Seeing first hand again the devastation that TR4 brings, and the massive priority that good on-farm biosecurity needs to have in your daily business activities.
A grower on the main benefit of the trip
Sixteen people involved in the banana industry – including ten banana growers – made time in their busy schedules to participate in a two-day NextGen tour to the Northern Territory.
The trip, held in early September, was organised by Tegan Kukulies as part of the National Banana Development and Extension Project. It featured visits to inspect the banana variety evaluation and development (mutagenesis) for Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4) resistance trials at Coastal Plains Research Farm, as well as visits to Asian vegetable and okra growers, and a large high-tech mango packing shed.
“Those that participated really enjoyed the whole trip,” Tegan said. “For those who had not seen Panama disease TR4 in the flesh before it was a confronting experience and for those that had previously visited, it was a reminder of how devastating the disease can be.”
The main focus of the trip was to spend time looking at the progress of the variety evaluation and mutagenesis trials.
“Growers were impressed that there were a few varieties that were holding up to the disease, however they also noted that these varieties were either not Cavendish types or not as productive as Williams (cycle time, stature, bunch characteristics, etc),” Tegan said.
Growers also saw the progress on some of the Cavendish varieties that have undergone mutagenesis, particularly the CJ19 plants which were bunching at the time of our visit. The growers were impressed with the size and characteristics of some of the bunches. This feedback on particular plants within the trial block was noted and will be considered when deciding which plants should be investigated further.
The trip to Coastal Plains Research Farm (run by the NT Department of Primary Industries and Resources) was again a reminder that, although the research is progressing, there is currently no ‘silver bullet’ solution to Panama disease TR4. Keeping banana farms free from the disease with effective on-farm biosecurity systems is the best option.
As part of the tour, the Northern Territory Farmers’ Association helped to organise some ‘non-banana’ visits to Asian vegetable growers and a large high-tech mango packing-shed.
“As we’ve found on previous tours, the growers were intrigued by some of the similar challenges faced by other horticultural industries such as labour efficiencies and succession in farming businesses,” Tegan noted.
Some of the growers that attended the tour shared their experiences, learnings and some laughs from the trip at the Banana R&D speed-dating event, which was held at Innisfail in early October.
Just ask any grower who attended – biosecurity was a top priority during the trip! 32 pairs of shoes, 16 hats and 16 outfits were all left in the NT and copious amounts of disinfectant applied to footwear, phones and glasses on multiple occasions.
The overall trip was great. It allowed me to see firsthand the variety development work that is happening, as well as gain a better understanding of where we are at in terms of R&D.
This NextGen activity was organised and funded as part of the strategic levy investment project National Banana Development and Extension Program BA16007. The project 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.