Researchers aim for healthier Australian bananas

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 30th April 2012

A major research program aimed at protecting Australia’s AU$450 million banana industry has been launched by a team of scientists, led by the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI).

For the next five years, QAAFI’s principal research scientist, Associate Professor André Drenth of The University of Queensland, will spearhead the AU$6 million ‘Banana Plant Protection Program’.

Currently, Australia’s banana industry faces two main risks to plant production: adverse weather, and pests and diseases.

Professor Drenth said the program has been designed to strengthen the capacity of Australia’s dwindling plant protection community.

Instead of fighting pests and pathogens after they have become a major problem, the researchers aim to keep banana plants healthy through developing resistant varieties and improving plant-protection systems.

Most of Australia’s annual 274,000 tonne banana crop is grown in tropical far-north Queensland, with the remainder in south-east Qld, northern NSW, WA and the NT.

Professor Drenth said, “The program is designed to help the banana industry achieve its previously stated desire of delivering a five per cent increase in production efficiency ‘with minimal to no environmental impact’ by 2014.

The QAAFI-led program is being undertaken in collaboration with Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry plant scientists.