Growing Innovation: Issue 4, April 4, 2016

Research to boost Queensland papaya quality, trade appeal

New research commissioned by Hort Innovation aims to improve the quality, yield, flesh colour, flavour and sweetness of one of Australia’s most versatile fruits, the papaya.

To be delivered by Griffith University in close consultation with the papaya industry, the work aims to increase the domestic market and export potential of Queensland papayas to other countries such as New Zealand by identifying and developing new higher quality varieties.

Hort Innovation Chief Executive Officer John Lloyd said the $330,000 project builds upon a breeding program that comprised the growth of 2000 papaya varieties and breeding lines on a farm in Mareeba, north QLD.

He said this next step is to “evaluate, select and cross/self pollinate successful trees to create this new premium papaya cultivar”.

“Papayas are a much loved Australian fruit that is packed with unique nutritional benefits such as anti-oxidants including high amounts of carotenoids and vitamin c, and fibre,” Mr Lloyd said.

Mr Lloyd said while the Australian papayas are superior, variables such as variety type, weather conditions and crop management practices can affect the end product.

“This new research will see varieties developed that are tailor-made for north QLD, which produces 90 percent of Australia’s annual output of more than 6.5 tonnes (ABS). These new varieties will feature a consistent yield, flesh colour and sweet flavour, year-round.”

Mr Lloyd said these new cultivars will also be resistant to the Papaya Ringspot Virus – which was found in south east QLD in the 1990s, and while it has not been detected in North Qld, remains a serious threat to the industry.

“Once developed, these resistant papaya varieties will also have the capacity to benefit other countries affected by Papaya Ringspot Virus including the USA, parts of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America.”

He said the project will also allow researchers to collect good genetic materials from overseas and within Australia to increase genetic base of papaya which will be useful for breeders. Seeds of commercial varieties will be sown in tissue culture to produce cloned plants and planted on two locations; Tableland and Coastal regions.

Also as part of the project, a dedicated Industry Development Officer (IDO) to work with industry to help tailor make varieties suitable for different growing regions. This IDO will also work on solutions to papaya industry problems and liaise with growers, papaya industry groups and researchers domestically and internationally. On top of this, field days will be organised in key areas to provide a forum for discussion and knowledge exchange.

The research, which is funded through papaya industry levies and matched Australian Government funds, will be complete in early 2019 and the new varieties are expected to be available to industry soon after.

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