has better leaf disease resistance and may not need propping (it’s got a good structure and doesn’t blow over),” he said.
“The second variety is Panama Race 1 resistant, and could be a replacement for Lady Finger. It has a similar taste profile, but is much more productive. It also seems less attractive to birds and bats which feed on the flower nectar and damage the fruit in doing so. That particular variety produces a clean, heavy bunch with good conformation,” Mr Peasley said.
The third variety being trialled would service the cooking sector and potentially the fresh market as well.
“The cooking market is neglected in Australia. And there’s a particularly strong demand for a dual-purpose variety, suitable for fresh consumption and cooking,” Mr Peasley said.
Work on the picturesque Duranbah block has long had the attention of subtropical growers, but more recently, it’s come under the appreciative gaze of international industry representatives. Those who have visited are now looking forward to seeing the results, and agree the research will have international implications.