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Ongoing project

National banana development and extension program (BA19004)

Key research provider: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (for the tropical component) and NSW Department of Primary Industries (for the subtropical component)

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 banana industry, and a subtropical one for New South Wales and Western Australian production regions.

They follow the previous National banana development and extension project (BA16007) 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.

The program’s activities involve industry development officers who deliver…

  • The Better Bananas website,
  • 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.

The fundamentals of pest and disease management, chemical resistance and the latest research about management of yellow sigatoka, bunch pests and mites were the focus of the 2022 Banana Roadshow series in Far North Queensland (FNQ). The events were attended by over 100 growers and industry stakeholders. They also provided an opportunity to discuss bunch pest management considering the potential loss of products (currently under review) containing chlorpyrifos which are commonly used to control bunch pests.

One-on-one extension with growers continues to be an important way to inform growers of R&D, encourage participation in events and guide innovation trials. One-on-one extension is now building on the relationships established in the first year of the project. Of the one-on-one interactions in FNQ with 132 growers and 48 with industry stakeholders, about 50% related to pest and disease management. In NSW one-on-one interactions with 34 growers and seven industry stakeholders have related to a broad variety of issues.

Building on the project’s initial industry consultation survey, an additional survey of a cross section of FNQ growers was done to better understand how they manage bunch pests, banana weevil borer and nematodes. These surveys have provided insight to how growers manage these pests and has informed topics for project events and innovation trials.

The innovation field trials completed to-date have provided insight on managing bunch pests with alternative products to chlorpyrifos, and control of banana spider mites with predatory mites. Bagging bunches early, when the first bract is beginning to lift, significantly reduced animal damage (e.g., bird and bat scratches) and incidence of rust thrip damage compared to traditional bagging when all bracts have fallen, and the bunch is pruned. Injecting bells when upright was found to be important for scab moth control. Comparison of different spray equipment to achieve good coverage of liquid chemicals to control bunch pests, will be investigated further in an innovation trial.

Three grower case studies showcased low-cost, on-farm biosecurity practices and a video case study demonstrated a bagging technique to support effective bunch pest management.

The project team report progress in the following areas:

The mini-Roadshows with growers and other stakeholders are set to be held in Tully (16 June), Innisfail (17 June) and Mareeba (22 June). The Roadshow events in Far North Queensland (FNQ) have a focus on pest and disease management and research, specifically the fundamentals, management, current research and chemical resistance considerations of yellow Sigatoka, bunch pests and mites. The project facilitated the first mini-Roadshow event in Western Australia on 5 May 2022. Using a virtual hybrid approach, growers participated collectively in Carnarvon, joining via video link with the Queensland project team and researchers. Nematodes and banana varieties were the key topics presented. Overall, the event was well received by the 16 attendees (13 ‘in-person’ and 3 stakeholders online). The 9 growers that provided feedback indicated they increased their knowledge on the topics as a result of participating, with evaluation scores ranging from 3-5 out of 5 (1 = not at all - 5 = significantly).

There have been 23 page updates for the Better Bananas website in the last 12 months. The new content, particularly the on-farm biosecurity content, has been promoted, linked and published in e-bulletins, Australian Bananas magazines and on the Australian Banana Growers’ Facebook page (all distributed by ABGC) as well as included in the Panama TR4 program updates.

The project has recently commenced two field trials investigating bunch pest management practices in response to the potential removal of products containing chlorpyrifos and concerns about the efficacy of the remaining registered chemistries. This is aimed to gain more knowledge and establish best practice principles to get the most out of current bunch pest management practices.

The project will also facilitate a workshop session to discuss the future of bunch pest management and the short and medium-term impacts and considerations associated with the likely deregistration of chlorpyrifos.

More than 50 banana growers and industry stakeholders attended a field walk at the Department of Agriculture’s South Johnstone Research Facility on 30 July 2021. The day featured a tour of a new variety trial, research updates on desuckering of tissue culture plants for improved productivity, and an update on a nitrogen and phosphorus rate trial monitoring yield and nutrient losses. Participant feedback was very positive.

The Banana Industry Congress, held in Cairns during May 2021, was well attended by more than 450 growers, researchers and industry stakeholders. The entire project team participated to network with growers and industry, present R&D via posters and presentations, and engage with congress delegates.

The survey report from Phase 1 of the one-on-one grower extension strategy farm visits was finalised, and the project’s M&E plan was updated. Several activities were impacted due to COVID restrictions, however plans are in place to catch these up in coming months as restrictions ease.

Phase 2 of the one-on-one extension farm visits commenced, which include a survey and conversation about bunch pests, banana weevil borer and nematode management.

Innovation field trials were also started, investigating the use of predatory mites to manage banana spider mite, bell injection using biologicals, and silica amendments for increased banana tolerance to Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense Race 1.


Access articles and resources from the project team via the Better Bananas website, including:

Related levy funds

This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Banana Fund