South African company strikes deal to grow Taiwanese TR4-resistant banana variety

November 21 , 2019

South African research facility Du Roi Laboratory has struck a deal with a Taiwanese institute to grow and market a banana variety resistant to Fusarium wilt Tropical Race IV (TR4).

The deal announced on Wednesday gives Du Roi the rights to the Formosana variety and allows it to monitor its success through commercial trials.

Considered a "really big breakthrough" by scientists involved, it could lead to widespread commercial rollouts, a release said.

This development comes at a time when many banana producers are concerned about TR4.

The Formosana variety is said to have great potential when it comes to managing and warding off the disease. The Phillippines and Mozambique previously rolled out commercial trials that proved this.

Details of the trial

The trials will involve the Taiwan Banana Research Institute (TBRI) working alongside Du Rio Lab.

Bred by TBRI, Formosana will arrive in the Agricultural Research Center in South Africa in batches. Then, the center will keep it in quarantine before introducing it to the market. This is to check for viruses and bacteria before giving it to Du Roi Lab's facilities.

The partners say that their trials will offer a "viable option to banana growers against this strain of Panama disease".

Further, commented head of TBRI Dr. Chih-Ping Chao, results of the trials could lead to "managing or containing FOC TR4 epidemics" in the future. TBRI also said that Du Roi Lab's reliable work is what led them to the partnership.

In response, Du Roi Lab general manager Suné Wiltshire commented on the South African company's excitement for the partnership. She said the company is happy to "offer this variety to our clients and the international banana industry".

Strides for larger industry change

The importance of the alliance's work lies not only in its ability to profit both parties but also in its larger implications for the industry.

“Given the reliance of many growers and their families on this industry, it is important that we offer them options to combat this debilitating disease," said Dr. Viresh Ramburan, CEO of ANB Investments, the holding company of Du Roi Lab.

"We value the relationship we have developed with the TBRI over the last few years and look forward to contributing to the success of their banana genetics programme through evaluations and future sales."

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