FRESH IDEAS: David Peasley at the Duranbah trial site, where he has been researching Panama disease-resistant banana varieties. INSET: Some of the bananas grown on the farm.
FRESH IDEAS: David Peasley at the Duranbah trial site, where he has been researching Panama disease-resistant banana varieties. INSET: Some of the bananas grown on the farm. Liana Turner

Appetite for banana future is growing

NESTLED among the hills of Duranbah is a project which could determine the future of the Tweed's banana industry.

David Peasley, a researcher working on the farm, said the 10-year projects had revealed some promising results.

Between Panama disease decimating lady fingers, bunchy top wreaking havoc on Cavendish bananas, and the immense pressure of competition from North Queensland, Mr Peasley said it was vital for Northern New South Wales growers to diversify.

"(The farm) grew bananas about 35 years ago and they died out, so it's a good site to test it on,” Mr Peasley said.

After selecting three stars from 25 Panama-resistant varieties, Mr Peasley said they were looking at those most promising to growers, and most appealing to consumers.

"We'll be doing consumer research as well to see if those varieties will sell,” Mr Peasley said.

"Consumers have got to like them or there's no point growing them.”

He hoped the general public would be open to trying new types and supporting local armers.

"The banana industry is at a low point at the moment,” he said.

"With the competition in North Queensland... the (Tweed-based) banana growers are looking to have bananas that are cold-tolerant so they'll be able to grow all the way through winter-time.

"You really can't just grow Cavendish and lady fingers and hope for cyclones in North Queensland any more.”

David Peasley has been researching three varieties of Panama-resistant bananas at this Duranbah trial site.
David Peasley has been researching three varieties of Panama-resistant bananas at this Duranbah trial site. Liana Turner

While some older farmers weren't sure they'd see the benefits to the industry, he said younger leaders in the field were keen to see what was possible.

"For the younger growers, it would mean they're able to get something different in the marketplace and there's some lovely flavours,” he said.

Colin Singh's family has had a long history of banana farming on the Tweed.

While his father, faced with the harsh reality of competition against North Queensland, got out of the game, the young farmer has returned to the field.

Mr Singh this year became president of the Tweed Banana Growers Association.

He said trying new things was vital for his industry to survive.

Some of the bananas at the panama disease resistance trial site in Duranbah.
Some of the bananas at the panama disease resistance trial site in Duranbah. Liana Turner

"I've got a few different cooking bananas. The market for cooking bananas is growing stronger and stronger,” he said.

But while manufacturers might be calling for these types, he said consumers might need to be re-trained.

"These new varieties... they have more of a plantain look,” he said.

"The consumer is used to the lady finger being short and stumpy.”

While it might be vital to educate consumers on the new varieties hitting our shores, he said research like that taking place at Duranbah was heartening for young farmers like him.

"We've got to be 10 years ahead of what could happen,” he said.



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