SYDNEY -- Aussie researchers will use a fungus commonly found in soil to produce better looking bananas and fight off pests, the James Cook University announced on Wednesday.

When bananas grow, they often produce rust-colored scarring from insects which farmers refer to as thrips.

"The rust thrips don't affect the eating quality of the banana, but they cause them to be downgraded and sell for less," head of the study Dr. Tobin Northfield said.
To combat this, the research team will look at cultivating the Beauveria bassiana fungus as a biological insecticide.

But first, researchers will conduct surveys and investigate where the fungus naturally exists; then the farm-collected strains of the fungus will be examined in the lab to evaluate its effectiveness on thrips.

In addition to direct testing, molecular analyses will also be conducted.

Northfield said there are many advantages to using natural alternatives against thrips.

"Using natural biological controls instead of chemical pesticides reduces environmental impacts by conserving beneficial organisms," he said.

"If we can maintain the fungus on the farm, it may be more economically sustainable and reduce management costs."

The study is expected to finish early in 2019. (Xinhua Net)