Australia's banana industry will be strengthened through a four-year initiative that will work to develop access to varieties with improved pest, disease and consumer-preference traits.
Announced by Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA) today (15 May), the A$15.9m project is being driven by industry through complementary projects with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF) and the University of Queensland (UQ).
The drive comes in the wake of a number of disease incursions that have recently affected pockets of the banana industry, including Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4) in Queensland and Banana Freckle in the Northern Territory.
The programme will build on exiting research in a bid to arm the banana industry with the tools it needs to continue meeting consumer demand, while combating pest and disease threats well into the future.
“The Australian banana industry is thriving with the fruit being one of the top-selling supermarket snacking items in the country,” said Horticulture Innovation Australia chief executive John Lloyd.
“What this research will do is ensure the industry’s vitality for years to come by strengthening its biosecurity defences through the development of new varieties while focussing on even lower chemical usage in line with consumer expectations.”
As part of the research, QDAF is charged with delivering improved pest and disease management systems and identifying and testing new improved banana varieties to improve efficiency and sustain production in the face of disease.
“Over many years, we have built up a large collection of high-health banana germplasm from imported and locally sourced cultivars,” said Stewart Lindsay, Queensland DAF project leader.