See how the banana levy is being put to work! Scroll down to learn about Hort Innovation’s current investment of the industry levy, and results from these investments, in the R&D and marketing snapshots – or click on a project below to go straight to its update. Also look for the ‘ACT NOW’ tag to easily identify project resources ready to use.

All projects are funded by Hort Innovation using the banana R&D or marketing levy and, in the case of R&D, contributions from the Australian Government. In some projects, additional funding sources are also used.


Look out for the new Hort Innovation Banana Fund logo

You may have noticed there’s been a little snipping to the name and logo of Hort Innovation recently. Because you’ve come to know us as simply ‘Hort Innovation’, that’s what we’re now officially called.

Banana growers and stakeholders will also notice the introduction of a handy new logo specific to the banana industry. You can now look for the ‘Hort Innovation Banana Fund’ logo (pictured below) to quickly and easily identify projects, content and other outputs related to the strategic investment of your levy from here on out.

You can read more about the slight changes at

On the Hort Innovation Banana Fund page…

Along with Hortlink, Hort Innovation’s webpage for banana levy payers is a great source of info. On it you’ll find:

  • The Banana Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) for 2017-2021, with an easy-to-read ‘at a glance’ version and the full PDF document. The SIP was finalised in August after close consultation with growers and other industry stakeholders. It outlines priorities for strategic investment in the industry, and will be used like a ‘roadmap’ by the banana Strategic Investment Advisory Panels (SIAPs) when providing advice to Hort Innovation on potential levy investments.
  • The latest meeting notes from the banana SIAPs, with the R&D SIAP most recently meeting in March 10 in South Johnstone and due to meet again during October, and the marketing SIAP convening last on March 24 in Cairns and due to meet again during November.
  • Financial documents regarding your levy, including operating statements and expenditure summaries for R&D and marketing projects.
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the industry.
Any questions?

Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Astrid Hughes is always available to answer questions or provide info on the Banana Fund program. She can be reached on 0405 306 334 or at



Improved plant protection for the banana industry (BA16001)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, in collaboration with several organisations

What’s it all about? Carrying on from the previous banana plant protection program (recapped in full in the last Hortlink here), this project will continue to expand on plant protection for the banana industry. Its work will focus on access to banana varieties with improved pest and disease traits; access to clean planting material that has been pathogen tested; enhancing the diagnostic capacity for endemic and exotic threats; and improving integrated pest and disease management.

It is working closely with the project Strengthening the banana industry diagnostic capacity (BA16005), which is focused on growing the industry’s ability to detect and identify emerging endemic and exotic plant pathogens. Along with diagnostic work, it will increase knowledge of the biology and spread of key diseases, and develop and test eradication strategies.

What’s the latest update? With the projects still in initial stages, updates will be provided in Hortlink and in other industry communication channels as they become available. The industry has been working on establishing a project reference committee for the overarching plant protection program, and a specific varieties sub-committee that will provide input into this area of investment.

Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 – biosecurity and sustainable solutions (BA14013)

Status: Near-completed project

Key research provider: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

What’s it all about? This project has had a focus on biosecurity strategies around Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 (TR4). Its aim has been to provide new science, information and practices to help growers avoid the fungus, contain its spread if it does occur, and manage outbreaks safely.

Its five broad aims have been to:

  • Improve on-farm biosecurity practices to reduce movement of inoculum and to develop medium and long-term solutions for monitoring, identifying infection, interventions and further management
  • Improve access to new disease-resistant/tolerant cultivars
  • Develop resilient disease-management options to minimise plant stress
  • Update banana biosecurity protocols
  • Facilitate adoption of research findings.

What’s the latest update? With the project due to conclude, look for a complete wrap-up in a future Hortlink. Its work will be continued through the plant protection program.


Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 research program (BA14014)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

What’s it all about? This project seeks to provide medium- and long-term solutions for banana growers to allow continued profitable production, should Fusarium wilt become widespread in the North Queensland banana industry. Key goals of the project are to:

  • Improve cultivar resistance, by developing and identifying TR4-resistant varieties
  • Build resilient banana production systems, by developing a better understanding of the TR4 pathogen and its interactions with plants and soils
  • Improve on-farm biosecurity practices.

What’s the latest update? As reported in the last Hortlink, the project is currently conducting a series of lab and field studies, and is also working on the Quality Banana Approved Nursery (QBAN) accreditation scheme, which is being transitioned from a state-government regulated program to one run by a partnership between the banana and nursery industries under this project. An update on this was provided on p8 of this issue of Australian Bananas magazine.

