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Innovative Banana Trial Uses Agrisilica to Combat Panama Disease Race 1

Article sourced from Australian Bananas, Issue: 63, December 2021. For the full publication click here

By Tom Flanaghan, NSW DPI

Innovation Trial – Using Silicon Fertilisers to Improve Lady Finger Tolerance to Panama Disease Race 1

An innovation trial to evaluate the effectiveness of using silicon fertilisers in increasing Lady Finger tolerance to Panama disease Race 1 has been designed as a part of the National Banana Development and Extension project.

The trial will be conducted in the tweed region in Northern New South Wales and is planned to start this month.

Panama Race 1 has been present in the north of NSW from the Tweed region south to Coffs Harbour for several decades and has had a devastating impact on growers of susceptible varieties in these areas.

Considered endemic in NSW, Panama Race 1 is widely distributed across the region and has made it extremely difficult for Lady Finger growers to continue to produce this variety. As there are no control options for Panama disease, the only alternative is to switch to growing those varieties that are resistant.

At this stage there are no alternative resistant Lady Finger type varieties, although research is being undertaken to try and identify varieties that could fill this niche.

There are many growers who may not have the opportunity to wait for an alternative variety to be commercialised and require a more rapid solution. Based on previous research, there is evidence to suggest that the addition of silicon fertilisers to bananas inoculated with Panama helps to increase the plants’ tolerance to the disease.

However, further trials need to be undertaken to determine whether this can be replicated in the field within a commercial setting.

The innovation trial will be undertaken by The Centre of Organics Research which is a joint initiative between the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Southern Cross University, the University of Queensland, Agripower Australia and the Australian Banana Growers’ Council.

We will also be collaborating with a grower in the Tweed region who has generously offered to allow use of his land, which is affected by Panama Race 1, to complete the trial.

The innovation trial will assess the efficacy of both Agrisilica granular and liquid silicon fertilisers developed by Agripower. It will also evaluate whether these silicon fertilisers applied individually and in combination (for example granular then liquid silicon applications), at different timings and at varying rates are able to increase the tolerance of Lady Finger bananas to Panama disease Race 1 and which of these treatments are most effective.

The trial will commence mid-December and results from the trial will be shared with industry as soon as they become available.