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Mango industry pioneer Ken Rayner

Australian 'Mr Mango' is breeding fruit for the world

Australian mango industry pioneer Ken Rayner has created varieties of the fruit that are grown around the world. His Lady Jane and Lady Grace varieties are grown in 12 countries including some regions not previously known for the fruit, such as Israel and China.

Mr Rayner, now 88 years old, has been cross-pollinating mango trees around Katherine in Australia’s Northern Territory for more than three decades, experimenting to produce new types that are a boost to the industry and economy.

His work has led to him being awarded a Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia for service to horticulture as part of the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

"I don't class myself as a mango producer, I class myself as a mango breeder," Mr Rayner has said. "There's a need for new mango varieties worldwide, the world population is ever increasing, if you breed more varieties you can get them into places with soils that would not normally grow mangoes."

Hand-pollination is a slow process in which Mr Rayner manually transfers pollen from one flower to another involving many failures until it works and the seeds produce a tree with high quality mangoes.

"The wait for the results can be up to eight to nine years, if the seeds that you get go to plan, it might take that many years for that particular plant to grow sufficiently to produce fruit. It is a long, drawn out process and yes, you have got to be patient."

Today, the mango industry is a major part of the Northern Territory, last year producing more than half of the nation's mangoes, which the Australian Mango Industry Association said recently had a retail value of about $300 million.


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