Coordination of banana industry research and development (Panama TR4) (BA14012)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: Australian Banana Growers’ Council

What’s it all about? The objective of this project is to coordinate the industry’s efforts, and build the knowledge and capacity, to manage and contain the Panama TR4 fungal disease, first identified in Queensland in March 2015. The Australian Banana Growers’ Council’s Dr Rosie Godwin is employed under this project as the Banana Industry R&D Manager, to ensure R&D on Panama TR4 has tangible outcomes for banana growers that are adopted on-farm.

What’s the latest update? The Banana Industry R&D Manager’s role continues to involve a range of activities, not limited to…

  • Input into the progress of R&D projects relevant to TR4 and other key banana diseases – including involvement in the industry’s banana plant protection program – and assisting in the development of new work in this space.
  • Continued consultation with growers on TR4 and other relevant industry issues, including advice on chemical permits and usage, a clean planting material scheme, coffee bean weevil and exotic weeds.
  • Continued input into Biosecurity Queensland’s (BQ’s) TRF response program and the production of guidelines, factsheets and training material to ensure BQ’s containment management strategy for TR4 is effective.

    Additional funds have been provided to the project in recent months, for the development of a generic biosecurity action plan template for growers. Biosecurity Queensland requires owners of TR4-infested land to develop a Farm Biosecurity Management Plan, to document how they will abide by the requirements of the organisation’s Biosecurity Manual and Biosecurity Regulation. Developing a plan ahead of time allows quick decision-making and action should TR4 be found on your property, and highlights risks and biosecurity measures to reduce TR4 infection and spread.

Download the Biosecurity Plan Template produced by the project here. You can also read more here.

National banana development and extension project (BA13004)

Status: Completed project, with its extension work to be continued by new iteration National banana development and extension project – tropical (BA16007) for Queensland, and a project for New South Wales that is currently being contracted by Hort Innovation

Key research provider: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

What was it all about? This project was tasked with helping deliver the outcomes of levy-funded and other R&D back to the banana industry, to help growers and other stakeholders take up new information, technologies and approaches, and make better decisions for their businesses. Running since 2013, it was responsible for…

  • National banana roadshow events, held biennially in six locations across the country
  • Field walks and industry workshops, including the latest Panama R&D Open Day, held in May
  • Industry meetings, including NextGen young banana grower groups – learn more on p11 of the September issue of Australian Bananas here
  • Grower training activities, including training related to the Banana Best Management Practices Environmental Guideline
  • The development of resources, including fact sheets, videos and articles for Australian Bananas magazine (see the ‘act now’ section below for links)
  • Direct engagement with growers and others in the banana supply chain.

The project also established and used four demonstration sites looking at various soil and variety management options.

  • The use of soil amendments to promote soil biological activity and suppress plant-parasitic nematodes was studied. Hay, Japanese millet, compost, mill-ash and biochar were used, though unfortunately the demonstration site closed early due to the detection of Panama TR4 on the trial property. Early results did show mill-ash applied to the surface and incorporated into the soil had higher and more consistent soil moisture, resulting in faster growth of plants. Hay applied to the surface also resulted in some significant increases in soil moisture and plant growth.
  • Four Cavendish varieties with reported Panama TR4 resistance were compared to the industry standard variety, Williams. The agronomic performance and quality characteristics of GCTCV 218, GCTCV 119, CJ19, DMP25 were looked at. The results:
    • Overall, CJ19 responded very poorly to cold wet weather, was slow growing and had significantly smaller bunches
    • DPM25 was virtually identical to Williams for the measured characteristics, however shading of the block may have contributed to its slightly slower crop cycle
    • GCTCV 218 had bunch weights and finger length comparable to Williams DPM25, but demonstrated a much longer crop cycle period
    • GCTCV 119 was very tall, spindly and exceedingly slow to bunch compared to all the other varieties.
  • A trial site looked at compost and groundcovers in controlling weeds, versus herbicide applications. Soil microbial activity did not change significantly, though there were differences in the plant parasitic nematode populations, particularly two months following treatment application. At the two-month point, compost produced higher levels of spiral nematodes in the soil, and the groundcover treatments had higher levels of spiral and lesion nematodes in the roots. However, 18 months and 23 months following application these nematode levels were consistent across all treatments. Meanwhile, the addition of compost and the presence of groundcovers increased the pH and reduced available aluminum levels in the soil, while compost also increased soil calcium levels and the ‘cation exchange capacity’ (which influences the soil’s ability to hold nutrients, and deters against acidification).
  • A further trial site looking at soil amendments involved compost and poultry manure versus grower practice. The manure treatment resulted in a higher soil pH, and both treatments increased soil carbon levels. The treatments did not affect the bunch weights over the 20-month trial period.

