Sydney NSW, Australia
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Bananas tested for resistance against Panama Disease TR4


Trials of 'mutated bananas' on a research farm in the Northern Territory are being watched closely by Australia's $600 million banana industry. It is hoped these banana plants will be resistant to the deadly Panama Disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4), which wiped out the NT's banana industry in the 1990s and in recent years has been discovered in Queensland's Tully Valley.

The Northern Territory has been at the forefront of TR4 research for a number of years and was making excellent progress until 2015, when all of the research trials were destroyed during the eradication program for another banana disease, Banana Freckle.

The Coastal Plains research station near Darwin is now permitted to grow bananas again, and over the past two years has trialled 27 varieties, which showed some promising results.

"Plants and everything else on this Earth get exposed to radiation from the stratosphere, and over time we have a little bit of mutation to our genetic make-up," researcher Lucy Tran-Nguyen said. "So in the lab, we fast-track this process and we call it mutagenesis. We take little banana shoots, expose them to a low dosage of gamma radiation rays, and monitor them over time to see if we've been able to create an elite line."

Dr Tran-Nguyen said the project had identified a few lines of bananas in the Northern Territory that had the potential to survive under TR4 pressure. "We're now looking to see if we've got a line that can survive and is also good eating and suitable for the consumer."



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