An international seed bank has reached its target of collecting 10% of the world's wild plants, with seeds of a pink banana among its latest entries. The wild banana, Musa itinerans, is a favourite of wild Asian elephants. Seeds from the plant, which is under threat from agriculture, join 1.7 billion already stored by Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership. The project has been described as an "insurance strategy" against future biodiversity losses. The seed bank partnership, which involves more than 120 organisations in 54 countries, is now aiming to collect and conserve seeds from a quarter of the Earth's flowering plant species by 2020. The 10% target was set when the Wakehurst Place facility in the UK was completed in 2000. The next step is to secure another 15%, so by 2020 a quarter of the world's seeds are banked in both the country of origin and Wakehurst Place. A major focus is going to be a considerable expansion in the sustainable use of seeds for human benefit. The researchers will be focusing on food security, biodiversity loss and climate change. (Source: BBC news, 16 October 2009)
Scientists in Uganda have developed genetically modified bananas that show promising resistance to a deadly banana wilt disease. More than US$ 200 million has been lost to banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW) infestation since 2001. The disease has also been reported in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. Now, the banana plants modified with two genes derived from sweet peppers (Capsicum annuum) show resistance to the disease caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum. Even if BXW-resistant bananas prove successful in field trials, the absence of a GM law in Uganda will hamper farmers' access to the technology. (Source: AFROL News, 15 June 2010)
Fusarium wilt has devastated banana crops worldwide, forcing the industry to abandon previously favoured varieties. Experts, at the Banana Asia Pacific Network (BAPNET) Steering Committee Meeting on 2-4 November 2010 in Vietnam, are warning that a new strain of Fusarium could be threatening to repeat history. The new strain, known as tropical race 4, attacks varieties resistant to other strains. Banana research leaders from the 14 member countries of BAPNET stressed the need for urgent collaboration to understand the diversity of the disease and to map its distribution across Asia and the Pacific at their recent meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam. They also called for more research into the impact of climate change on small-scale banana growers. BAPNET members also agreed to further collaborate on research to mitigate the impacts of climate change, by studying banana production systems and how varieties might adapt, and to improve climate change prediction models with better information specifically about bananas.(Source: Bioversity International, 22 November 2010)
A joint FAO and Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries project has helped over 3 000 farmers combat a pestilent disease that threatened to wipe out production of cooking banana, a staple crop upon which 14 million Ugandans depend for food and income. Two years ago, the two began setting up Farmer Field Schools in five pilot districts where the disease was either endemic or appearing in limited foci. The aim was to help local growers acquire hands-on knowledge in how to prevent the disease from occurring and spreading. The results have been remarkable. Nationally, Uganda officials estimate that the problem is now over 75 percent contained (Africa Science News Service, 19 September 2008).
A field trial of a Genetically-Modified (GM) banana variety in Uganda has failed to defeat the occurrence of banana diseases. The variety was attacked by Black Sigatoka disease, which can cut a banana tree’s fruit production by half. Scientists at Kawanda National Agricultural Research laboratories had hoped the modified banana would help reduce the occurrence of banana diseases. Local banana varieties are vulnerable to numerous diseases and pests, including the banana bacterial wilt disease and weevils. Source: African Science News Service, Uganda, 18 June 2008.
Heavy 'nutrient mining' – the unreplenished removal by crops of soil nutrients such as phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium – by smallholder farmers has left most soils in Eastern Africa's Great Lakes region infertile and unproductive, a new study, reported by SciDev, has shown (3/8/2012). The study reveals that poor soil fertility was responsible for diminishing banana yields, with 5 and 30 tonnes produces per hectare compared to potential yield of over 70 tonnes per hectare.http://www.scidev.net/en/agriculture-and-environment/news/east-africa-nutrient-mining-takes-its-toll-on-bananas.html
Ongoing research by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Kampala, Uganda, in collaboration with other CGIAR centres (CIAT, ICRAF, and CIFOR), has attempted to evaluate the benefits of different types of systems, including co-benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation and implications for pest and disease incidence. Researchers have found that banana-coffee intercrop systems can be beneficial for farmers because they leave the yield of the coffee crop virtually untouched, while providing more food for their personal use. Essentially, by combining the two crops farmers are greatly increasing the total yield value of a single plot of land, even if the yield for individual crops doesn’t change much.(CCAFS, 9/7/2012)http://ccafs.cgiar.org/blog/uganda-coffee-and-banana-go-better-together
The inaugural ‘Banana Bacterial Wilt-Resistant Project Progress Report 2012’ by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). Find more about the project at http://banana.aatf-africa.org/.
