News in brief

November 25, 2017

Banana disease breakthrough

A billion-dollar banana industry at risk of a deadly disease could be saved by a scientific breakthrough from a Queensland university.

The Queensland University of Technology has genetically modified Cavendish bananas using a wild gene, resulting in strongly resistant and Panama (TR4) disease-free plants across a three-year trial.

Trial leader Professor James Dale said it was a major step towards protecting the $US12billion ($A17billion) Cavendish global export business.

‘‘TR4 can remain in the soil for more than 40 years and there is no effective chemical control for it. It is a huge problem,’’ Prof Dale said.

‘‘It has devastated Cavendish plantations in many parts of the world and it is spreading rapidly across Asia.

‘‘It is a very significant threat to commercial banana production worldwide.’’

The world-first trial was conducted in heavily disease-infested soil outside Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory.

A new five-year trial will take place with the aim of growing 9000 plants.

The disease was found at a far north Queensland farm earlier this year, near the Tully property that was first infected by Panama in 2015.

Dangerous time for workers

More Victorian workers die in the weeks leading up to Christmas than any other period, with statistics showing a quarter of all workplace deaths occur in the last two months of the year.

WorkSafe data from the past decade shows almost 25 per cent of all workplace fatalities occur in November and December.

‘‘It is simply horrific to think that while Victorian families are preparing for their Christmas break, summer holidays and special time with family, the statistics suggest some families will instead be mourning the loss of a loved one at work,’’ WorkSafe’s Marnie Williams said on Thursday.

Ms Williams said many workers felt pressure in the lead-up to Christmas to complete projects, which could lead to shortcuts or rushing.

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