DWARF lady finger banana plants are sparking interest among Coffs district growers but the amount of new planting material has been limited.
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) trials of new dwarf lady finger bananas at Coffs Council Re-use Farm have determined that expansions in plantings will have to come from suckers because this variety cannot be sustained using tissue propagation.
The original dwarf lady finger plant was discovered as a 'sport' or generic aberration, on Gerri Rossi's Coffs Harbour plantation a few years ago.
“It was a throwback from a plant already growing,” Mr. Rossi said.
“From this one plant we grew six suckers.”
Because new plantings have to come from new suckers taken from mother plants the rate of dwarf plantings is restricted. NSW DPI horticulturalist Peter Newley said DPI have been looking for ways to enhance the availability of the dwarf lady finger for commercial production. “Tissue culture propagation would have meant thousands of new plants could have been generated quickly,” he said.
“Unfortunately one-third of the tissue cultured plants in the trial at Coffs Harbour did not grow true to type but reverted back to the tall type.”
This setback means dwarf lady fingers are not a financially viable option for the banana industry, vice president of Coffs Harbour's Banana Growing Association Walley Gately said.
However the dwarf plant still offers great potential for banana growers said Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald.
“Banana bunches on the shorter plants are reachable from the ground in contrast with the conventional lady finger plants . . . The new variety is about 1.5 metres shorter than the standard ladyfinger,” he said.
Mr Rossi agrees the short stature of the plant makes growing this variety much easier.
“You can harvest much quicker without a cherry picker...and the short size of the tree suits the steep country [of the Coffs Coast region],” he said.