See how the banana levy is hard at 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 name below to go straight to a specific 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.


Don’t forget to grab the Banana Fund Annual Report

Released at the start of November, Hort Innovation’s Banana Fund Annual Report sums up all levy investments and activities from 2016/17. You can download a copy here, or head to Hort Innovation’s Annual Report Portal to place an order for a free hard copy of the report.

What research do you want to see?

As always, Hort Innovation encourages all growers and industry participants to share their thoughts and ideas for the research they want to see – whether that’s within the industry-specific Banana Fund (where research is funded by grower levies and Australian Government contributions), or within Hort Innovation’s strategic partnership initiative, Hort Frontiers (where research is funded through partnerships with co-investors).

Watch this video to see how ideas are collected and grown into projects, then submit your suggestions for new projects here.

Get closer to your investments with free membership

Hort Innovation membership brings you closer to the investment activities and results in your levy fund, and to the organisation as a whole. As well as providing the opportunity for voting rights at the company’s Annual General Meeting, membership helps you connect with your industry’s Relationship Manager, sends Hortlink straight to your inbox for first-look access, provides exclusive Grower Intel alerts with industry-specific news and opportunities, and more.

Paying a levy doesn’t automatically make you a member, so read more here and sign up now!

Find resources 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:

  • Key documents including the Banana Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) for 2017-2021, released in August 2017, and the Banana Fund Annual Report
  • The latest meeting notes from the banana Strategic Investment Advisory Panels (SIAPs), with the R&D SIAP most recently meeting on October 18, 2017 and due to meet again during March 2018, and the marketing SIAP last convening on October 13, 2017, and also set to meet again during March 2018
  • Current 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



Banana strategic industry development manager

Status: New project

Key research provider: The Australian Banana Growers’ Council

What’s it all about? This new investment in the Hort Innovation Banana Fund follows on from now-completed project Banana strategic industry development (BA13023), described in the last Hortlink. Like its predecessor, it supports the role and activities of industry strategy manager (ISM) Michelle McKinlay within the Australian Banana Growers’ Council. The ISM works with growers to develop, implement and respond to industry-related strategies and policies, and provides support for the adoption of new practices to align with these strategies. The project has a focus on biosecurity and the environment.

What’s the latest update? With work through this iteration of the project now getting underway, you’ll find updates in future editions of Hortlink.

Alternative quarantine treatment for bananas infested with coffee bean weevil

Status: New project

Key research provider: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

What’s it all about? Coffee bean weevil is a major pest of many agricultural commodities, and has been detected by Biosecurity Western Australia in consignments of bananas from far north Queensland. This new project in the Hort Innovation Banana Fund will look at the effect of fumigant Vapormate on coffee bean weevil eggs, larvae and adults at various doses, and determine any effects of the label rate on commercial fruit. The information will feed into trials that will provide the data needed to demonstrate efficacy to quarantine standards, helping to maintain market access.

What’s the latest update? As project work is just beginning, look for updates in future editions of Hortlink.

Banana enterprise performance comparison 2016/17

Status: New project

Key research provider: Pinnacle Agribusiness

What’s it all about? This is a new benchmarking project for the Australian banana industry. It will collect data and report on productivity, quality, profitability and other information from Australian banana businesses. It will also bring this data together with information from previous projects to provide a comprehensive six-year picture of the industry’s performance.

From this, growers and other industry stakeholders will be able to identify the most relevant factors currently affecting industry performance, and factors that are driving individual business performance. Insights from the research will be used to highlight opportunities for growers to improve their businesses, which will be showcased in industry communication channels.

The project will also look at the industry’s currently heightened biosecurity requirements and any impacts on on-farm processes, management practices and costs.


Howard Hall from Pinnacle Agribusiness began contacting growers and enrolling participants in October, and will continue to collect data from growers well into the new year. There are still places available for participants, so it’s not too late to take part!

You can contact Howard on 0412 674083 or at if you’d like to participate, or discuss anything related to the project.

Participating businesses will receive a series of confidential personal reports highlighting how their business is performing compared to others, while aggregated reports (featuring no identifiable information on specific businesses) will be available to the wider industry.  All data collected from individual growers is treated with total confidentiality.

Tropical fruit export strategy

Status: New project

Key research provider: McKINNA et al

What’s it all about? This short multi-industry project will support the building of sustainable export markets and supply chain capabilities for a range of tropical commodities, including banana, lychee, passionfruit, papaya and persimmon. It has been tasked with developing a collective export strategy for these fruits – a road map for growing export markets, underpinned by information on each high-prospect market for each fruit category.