The project also ran a range of grower-requested trials into innovative ways to deal with common problems and areas of in-field management. The topics included…

  • Bagging, with bag colour found to significantly affect the colour of fruit over winter. The bag treatments were yellow/silver; double yellow/silver; black/silver and homemade black bags. The fruit in the black bags were lighter, however under peel chilling was more obvious.
  • Novel nitrogen application. Here, no injected urea solutions produced any significant changes to growth of plants.
  • Chemical removal of banana flower remnants. Unfortunately no selected chemicals – irrespective of application method – showed promise in achieving this. Chemicals studied included ethephon, vinegar, sodium chloride, lime sulphur, napthaline acetic acid, gibberellic acid, abscisic acid, benzlyadenine and indole butyric acid.
  • Use of gibberellic acid (GA) in de-suckering. Three different rates of GA were studies, but at 50, 300 and 600ppm did not reduce or increase sucker production (nor did it affect growth parameters, suggesting higher rates are an avenue of further investigation).

Full project details can be found in the project’s final report, which will ultimately be available to order at Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies. Not a member? Sign up to our membership program for free here.


Access fact sheets produced by the project:

Watch videos produced by the project (please note production year, as some are now older resources):

National banana bunchy top virus program – Phase 3 – QLD (BA15006) and National banana bunchy top virus program – Phase 3 – NSW (BA15007)

Status: Ongoing projects

Key research provider: Both components are led by Barry Sullivan

What are they all about? With banana bunchy top virus the most serious viral disease of bananas, these projects represent the third phase in a 10-year-plan aimed at controlling and ultimately eradicating the disease from Australia. Project activities are designed to protect uninfested areas; remove infestation from farms and protect from reinfestation; and to reduce the disease range.

What’s the latest update? The program’s ongoing strategy involves risk-based surveillance and plant rogueing, conducted by surveillance teams, along with awareness activities.

New technologies are also being explored, including…

  • A cloud-based Geographic Information System (GIS) that will simplify mapping, planning, recording and reporting
  • Drone technology, which has recently been used in the Queensland component in a small trial for detecting plants infected with banana bunchy top, with promising results.

Project activities and future bunchy top work is set to be workshopped with industry growers and stakeholders, with new related projects then expected to be established in the near future.


Cause and management of crown rot of banana (BA13011)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

What’s it all about? This project is developing a greater understanding of the factors that contribute to crown end rot (CER), which has re-emerged as an important problem in the banana supply chain. The research seeks to better understand the disease, improve pre- and post-harvest disease control, and provide growers with information that will result reduced losses due to CER.

What’s the latest update? The project has so far…

  • Identified the two pathogens most frequently associated with CER as Musicillium theobromae and Fusarium (Fusarium equiseti-incarnatum complex), with both found to be widely distributed in North Queensland banana growing environments, regardless of season
  • Post-harvest treatments
  • Undertaken fungicide efficacy testing and identified alternative products that have an effect on the growth of CER-causing organisms
  • Confirmed that the length of time in storage prior to ripening has an increased effect on the severity of CER.
  • Developed a draft management practice framework for CER
  • Continued working with key supply chain partners to implement post-harvest management options and assess against current practices.

Banana industry minor use program (BA16003)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: Hort Innovation

What’s it all about? Through this project, levy funds and Australian Government contributions are used to renew and apply for new minor use permits for the banana industry. These submissions are prepared and submitted to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

The minor use program is also supported by the project Generation of residue data for pesticide minor use permit applications in horticulture crops 2015/16 – Eurofins (ST15027), which is responsible for generating data to support a range of permit applications for a range of industries. Project ST15027 uses grant funds from the Australian Government’s Agvet program, plus some levy contributions.

What’s the latest update? All current minor use permits for the industry are searchable at Permit updates are also circulated in Hort Innovation’s Growing Innovation e-newsletter, which levy-paying members receive monthly. Not a member? Sign up to our membership program for free here.

The Australian banana industry communications program (BA15005)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: The Australian Banana Growers’ Council

What’s it all about? This project is responsible for keeping Australian banana growers and other industry stakeholders informed about key industry issues and the latest R&D in a timely way. The ultimate goal is to facilitate the uptake of new information, technologies and practices – in turn helping growers forge more productive, profitable and resilient businesses.

