Ponchos and umbrellas were in high demand as growers from Coffs Harbour and the Northern Rivers gathered for an update on varieties at the Duranbah Trial Site.
Even heavy showers and gusty winds didn’t deter their interest, as Industry Development Officer Matt Weinert and block manager Zac McKeever (NSW Department of Primary Industries) took the group of almost 20 through the site.
Moving from the Panama race 1 trial, through to the agronomy block and into the best bets, Mr Weinert explained the lengthy process of trialling new varieties – from import through to consumer testing.
“The site is there for the growers to see – and it’s important that they do,” he said. “On this trip, for example, there are at least ten varieties they wouldn’t have seen before, but two were of particular interest, a dwarf Cavendish selection from the Canary Islands and a Panama disease resistant variety, a bit similar to Lady Finger, from Brazil.”
The current ‘best bet’ varieties are bunching, making it an ideal time for growers to visit.
“You can get a real sense of how they’re performing and what they might look like in the paddock.”
Mr Weinert said they’re currently in what is best described as the third phase of the selection process – namely ripening, handling and consumer testing.
“It really is an ongoing process,” he explained. “The Hort Innovation project, BA16001, led by QDAF, is always looking overseas for new varieties, but it’s not something that can be done quickly. It can sometimes take around 8-10 years before a grower will be able to access the variety and plant it on their farm.”
While ducking the downpours, growers were given plenty of opportunity to ask questions and even taste test a few of the varieties.
“It’s very interesting to see where things are up to,” said grower Jeff Eggins, who travelled up with the group from Coffs Harbour.
The site tour took place on July 5 and Mr Weinert encouraged all growers – subtropical or otherwise – to plan a visit when they could.
“It’s a great chance to see your levies at work – and potentially the future of your industry too.”
The Duranbah trial is 1 of 3 variety screening trials being conducted by the National banana plant protection project BA16001, which is funded by Hort Innovation using the banana research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.