What’s the latest update? This investment was contracted by Hort Innovation in November, with consultation occurring the project’s first few weeks. Look for information on the completed strategy in future editions of Hortlink and in industry channels.

Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 – biosecurity and sustainable solutions

Status: Completed project

Key research provider: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

What was it all about? This project, which began in mid-2015 and recently concluded, had a focus on biosecurity strategies around the Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 (TR4) fungus – one of the most destructive diseases of banana. The work has delivered new science, information and practices to help in avoiding, containing, and managing TR4.

Project activities were geared towards helping the industry successfully contain the disease and prevent further spread of the fungus through the adoption of robust, science-based biosecurity practices; and facilitating the development of economically viable production systems capable of minimising inoculum build-up, suitable for use on infected or at-risk farms.

The project team report that adoption of effective biosecurity practices on north Queensland banana farms has been significantly supported by project activities, which included – but weren’t limited to – identifying and communicating…

  • How to monitor for the disease.
  • Risk pathways for spread of the pathogen, and associated biosecurity practices. The fungus that causes TR4 cannot move itself, rather it must be moved for the disease to spread. It can be spread by the movement of contaminated water (spores in irrigation, drainage and flood water), infected plant material and infested soil (a teaspoon of infested soil is enough to start a new infection). The project examined the aspects of the banana production system that related to these movement risks to determine what farm practices presented the greatest risk of spreading the disease. Once these were identified, then effective and practical methods to manage them were developed in conjunction with banana growers. The assessment also helped to identify knowledge gaps that required more R&D effort.
  • The most effective disinfectant products, and how to manage their use, with this information collated into project fact sheets on sanitisers (see the ‘ACT NOW’ section below).
  • How to effectively destroy inoculum in infected plants to minimise build up in the soil. Each infected banana plant is effectively a ticking disease ‘time bomb’. As the disease kills the plant the fungus within produces millions and millions of very robust, long-lived survival spores that can persist in the soil for decades. If the plant is allowed to die and fall over on the ground, then those spores return to the soil where they can be picked up and moved elsewhere by machinery, shoes, wild and feral animals, and washed downhill by surface run-off where the same vectors can pick it up and move it, or it ends up in a river, creek or dam where it can be distributed by irrigation onto a new farm. Hence, being able to kill all the disease in an infected plant is crucial to stopping further spread – even when it means killing the plant and locking up that area so that no crop is grown there again, and no-one can re-enter the locality.

The project has shown that the use of very high, toxic rates of urea fertiliser (much higher than the normal fertiliser rates used) to produce ammonia gas in very localised plots and in specific ways (bagging infected banana stem and adding urea, spreading it on the ground adjacent to the plant and sheeting the site with plastic) can dramatically reduce the amount of inoculum that persists. This means that the risk of accidental movement of infected plant or soil from the site is very much reduced and is key part of containing the spread of the disease.

The project has also significantly progressed development of methods for assessing plant stress and its influence on Fusarium infection, identified possible rotation crops that suppress fungus populations in the soil, and looked at the influence of ground cover and nitrogen management practices on the soil microbiome and its capacity to suppress Fusarium.

The project’s work has been world-leading in many areas, with the project team linking in with the international R&D community as a part of its work. This disease is spreading rapidly internationally, and the team reports that researchers and growers from Central America, Israel, South Africa and other areas have been visiting to learn about the work, especially the biosecurity practices work.


  • Download the Banana best management practices on-farm biosecurity manual, produced by the project and released in May 2017. It includes a self-assessment checklist on biosecurity practices, a management plan template, and information to implement improved practices, including those related to zoning, general farm operations, crop production and fruit movement.
Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 research program

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? Field and lab studies continue to develop (through cultivar irradiation) and screen varieties for TR4 tolerance/resistance, with some promising results to date. Watch this short video detailing a recent NextGen group visit to some of the field trials in the Northern Territory, to learn about the ongoing screening work and the progress growers have seen first-hand. This trip and video was produced under industry development and extension program BA16007, described further down.

The project team has also been progressing understanding of the infection process of Fusarium (see this article on how Fusarium moves through the plant), and its survival on alternative plants commonly found around banana plantations. Information on hosts is currently being compiled.

