To help the banana industry achieve its aim of a 5% increase in production efficiency “with minimal to no environmental impact” by 2014, researchers are launching a $6 million research project. A Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) research team, led by principal research scientist Associate Professor Andre Drenth, will spearhead the Banana Plant Protection Program.
“The banana industry is very familiar with the two main risks to plant production: adverse weather, and pests and diseases,” Dr Drenth, of the University of Queensland, said.
“While we can’t control the first one, this program seeks to bring together key research activities required for long-term banana health and streamline plant protection. The scale and scope of the program will enable economic delivery of effective outcomes for the industry as a whole and on a national basis.”
The research project will take a proactive approach to pest and disease impact on banana production. Rather than combatting pests and pathogens after they have become a problem, the research team aims to develop resistant varieties and improved plant protection systems to keep bananas healthy throughout the growth cycle.
Graduate students and research will have research training opportunities within the program, which will also offer training opportunities for research scientists.
The project is funded, in part, by banana grower levies that are matched by Horticulture Australia Limited, a not-for-profit, industry-owned company that invests nearly $90 million annually into horticulture research, development and marketing.
“This joint initiative brings together a broad range of plant protection knowledge into one project to help ensure the ongoing high health status of one of Australia’s major horticultural industries,” said Garry Fullelove, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry science leader.
“It is also another example of the excellent work achieved between Queensland Government and UQ through QAAFI, designed to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of tropical and subtropical food, fibre and agribusiness sectors through high-impact science.”