NT trials cyclone-proof tropical fruit

Aaron BunchAAP
The NT will trial new methods of growing tropical fruit that are more resistant to extreme weather.
Camera IconThe NT will trial new methods of growing tropical fruit that are more resistant to extreme weather. Credit: AAP

Top End farmers are investigating new ways of growing tropical fruit in a bid to cyclone-proof the northern food bowl.

The Northern Territory's traditional low-density horticulture production systems are highly susceptible to tropical cyclones.

The damage inflicted by extreme weather has stopped the sector from reaching its full economic potential, Minister for Northern Australia David Littleproud told reporters on Thursday.

A collaborative $2.7 million project will trial high-density and trellis planting at local mango producer Manbulloo in Katherine, about 300km south of Darwin.

The emerging jackfruit industry will also be trialled in a bid to further grow the $445 million agribusiness contributes annually to the NT economy.

"This project will provide diversification options for horticultural producers across the north," Mr Littleproud said.

"It will also give them the confidence to invest in new production systems which boost crop productivity and reduce their risks associated with tropical cyclones."

Data will be collected on tree growth rates, fertiliser and irrigation inputs, pest and disease issues, canopy development, flowering and harvest dates, yield and fruit aril (flesh) recovery.

Tree survival during cyclones and the impact of weather events will also be documented.

Overall, the project aims to demonstrate to growers the benefits of the next-generation resilient orchard production system, which can be fine-tuned to different tropical species depending on the specific crop and location.

The three-year project is funded as part of the federal government's Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia project.

It will be undertaken in collaboration with the NT, Queensland and West Australian governments, Manbulloo Limited, Zappala Tropicals, the NT Farmers Association and Growcom.

The federal government will invest $900,000 into the NT's trial, with the NT government adding a further $400,000.

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