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NOvEMBER 2013 PARTNERS
in support of the
by dr GIo brAIdottI
since 1983, ACIAR has supported more
than a dozen projects on the production
and processing of bananas. When ACIAR
started there were just three people working on
banana research in Australia. ACIAR’s ongoing
support has helped to lift Australia to a position
of world excellence. This R&D base—particularly
on disease diagnosis and the management of
pests and diseases—has strengthened Australia’s
crop protection capability.
This is reflected in the fact that Australia is
now recognised as one of the world leaders
in research on Fusarium wilt disease and
on Fusarium wilt pathogen diversity. Such
advanced capability allowed Australian
researchers to identify that the Honduras-bred
cultivar Goldfinger is resistant to all races of
Fusarium and to black sigatoka disease.
Australia now also hosts one of only two
indexing laboratories in the world, located
at the Indooroopilly Research Centre of the
Queensland Department of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Forestry.
The laboratory underpins the ongoing
monitoring and replacement program that
protects Australia from black sigatoka disease.
So too the development of diagnostic tests
that enable researchers to identify bunchy top
disease before its symptoms are expressed in
the field. This test was an important step towards
providing disease-free material to farmers.
The benefits to banana growers of
biosecurity R&D can be considerable. An insect
pest such as banana skipper can destroy, on
average, 60% of the leaves of infested banana
plants. It reached Papua New Guinea in 1983,
where it spread at a rate of 500 kilometres per
year and could have reached Australia by 1995.
Instead, the pest was controlled in Papua
New Guinea by 1990 through the use of a
biological control agent—a small parasite—
identified with the support of ACIAR.
The estimated benefits to Papua New Guinea
are $202 million, with 43,000 people lifted above
the poverty line through averted income losses
and cost increases, according to 2003 estimates.
Benefits to Australia through reduced
risk of entry of the insect are estimated at
$223 million. The benefit–cost ratio of this
research was independently assessed to be
607:1, from an outlay of $2.1 million.
ACIAR research also delivered benefits
mIte pests of honey bees In the AsIA–pACIfIC ReGIon
aciar action mite pests of bees are one of the major production constraints facing the apiary industry throughout
the world—except in Australia, the only country free from these pests. the maintenance of effective quarantine
strategies is a major aim for Australia, a task assisted by about 15 years of investment in mite research by ACIAr.
the outcomes of the research are a good example of the mutual benefits inherent in ACIAr’s collaborative research
model—in this case, important advances in understanding of mite–bee relationships. these, in turn, have enabled
the development of some simple control
measures for smallholder beekeepers and
important new strategies to significantly
improve quarantine procedures for
Australia. Included is the discovery that it
is possible to eliminate Varroa mites from
Indonesia given sufficient institutional
development. Further, the scientific
work underlying these projects has been
groundbreaking, leading to one of the
most cited scientific papers to come from
CSIro entomology and to substantially
improved understanding of the mites
worldwide. benefits have been estimated at
$72.6 million in total (2007 value) by the
Centre for International economics, with
$161 million accruing to Australia.
to postharvest handling technologies.
Examples include the better use of fungicides
to control stem end rot and of ethylene to
control ripening of bananas under modified-
The benefits from this research have been
estimated to exceed $50 million across several
countries, with the Australian share estimated
at $6 million.
ACIAR administers the Australian
Government contribution to the International
Network for Improvement of Banana and
Plantain (INIBAP), worth $200,000 per year, and
it too conducts global banana research relevant
to Australia, Asia and the Pacific. n
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