Initial studies on crops that may prove useful for rotation with bananas to reduce Fusarium has also been undertaken, with glasshouse screening taking place ahead of planting in the field trials in the Northern Territory.

Surveys of the north Queensland banana industry have also been undertaken to understand the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of soils, how this can be related back to inherent soil properties and banana management, and potential disease suppression. Watch this video looking at combatting the disease with soil management.

As reported in the last Hortlink, the project 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.

This is just a quick snapshot of project activities. Look for updates on the full breadth of project work in industry channels and future editions of Hortlink.

Coordination of banana industry research and development (Panama TR4)

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) TR4 response program and the production of guidelines, factsheets and training material to ensure BQ’s containment management strategy for TR4 is effective.


As reported in the last edition of Hortlink, the project has also facilitated 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 and read more here.

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 the disease in 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? As reported in the last edition of Hortlink, the program’s ongoing strategy involves risk-based surveillance and plant rogueing, conducted by surveillance teams, along with awareness activities. All commercial banana farms that have previously had bunchy top infections continue to be inspected on a monthly program, with inspections also taking place in buffer zones around commercial growers

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 was first used for detecting plants infected with banana bunchy top in a small trial in the Queensland component, with promising results. A trial on a much larger property has since commenced in the New South Wales component.

Project activities and future bunchy top work are set to be workshopped with industry growers and stakeholders during 2018, with related projects expected to be established in the near future.


Improved plant protection for the banana industry

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 an earlier edition of Hortlink here), this project continues to expand on plant protection for the banana industry. Its work focuses 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? At the time of writing the first official program update was due to Hort Innovation shortly, so look for updates in future editions of Hortlink and in other industry communication channels as they become available.

Cause and management of crown rot of banana

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? With the no project update due to Hort Innovation since the last Hortlink, look for the latest information in any upcoming edition. At the time of last reporting, the project had so far…

  • Identified the two pathogens most frequently associated with CER as Musicillium theobromae and Fusarium spp. (Fusarium equiseti-incarnatum complex), with both found to be widely distributed in North Queensland banana growing environments, regardless of season
  • 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.
Integrated management of Yellow Sigatoka

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 on commercial farms and in some backyards, and is responsible for alerting Biosecurity Queensland when any other suspected banana diseases are found. At time of last reporting, the officer has reported “excellent voluntary compliance by the banana industry” in regard to leaf spot.

Banana industry minor use program

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.

National banana development and extension project – tropical

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

What’s it all about? This project has been carrying on from the completed National banana development and extension project (BA13004), with the latter’s activities and research findings summarised in the last Hortlink. Like its predecessor, it is 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.

Project BA16007 is specific to the Queensland banana industry, with Hort Innovation currently establishing a similar project for New South Wales and Western Australia production regions. The contract for this component was signed in November – look for updates in the next edition of Hortlink.

What’s the latest update? Together, the national program will deliver…

  • Banana roadshow events, held biennially across the country
  • Field walks and industry workshops
  • Industry meetings and tours, including NextGen young banana grower group activities
  • Grower training activities
  • 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 development and extension project will also manage innovative field trials.


Look out for updates and event notices in industry communication channels.

A reminder that from the earlier development and extension project, the following resources remain available…

Fact sheets produced by BA13004:

Videos produced by BA13004 (please note production year, as some are now older resources):

The Australian banana industry communications program

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? 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.

Other R&D projects of note…
  • Review of the national biosecurity plan for the banana industry (BA15001), which 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. Once the project completes drafts for all sections on the plan, it will be circulated to industry and government for endorsement. The project is being delivered by Plant Health Australia.
  • Revision of the owner reimbursement costs framework for the Australia banana industry (BA16012), a short new investment that is, as the name suggests, revising the Evidence Framework for Owner Reimbursement Costs, developed for the banana industry in response to the freckle incursion in the Northern Territory. As part of the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed, the framework is required to assist Deed partners allocate compensation. The revision is needed to meet the structure of the entire Australian banana industry for use in response to Panama disease incursions.



Hort Innovation is responsible for investing the banana marketing levy into a range of activities to grow awareness and consumption, under the Hort Innovation Banana Fund.

Over the last six months, the Australian Bananas marketing campaign has increased advertising recall and kept bananas as the number one energy snack, while maintaining purchase frequency and volume, despite price fluctuations. Here’s a look at some of the activity…

Television activity

The most recent TV burst kicked off in August across all major metro and regional markets including Foxtel, delivering full national coverage.

