Farm practices to manage the impact of severe tropical cyclone damage on banana production - a case study from tropical Australia

S. Lindsay
Most Australian banana production occurs on the north-eastern tropical coast between latitudes 15-18°S, and can experience summer cyclone activity. Damage from severe tropical cyclones has serious impact on banana-based livelihoods. The most significant impacts include immediate loss of production and income for several months, the region-wide synchronization of cropping and the expense of rehabilitating affected plantations. Severe tropical cyclones have directly affected the main production region twice in recent years - Tropical Cyclone (TC) Larry (Category 4) in March 2006 and TC Yasi (Category 5) in February 2011. Based on TC Larry experiences, pre- and post-cyclone farm practices were developed to reduce these impacts in future cyclonic events. The main pre-cyclone farm practice focused on maintaining production units and an earlier return to fruit production by partially or completely removing the plant canopy to reduce wind resistance. Post-cyclone farm practices focused on managing the industry-wide crop synchronization using crop timing techniques to achieve a staggered return to cropping by scheduling production to provide continuous fruit supply. With TC Yasi in 2011, some banana producers implemented these practices, allowing them to examine their effectiveness in reducing cyclonic impacts. Additional research and development activities were conducted to refine our understanding of their effectiveness and improve their application for future cyclonic events. Based on these activities and farm-based observations, suggested practice-based management strategies can be developed to help reduce the impact of severe tropical cyclones in the future. Canopy removal maintained banana plants as productive units, and provided earlier but smaller bunches, generating earlier-than-expected income. Queensland producers expressed willingness to adopt canopy removal for future cyclone threats where appropriate, despite its labor-intensiveness. Mechanization would allow larger scale adoption. Implementing a staggered cropping program successfully achieved a consistent, continuous fruit supply after a cyclone impact. Both techniques should be applicable to other cyclone-prone regions.
Lindsay, S. (2016). Farm practices to manage the impact of severe tropical cyclone damage on banana production - a case study from tropical Australia. Acta Hortic. 1114, 275-284
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1114.37
canopy removal, crop phenology, crop scheduling

Acta Horticulturae