National banana development and extension project (BA16007)
What’s it all about?
This project has two components working closely together to form a national program: a tropical component specific to the Queensland industry, and a subtropical one for New South Wales and Western Australian production regions.
They follow the previous National banana development and extension project (BA13004) and are tasked with helping deliver the outcomes of levy-funded and other R&D back to the banana industry, to help growers access and implement new information, technologies and approaches, and make better decisions for their businesses.
Their activities involve industry development officers – Matt Weinert for the subtropical regions (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Tegan Kukulies for the tropical regions (email@example.com). These officers deliver…
- The Better Bananas website, www.betterbananas.com.au
- National banana roadshow events, held biennially
- Field walks and industry workshops, with details circulated in industry channels as they become available
- Industry meetings and tours, including NextGen young banana grower group activities (contact your region’s officer if you’re interested in taking part in NextGen activities)
- Grower training activities
- Resources, including fact sheets, videos and articles for Australian Bananas magazine
- Direct engagement with growers and others in the banana supply chain
- Innovative field trials and other research activities, detailed on the Better Bananas website here.
A reject analysis of sub-tropical bananas from NSW and Carnarvon in WA has helped to identify the primary reasons fruit is rejected. There were many different factors at play, but major causes included misshapen fruit, evidence of scratches or chewing from animals, rubbing, bruising, rough handling during harvest and mechanical damage pre harvest. Researchers will work with growers on ways to reduce these problems.
In December 2018, a Packed Product Analysis workshop was held in Coffs Harbour to provide growers with an independent assessment of fruit quality post-ripening for the first time. Many growers failed to meet retail product specifications, which can reduce both grower returns and retailer faith in subtropical bananas. To address this, a series of workshops and packing training materials will be developed in conjunction with the ripener/wholesaler to improve fruit quality.
Growers reported that the feedback was useful, with a subsequent improvement in fruit quality found over two successive checks of around a quarter of growers. As a result, a second workshop is scheduled for mid-2019. Findings from the reject analysis are summarised in the NSW DPI roadshow presentation that is available to download here.
And in case you missed it, a new subtropical NextGen group has been formed. Contact subtropical IDO Matt Weinert at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join.
The NextGen group toured the Atherton Tablelands in May to learn from the practices of established growers.
The tour included a visit to innovative grower Matthew Fealy (Blue Sky Produce) to hear about the use of robotics, automation and emerging technology in horticultural crops. The group discussed the importance of using simple record keeping tools for monitoring farm inputs and outputs to benchmark farm activities. The group also visited avocado production at Serra Farming at Tolga and Serra Farming’s banana operations.
If you are interested in getting involved in NextGen or have a suggestion for things you would like to learn or visit contact Tegan Kukulies– email@example.com or 0459 846 053.
The Better Bananas website (www.betterbananas.com.au), launched in July 2018, hosts a suite of information on recently completed and on-going R&D activities. The site has recently been reviewed to see which aspects are most popular and to develop recommendations on further improvements. Stay tuned for a better site more connected to Australian Banana Growers Council news in future.
The project team has been preparing the R&D activities for the upcoming 2019 Australian Banana Industry Congress held in May 2019, including pre-congress tours and science speed talks.
The Better Bananas website remains an ever-expanding resource for growers, with project information and industry updates being added all the time at www.betterbananas.com.au.
At the end of 2018, the project provided an update on the innovation trials being undertaken, which are looking at new ground cover options for industry, desuckering timing and more. The trial site was established in November 2017, and toward the end of 2018 more than 92 per cent of the crop had been harvested. Early observations relating to ground cover were that weed matting delayed bell emergence, while the use of Pinto peanut (Arachis pintoi) had emerged as the most promising living ground cover option. A summary of the trial observations to date was published on p29 of the December edition of the levy-funded Australian Bananas magazine, with information also being added to the Better Bananas field trials section.
- Learn more about the innovation field trials on the Better Bananas website
- Watch this video the project has produced on ‘making biosecurity work for your farm’ (10 mins), which features a case study with Mackays Bananas and their experience of farming with Panama disease tropical race 4
The new www.betterbananas.com.au R&D website for the industry has recently been launched through this investment, with support from the Australian Banana Growers’ Council. The site is a new dedicated resource for growers wanting to access the latest research information and resources. New materials will be constantly be added, with the website already housing an updated pest, disease and disorder identification guide, R&D videos, researcher information and more. Be sure to check it out, if you haven’t already.
Other recent updates:
- The 2018 industry roadshow recently took place, involving six stops across the country throughout July and August. The roadshow’s free workshops brought the latest research on the development of new resistant varieties, pest and disease management, production and environmental practices. The events featured succinct presentations and new ‘speed meeting’ sessions with researchers, along with interaction stations with hands-on activities and demonstrations.
- A new subtropical NextGen group has been formed this year, with future activities in the planning process. Growers are encouraged to reach out to subtropical IDO Matt Weinert at firstname.lastname@example.org if they’d like to join.
Regarding research activities, the tropical project’s first trial is underway. It is looking at alternative and innovative ground cover management strategies and will ultimately evolve to investigate the timing of desuckering of tissue plants before looking at bunch management variables.
For the subtropical project, a reject, downgrade and packed product analysis is being conducted to determine causes of production losses, with results feeding into demonstration trials aimed at reducing these losses (and also being shared with the Banana Plant Protection Program to help prioritise any pest and disease R&D work). This work will help growers reduce waste and improve the packout of premium fruit. More information on this can be found on p23 of the April 2018 edition of the levy-funded Australian Bananas magazine.
This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Banana Fund