What’s the latest update? Delivered by the Australian Banana Growers’ Council, the project continues to produce and maintain key communication channels, including but not limited to:

The project is also responsible for media relations services, creating and distributing media releases and fielding media enquiries on behalf of the industry.

   Levy-funded industry communications are sent to all known Australian banana growers. If you’re a commercial banana grower and do not currently receive industry e-bulletins, sign up at the bottom of the Australian Banana Growers’ Council homepage.

Integrated management of Yellow Sigatoka (BA15003)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: The Australian Banana Growers’ Council

What’s it all about? Beginning in January 2016, this project supports the work of the Yellow Sigatoka liaison officer of the Australian Banana Growers’ Council, Louis Lardi. Louis’s Queensland-based role includes educating growers on Yellow Sigatoka and leaf speckle (‘leaf spot’) symptoms and integrated control, and assisting growers to keep levels of disease on their plantations below prescribed levels.

What’s the latest update? The officer continues to undertake leaf spot inspections and is responsible for alerting Biosecurity Queensland when any other suspected banana diseases are found. In the first six months of 2017, the officer conducted initial inspections on 109 properties (including 104 commercial farms and five backyards), found leaf spot present on 24 properties, and conducted 15 follow-up visits. There was no requirement to alert Biosecurity Queensland in relation to leaf spot, and the officer has reported “excellent voluntary compliance by the banana industry” in regard to leaf spot.

Banana strategic industry development (BA13023)

Status: Near-completed project

Key research provider: The Australian Banana Growers’ Council

What was it all about? With a focus on biosecurity and the environment, this project has supported the role and activities of industry strategy manager (ISM) Michelle McKinlay within the Australian Banana Growers’ Council.

Activities of the ISM have involved researching and preparing biosecurity and environmental strategies and policies to support the banana industry. The ISM has also represented the banana industry in meetings and other stakeholder engagement mechanisms about issues relating to biosecurity and the environment, and has been responsible for communicating developments in the biosecurity and environmental areas to growers through field days, workshops, grower meetings and articles in industry publications. Here, the goal has been to increase exposure to and adoption of new ideas, and facilitate grower input into policy and strategy development.

Full details will ultimately be available in the project’s final report. When submitted, it will be available to order at Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies. Not a member? Sign up to our membership program for free here.

Hort Innovation is currently establishing a new project to continue on this work. The new project will be Banana strategic industry development manager (BA16008).


NSW banana industry development officer (BA13025)

Status: Completed project

Key research provider: NSW Department of Primary Industries

What was it all about? This project has supported the role of an industry development officer (IDO) for the New South Wales banana industry, Matt Weinart. The IDO’s goals have been to develop greater cohesion in the industry, help build capacity, and to facilitate the development of skills and the uptake of new practices.

A final report with full details for this project is now due to Hort Innovation, and will ultimately be available to order from Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies. Not a member? Sign up to our membership program for free here.

Horticulture Nuffield scholarships (BA15004)

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: Nuffield Australia

What’s it all about? This project provides funding to support Nuffield Scholars in the banana industry. Nuffield Scholarships are a chance for Australians in agriculture to grow their practical knowledge and a broad variety of skills, while heading overseas to study a topic related to their industry.

What’s the latest update? Applications for the 2018 Nuffield program closed in June. At the time of writing, the successful applicants were to be announced by Nuffield Australia during September, at a conference to be held in Darwin.

   Read more about the Nuffield journey with Hort Innovation’s profile on organic banana grower Matt Abbott. Matt received the scholarship in 2016. If you missed the 2018 application period, the project will support scholars in 2019 and 2020, so keep your eyes peeled.

Other R&D projects of note…

  • Review of the national biosecurity plan for the banana industry (BA15001), which began earlier in 2017 and is responsible for updating the industry’s biosecurity plan. The plan is a top-level document that identifies high-priority endemic and exotic pests and diseases, along with the risk mitigation activities required to reduce their biosecurity threat.
  • Banana industry congress 2017 (BA16700), which was responsible for the industry’s biennial Australian Banana Industry Congress, held in Sydney across June 22 to 24 this year. The event was a chance for the latest banana R&D and marketing programs and results to be shared with industry. Produced by the Australian Banana Growers’ Council, highlight videos from the event are available to watch here:



Hort Innovation invests the banana marketing levy into a range of activities to drive awareness and consumption, under the Hort Innovation Banana Fund.

After a successful six-month period of marketing for Australian Bananas, the brand is experiencing another big push in the second half of 2017. As always, the focus continues to be on getting the maximum bang for the banana buck and getting Australians to snack on bananas more often. The activity is continuing with ‘always on’ social media, public relations and the sponsoring of events, including community events, as well as the below activity.