This paper by IITA scientists presented at the 2010 International conference on Banana and Plantain in Africa illustrates the use of GIS tools on data collected to identify critical intervention areas to combat the spread of Banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW). In a survey covering the Great Lakes region, on-farm incidence of the disease was monitored and precise GPS coordinates of each sampled field were recorded. This enabled accurate mapping of the disease and performing the various spatial analyses, permitting an understanding of the geographical distribution of BXW infection and the identification of target priority areas of interventions. (IITA, 2010)
Trials for the improved disease free variety have been successful in Uganda, which has given the scientists impetus to focus attention on Kenya. 'We have proof of concept for bacteria wilt resistance and so another set of trials will be conducted in Kenya from 2014' said International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Plant Biotechnologist Dr Leena Tripathi during an Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology conference (OFAB). Scientists however say that delays in passing a law regulating the commercial growing of genetically modified crops in Kenya means that even with the success of the research, farmers would have to wait a little longer to acquire the varieties. According to the scientists, 12 transgenic lines of the banana in Uganda showed complete resistance to the wilt over three generations. (The Standard , 19/08/2013)
Maize breeders at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, one of the partners in the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project, have successfully harvested the first drought-tolerant maize trials with the Bt trait in Kenya in May 2013. The Bt trait was added to the drought-resistant WEMA variety in order to protect it from the stem-borer pest. (AATF, 26/08/2013)
Trials for the improved disease free variety have been successful in Uganda, which has given the scientists impetus to focus attention on Kenya. 'We have proof of concept for bacteria wilt resistance and so another set of trials will be conducted in Kenya from 2014' said International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Plant Biotechnologist Dr Leena Tripathi during an Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology conference (OFAB). Scientists however say that delays in passing a law regulating the commercial growing of genetically modified crops in Kenya means that even with the success of the research, farmers would have to wait a little longer to acquire the varieties. According to the scientists, 12 transgenic lines of the banana in Uganda showed complete resistance to the wilt over three generations. http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000091378&story_title=scientific-banana-trial-in-the-works-to-fight-wilt-in-kenya (The Standard , 19/08/2013)
This paper by IITA scientists presented at the 2010 International conference on Banana and Plantain in Africa illustrates the use of GIS tools on data collected to identify critical intervention areas to combat the spread of Banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW). In a survey covering the Great Lakes region, on-farm incidence of the disease was monitored and precise GPS coordinates of each sampled field were recorded. This enabled accurate mapping of the disease and performing the various spatial analyses, permitting an understanding of the geographical distribution of BXW infection and the identification of target priority areas of interventions. http://www.banana2008.com/cms/details/acta/879_34.pdf (IITA, 2010)
Bioversity International has conducted an extensive qualitative survey to assess farmers’ perceptions of the benefits and constraints of agro-ecological intensification (AEI) practices in five banana-growing districts in Uganda. Results of the study show that most of the interviewed farmers were aware of the AEI although not all of them had adopted its techniques. Farmers were motivated to apply AEI because its practices would offer multiple benefits: pest and disease management, enhanced productivity, soil fertility improvement and ecological adaptability. Major constraints to application of AEI practices included insufficient knowledge, labour intensiveness and limited access to markets. A transition towards intensification of smallholder banana systems would require that the full range of ecosystem services provided by AEI practices would be recognized and valued by farmers. (African Journal of Biotechnology, 17/07/2013)
Scientists at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia, have developed new varieties of banana with enhanced beta-carotene content. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body. The beta-carotene bananas are now being tested in a nutritional experiment. The (human) trials are to last for six weeks, and conclusive results will be known by the end of 2014. In addition, over the next three years, an elite line of banana plants is to be selected and used in multi-location field trials in Uganda. According to the scientists, banana varieties with enhanced beta-carotene content could be grown by farmers in Uganda, where about 70% of the population survive on the fruit by 2020. These new varieties could be an important contribution to solving a worldwide health problem. According to the WHO, an estimated 250 million preschool children are vitamin A-deficient, and an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 of these children become blind every year, with half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight. (Journal21, 2/07/2014)
This study demonstrates that it is possible to effectively control Banana wilt disease (BXW) within 12 months in previously severely infected fields in Eastern and Central Africa, using control options such as single stem removal, suspension of pruning in affected fields, male bud removal and disinfection of tools with fire or sodium hypochlorite. The study, conducted by Jerome Kubiriba, National Agricultural Research Organization, Uganda (NARO) focused at rehabilitating banana fields heavily infected with BXW disease in Uganda, Kenya and D.R. Congo. Farmer-managed trials were established in BXW disease hotspots and the control options evaluated included single stem removal, suspension of pruning in affected fields, male bud removal and disinfection of tools with fire or Sodium hypochlorite. BXW disease incidence was reduced by over 80% in 11 months in Kenya and D.R. Congo, resulting in yield recovery by up to 70% within one year. In Uganda, the proportion of farmers that effectively controlled BXW disease increased 5% to 60% within a year in some hotspots. Consequently banana sales recovered up to 30% in some hotspots. This study demonstrates that it is possible to effectively control BXW disease within 12 months in previously severely infected fields in various areas of the region. (Journal of Crop Protection via ProMusa, 08/2014)
juices and ready-to-use pastes for bakery and for new-intermediate products such as flour, starch, and high-value extracted fractions). In the paper, Olivier Gibert, of CIRAD, France, and colleagues describe the many potential innovative uses of rejected bananas. Most rejected bananas goes to local markets as animal feed and processed products. Industrial use of rejected bananas is limited because most bananas are grown for the fresh consumption market. Moreover, low estimated supply of rejected bananas has discouraged attempts to use them in industrial food processing, such as for flours, breakfast flakes, pastes, tomato-sauce thickener, soft beverages sweetener and alcohols. However, the researchers have now estimated that 15 to 25 % of harvested bananas for export, about 4 to 5 MT/year, are discarded and might be a serious source of raw material for the food processing industry. (Baking Europe, pp. 12-14, 06/2014) Editor’s comment: Small island states such as Jamaica have been exploring banana value added options (chips, flour and vacuum packed peeled bananas), but there are challenges. See also a recent article in the Jamaica Gleaner. ]http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110423/business/business4.html?utm_source=K4DNewsletterEN&utm_medium=Link&utm_campaign=K4D_EN_SeptOct2014
A new mapping approach allows for better identification of banana plants that have been affected by Banana Bunchy Top Virus (genus: Babuvirus) that reduces plant growth and prevents banana production. Developed by Kasper Johansen of the Biophysical Remote Sensing Group, School of Geography, University of Queensland, Australia and colleagues, the approach is based on very high spatial resolution airborne orthophotos. Object-based image analysis is used to: (i) detect banana plants using edge and line detection approaches; (ii) produce accurate and realistic outlines around classified banana plants; and (iii) evaluate the mapping results. (Remote Sensing, 02/09/2014)