A new variety of red papaya that could revolutionise the Far North Queensland industry is expected to be available for commercial production by the end of 2002.
The Department of Primary Industries has commenced twelve commercial trials of the new variety in the Mareeba and Innisfail districts in conjunction with local growers.
Researchers believe that - if the commercial trials fulfil the initial promise - the variety has shown red papaya production could increase by as much as 20 per cent.
"The new variety has been named NT Red and it's characterised by being a red-fleshed and sweet tasting bisexual variety that has a high yield rate of larger, more uniformed-sized fruit. In addition, it can be grown from self-pollinated seed," Horticultural Extension Officer James Dunn said.
South Johnstone-based researchers from the DPI's innovation arm, the Agency for Food and Fibre Sciences, "chanced upon" NT Red while conducting a longer term research trial.
While the trial part of the long-term research project has had to be abandoned due to the presence of a severe root disease in the plants, five months of harvest data was enough to indicate to researchers the potential of one of the varieties.
"We were conducting a longer-term variety trial and we put in 10 parents that we thought would be suitable to produce offspring that could be monitored." Mr Dunn said.
"During the course of this trial we were lucky enough to find this new variety, which after only five months of harvest data, out-yielded Sunrise Solo - the main commercial variety of red papaya - by a significant margin."
In addition to producing a more consistent size and shape of fruit, NT Red demonstrates a similar texture and taste to Sunrise Solo, despite slightly lower sugar levels.
"The fruit has a similar shelf life to Sunrise Solo with an average of ten days from harvest to full ripeness. No differences were noticed between NT Red and Sunrise Solo in disease or pest susceptibility," Mr Dunn said.
Returns to growers are also expected to be higher than Sunrise Solo, due to the increased yield rate of NT Red.
DATE: August 2001
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