Home' Grower : February 2012 Contents The South Australian Grower -- February 2012
Gates Foundation couple
drop-in for a quick chat
Philanthropists Melinda and Bill Gates with Professor James Dale (centre)
at their meeting in Cairns last December.
By ASHLEY WALMSLEY
WHEN one of the world's
richest couples want to
talk bananas, you talk
That wasn't really a stretch for
Queensland University of
Technology researcher James
Dale, who is leading a project pro-
ducing vitamin A-enriched
bananas for sub-Saharan Africa.
Funding a large proportion of
the project is the Bill and Melinda
While holidaying in Australia last
December, the couple 'dropped in'
for a chat with Professor Dale to see
how the project was progressing.
Far from the stereotype of
cashed-up philanthropists shovel-
ling money at good causes for
positive PR, he said the couple
was down-to-earth and very inter-
ested in what was going on.
"One of the very impressive things
about the whole program is that
they are incredibly connected with
the programs that they've funded,
which is fabulous," Prof Dale said.
"It was one of the most amazing
conversations I've ever had."
Professor Dale met the Gates
family in 2005 when they briefly
addressed a meeting about the
On this recent visit, the couple
wanted to see the trial plots of the
banana biofortification project in
Innisfail, North Queensland.
Poor weather altered those
plans, with Prof Dale and his team
meeting up with them in Cairns
for what he called "a very sophis-
The Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation has contributed
about $10 million of funding dur-
ing the past seven years to its
Grand Challenges in Global
With bananas being a major sta-
ple food crop in Africa, micro-
nutrient deficiencies, particularly
vitamin A deficiency and iron
deficiency anemia, present huge
public health problems in the
region, leading to mortality,
blindness, impaired immune func-
tion and brain development.
The QUT field trials at Innisfail
have produced bananas with far
greater amounts of pro-vitamin A
than regular bananas.
Prof Dale said the aim was to
produce a banana with four-fold
amounts of vitamin A- they have
in fact produced lines with up to
15 times the amount.
The technology has been trans-
ferred to Ugandan research part-
ners at the National Agricultural
Uganda, where the bananas are
already in a field trial.
A second project also partly
funded by the Gates Foundation
is focused on banana disease
Testing has begun in the Northern
Territory for a fusarium wilt race 4
(Panama disease) resistant varieties.
The team has already generated
lady finger bananas with near
Fruit fly scare
A QUARANTINE zone has been declared
around a home in Adelaide's northwest
after the discovery of fruit fly larvae in a
peach tree. Biosecurity SA said a fruit fly
outbreak was declared at suburban
Ethelton with a 1.5-kilometre quarantine
zone established around the offending
property. Spokesman Geoff Raven said it
was important no one within the zone
removed fresh fruit, fruiting vegetables or
garden waste from their properties, or
composted fruit and vegetables during the
eradication program. Fruits and
vegetables such as tomatoes, capsicums,
chillies, eggplant, stone fruits, pome fruits,
citrus, loquats and table grapes are all
potential hosts for fruit flies. Mr Raven
said a baiting program would be
conducted in the quarantine zone until no
further wild fruit flies were detected.
Inspectors would check on individual
HORTICULTURE Australia Limited's general
call for funding in 2012-2013 is open until
March 2. It is for proposals seeking to be
funded by voluntary contributions. HAL can
provide matching funds from the Federal
Government for projects which fall within
the definition of research and development,
are in line with the government's Rural
Research and Development priorities, and
satisfy the HAL policy in this area. The
2011 policy relating to VC-matched funding
can be found on the HAL website. This will
be the basis for the HAL determination of
the appropriateness or otherwise of the VC
Details: www.horticulture.com.au or con-
tact Jo Houssenloge, Sarah Day, Melanie
Davies or Philippa Lorimer 02 8295 2300.
A MAJOR charity organisation has labelled
fresh fruit a luxury item for many
Wesley Mission Victoria says Melbourne's
disadvantaged and homeless families
simply cannot afford to buy fresh fruit.
The point was made in the lead-up to
Christmas as part of its Food For Families
Appeal. Wesley Mission says for reasons
out of a struggling family's control, it may
barely have enough money to cover rent,
bills and food let alone luxury items such
as fruit. Wesley Mission Victoria, a
community service of the Uniting Church,
provides services for people who are at
risk of homelessness, people with
disabilities, youth and families in crisis
and older people.
Ladies, eat up!
THEY may not hold romantic connotations,
but vegetables could help prevent broken
hearts in women. A new study of Swedish
women found women who regularly eat
vegetables high in antioxidants may be
less prone to having a stroke. Since
September 2007, researchers from the
Karolinska Institutet in Sweden monitored
more than 36,000 Swedish women aged
between 49-83 years over a period of
about 10 years to track the rate of strokes
or stroke related deaths in the sample
group. The group contained a majority of
women who had no prior cardiovascular
disease but also included some women
who were more likely to develop heart
disease on account of their family history.
Vegetables rich in antioxidants are those
which contain high levels of vitamin C and
E, as well as selenium and beta carotene,
such as spinach, broccoli, beetroot,
capsicum, onion, corn and tomato.
One of the very impressive things ... is they are
incredibly connected with the programs that they've
funded ... it was one of the most amazing
immunity to fusarium wilt race 1,
which is common in all banana-
Prof Dale said further research
projects had been planned,
including bananas resistant to
black sigatoka and bunchy top.
Phase 3 of the improved vitamin
banana is set to begin, which
would move into the product
Prof Dale said the Gates
Foundation was clear that it want-
ed to see something tangible at the
end, not just folders of documents.
"It's not a research project- it's a
product development project," he
Australia's resilient banana
industry presents an ideal basis for
such research programs.
"We've got a very, very good
history of banana research and
development," Prof Dale said.
The research team is hoping for
a 2019 release of the vitamin A
enhanced banana in Africa.
As for meeting the billionaires in
person? Prof Dale said they chat-
ted as if they'd "known them for
"It was a tremendous privilege
for the five of us involved in the
project to meet with the Gates
and experience in person their
commitment and enthusiasm."
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