Fresh Del Monte Produce and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) of Brisbane, Australia, are partnering on a project to develop disease-resistant bananas. One goal of the partnership is to utilize breakthroughs in plant trait developments to cultivate bananas that are resistant to crop-threatening diseases, specifically Tropical Race 4 (TR4), a fungus that has plagued banana crops for decades, spreading faster over the last decade and potentially impacting the future availability of bananas for consumers.

Fresh Del Monte seeks to further improve many of the challenges faced by—and contribute to the long-term sustainability of—the produce industry, particularly with managing catastrophic disease. Their investment in this partnership openly funds scientific research to address this threat against farmers, their livelihoods, and the entire supply chain. 

At QUT, the scientific team is led by Professor James Dale, whose research career has spanned more than 30 years on critical tropical fruit research with an emphasis on biofortification, molecular farming, and disease resistance, including both traditional and genetically modified bananas. Dale’s research team has developed promising results utilizing the revolutionary CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) family of DNA sequences utilized to edit genes within organisms, or “gene-editing.” This technology allows for a wide variety of applications, including the development of plant biotechnology products.

The Fresh Del Monte and QUT research collaboration will take place in multiple phases over the next 5 years, ultimately resulting in novel resistant banana variety releases commercially. Both groups see this effort as the first step in leading future innovations in the banana sector.