Billy Slater and nutritionist Susie Burrell are continuing to post on social media each month. Billy’s three Instagram posts since May alone have been liked over 21,000 times. Susie also shares great nutrition content to her social media pages and website, which has a monthly reach of 722,540.  An example of this content is the article such as ‘Why bananas are good for you’, which you can read here.


Australian Bananas continues to provide sponsorship and merchandise to various events around the country, to provide the fruit as the non-stop energy snack for training bodies. Sponsored events include the Atherton, Tully and Innisfail shows, and the Wheet-Bix Kids TRYathlon series, which saw nearly 60,000 competitors and spectators.

Weight Check Day

Launched in early September to coincide with Father’s Day and sponsored by Australian Bananas, Weight Check 2017 is a campaign to help Australians better understand their current weight and take action towards living a healthier life.

All adults are encouraged to check and register their weight at The free online tool helps you to determine if your weight is in the healthy zone. It also predicts how your weight could creep up over time, and offers tips to maintain a healthy weight. The campaign also aims to raise money for the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

To promote Weight Check 2017, commuters at select train stations recieved an Australian banana on the way to work on Friday, September 1. The inaugural Weight Check event took place on Father’s Day on Sunday, September 3.


Australian Bananas teamed up with Australian Avocados to promote both fruits at the Dietitians Association of Australia Conference, held in Hobart from May 18 to 20. Attended by approximately 300 dietitians from around Australia, it was a great opportunity to discuss the benefits of including bananas and avocados in the diet, which the dietitians could then share with their clients.

Australian Bananas ambassador and dietitian Susie Burrell manned the Australian Bananas stand, which sampled delicious and nutritious banana and avocado smoothies and gave away recipe leaflets.

The brand also had a stand at the Australian Banana Industry Congress 2017 in Sydney during June, where a sea of yellow merchandise was handed out to growers and industry participants.

Online activity

Australian Bananas online advertising activity begun at the end of August and will run to mid-November.

This will include the running of new six-second video ads on YouTube and social media platforms. These shorter ads are designed to quickly convey the Australian Bananas message, are non-intrusive, and can be placed more frequently at a cheaper cost, ensuring the campaign reaches a larger number of online consumers than it has ever been able to before.

Online activity will also re-introduce display ads to increase Australian Bananas exposure on high-visibility websites.

Social media activity

The industry’s ‘always on’ approach to social media has continued, with great results. From May to July, over two million people were reached each month with Facebook content. An example of this content was ’When the boys find out you’ve got a banana for smoko’, which was the best performing content for the month of June and viewed more than 486,000 times. Buoyed by a massive State of Origin game and relatable copy for everyday Australians, the post was able to cut through in the newsfeed, delivering a great piece of reactive and relevant content, which you can see here.

Public relations activity

In the year ending June 2017, Australian Bananas featured in 159 articles – presenting an opportunity to reach millions of Australians.

Television advertising

A heavy first burst of TV advertising took place in late August/early September, kicking off the next phase of the campaign across both metro and regional markets, and subscription TV. Look for an update in the next edition of Hortlink.

Out of home advertising

The industry is continuing its strong out-of-home investment with posters on buses, retail digital posters in shopping centres (placed right outside supermarkets), large digital billboards and in-gym advertising all showcasing Australian Bananas from September to the end of November nationally.

Cinema advertising

Starting mid-September, a 15-second commercial was set to be introduced to cinema-goers nationally. This will give huge exposure to Australian Bananas beyond the traditional TV audience. And it will do it in shopping centre locations, close to supermarkets, specifically timed during the busy school holidays.

Schools programs

Australian Bananas sponsored two school programs in Western Australia and Victoria that came to an end in July 2017. The Melbourne Market Authority Schools Program reached over 20,000 people over the year-long duration of their program, while over 2000 students were involved in the Foodbank WA program. Australian Bananas will continue sponsoring these programs in 2017/18.

Bounty Bags

From May to July, over 57,560 banana cases were distributed to new mothers in Bounty Bags, reminding new families of the nutritional and health benefits of bananas.

Point of sale (POS) activity

More than 400 POS packs were sent out nationally over winter, to help promote bananas at the point of purchase. A brochure was also created to be distributed by Woolworths in Western Australia, and ‘dull banana’ POS materials were produced for independent retailers (promising that while a banana may be dull in colour on the outside, it’s still delicious inside).

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