Given the Australian Bananas TV campaign is now well established, a greater proportion of cost-efficient 15-second commercials versus 30-seconds were run. This cost advantage allowed us to reach a higher proportion of people aged 25 to 54 during this TV burst (45 per cent versus 35 per cent).

Overall, the commercial appeared in eight of the top 10 performing TV shows in metro markets, and all of the top 10 performing shows in regional markets including The Block, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Hell’s Kitchen, the AFL/finals series, The Project, A Current Affair, Nine News and Seven News.

A highlight was a placement in the best-performing episode of The Bachelorette for the season.

In metro markets, the ad was seen by 3,066,722 people aged 25 to 54 at least twice during the campaign period. In regional markets it was seen by 1,149,466 people 25 to 54 at least twice.

Out-of-home advertising

The out-of-home investment continues to play a pivotal role in delivering scale and repeat exposure for the Australian Bananas brand.

Retail digital poster panels, panels on buses, advertising at gyms and large-format digital billboards all featured Australian Bananas advertising from September to the end of November across all markets.

The retail digital poster panels are a great way to deliver a highly targeted message. Seventy per cent of the panels in shopping centres were located directly in front of supermarkets to prompt customers just before purchase. These panels were also time-targeted to appear during key snacking and shopping periods.

This activity was seen by more than 8.2 million people aged 25 to 54 during the campaign period.

Bus-side posters also delivered mass awareness and impact to our audience along their daily commute.

This financial year, Hort Innovation secured the entire bus-side network (versus the 35 per cent we have booked in the past), which meant Australian Bananas reached 400,000 more people than in the previous financial year.

The final layer of out-of-home investment featured targeted creative in over 400 gyms nationally. This fitness-focussed campaign appeared on more than 975 digital screens as well as more than 1800 standard TV screens. There were also 636 cardio screens negotiated, and high-impact placements in Fitness First magazine free of charge. All up the gyms campaign reached more than 5.73 million people aged 25 to 54.

From mid-September, the marketing campaign reintroduced commercials to cinema-goers nationally. This gave huge exposure beyond the traditional TV audience and extended the presence in retail centres close to supermarkets. The in-cinema 11-week campaign fell over the October school holidays, where prime positioning on 907 movie screens across a wide range of blockbuster movies was secured.

In total the cinema campaign reached some 811,500 people aged 25 to 54 in a highly engaged and captive environment.

Online advertising

The online advertising campaign ran from the end of August to mid-November. This activity extended the visibility of TV commercials in popular online environments such as premium catch-up TV services.

The catch-up TV activity continued to deliver a significant incremental audience on all devices including mobile, tablet and computer.

This burst also ran six new six-second video ads on YouTube and social media platforms. Due to their cost efficiency, we were able to reach a far greater audience with 3.8 million ad impressions during the campaign period.

Online display ads on high-visibility websites were also reintroduced. This time, point-of-sale data from Coles was used to specifically target people who have stopped buying bananas. The performance of this activity has been well above industry benchmarks with a click-through rate of 0.36 per cent for our lapsed/lapsing buyers (compared to an industry average of 0.10 per cent).

With more than 90 per cent of Australian households buying bananas, the ability to target a lapsed audience and re-engage them is a powerful marketing tool.

Social media activity

The Australian Bananas social media activity delivers a consistent brand presence throughout the year.

Since July 2017, more than 22,000,000 impressions to audiences across Facebook and Instagram and over five million engagements with bananas content has been recorded – either a like, comment, share or view.

The creative has had a greater focus on recipes and building partnerships with high-profile social media influencers. At key times over the coming months (such as Boxing Day, Australia Day, Anzac Day, grower content that has previously performed very well will be re-introduced.

Public relations (PR) activity

The marketing campaign’s PR activity continues to build awareness and positive conversations around Australian Bananas in the media.

For the second year, dietitian and Australian Bananas ambassador Susie Burrell has communicated the health benefits of bananas through monthly content shared on her blog Shape Me, along with ongoing social media support.

To stay top of mind with food media, 12 new delicious bananas recipes have been developed. The first six recipes have been pitched to consumer food and health media securing 61 pieces of coverage reaching 5,099,666 people to date. The second six will be pitched in early 2017.

To view all our banana recipes go to the website at

For any questions relating to the Banana Fund marketing activities, contact Hort Innovation Marketing Programs Manager Elisa King at

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