Since lifting a ban on growing bananas following the banana freckle outbreak in northern Australia earlier this year, vital research on Panama disease has resumed at Coastal Plains Horticulture Research Centre.

The collaborative research project between the Northern Territory and Queensland governments has seen 27 varieties of banana planted, looking for signs of tolerance or resistance to the disease.

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) director of plant industries Bob Williams said three months into the project, there were several trial crops demonstrating resistance to Panama disease.

“There are a number in there that are resistant but how they perform or whether they’ve got any commercial reality is what we aim to find out,” he said.

“The plants have only been in the ground for three months; we would anticipate seeing some disease maybe in another two to three months’ time and then we’ll aim to take this crop until the end of the first return.”

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Bright future for bananas

Mr Williams said he was optimistic about the future of the banana industry in northern Australia, with research already providing valuable knowledge back to growers in the Top End and northern Queensland.

“The bio-security measures the Queenslanders are putting in place will significantly reduce the potential movement of it,” he said.

“The management strategies that we have been researching and are continuing to look at will benefit both North Queensland and up here.

“And with the resistant or tolerant clones that are coming out, there’s a bright future.

“The world has not fallen over, no bananangeddon — we’ve seen that from Taiwan, we’ve seen it from China and now we’ve seen it from the Philippines.

“We believe that opportunity will allow North Queensland and the Territory to move ahead.”

Growers recovering from banana freckle

Mr Williams said local growers were showing positive signs of recovery from the banana freckle outbreak, with bananas slowly being planted in quarantine zones around the Northern Territory.

“There are bananas outside of the red zone and they’re expanding, with planting in Katherine and the Douglas Daly,” he said.

“Plant industries within the Department have been growing varieties for the Freckle Replacement Program and we’ve got another 5,000 coming up in the next couple of weeks that will take us through until November or December to get back out to the public.

“Id say commercially, after this coming wet season, you’ll see a lot more going in.”

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