Expert backs shaded growth

Ash TelfordCountryman

Carnarvon banana growers should embrace shade netting to increase yields, according to a visiting banana consultant.

South African researcher John Robinson recently spent a week on Carnarvon's banana plantations and in packing sheds to meet growers and observe growing techniques.

Mr Robinson said like all horticultural areas there were limitations to growing bananas in Carnarvon. Factors such as winter temperatures, labour costs and the salinity of the water were out of the growers' control, but others, like mitigating wind damage, were not.

He said the horticultural precinct in Carnarvon was similar to that of the Jordan Valley with the main difference being the fact that Jordan Valley bananas were grown almost exclusively under shade nets.

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As a result, he said the yields in that area had increased by about 25 to 30 per cent.

"The high capital outlay is high," he said. "But you don't get the leaf stripping and there's an enormous potential for a high yield.

"Water use is decreased by 30 per cent, because of less evaporation under netting."

He said there was possibility shade netting could reduce the harm from pests such as locusts.

The Department of Food and Agriculture WA's (DAFWA) Gascoyne Research Station is trialling growing bananas under shade with encouraging results.

DAFWA project manager Chris Schelfhout said bunches of bananas from palms under shade netting were significantly better than those that were growing exposed to the sun.

Mr Schelfhout said they had bunches of up to 100kg coming out of the trial area.

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