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Under the peel

Under the peel is the blog of the ProMusa community. The views expressed are those of the authors. Non-registered users can post comments, but only registered ones can post blog items. When logged in, click on the pencil+ icon to start a post. We welcome contributions in French or Spanish. If you need help, contact the InfoMus@ editor at infomusa@promusa.org.

Where bananas come from

Anne Vézina Wednesday, 07 October 2015
Mixing Strategies 70px Most origin stories of the banana mistakenly leave out the Pacific region as a primary centre of domestication.
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TC, or not TC. Is that the question?

David W. Turner Monday, 31 August 2015
TC plantlets 70px David Turner explores whether tissue-culture banana plantlets are intrinsically superior to conventional planting material.
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The origin of TR4

Anne Vézina Thursday, 18 December 2014
Fusarium Infected Rhizome
Ivan Buddenhagen's theory on the origin of the pathogenic strains that cause Fusarium wilt in bananas.
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Improving bananas by mixing strategies

Anne Vézina Wednesday, 12 November 2014
Pollination RM 70px There is more than one way of improving bananas. Maybe time has come to consider mixing them.
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The challenges and opportunities of producing organic bananas for export in Sudan

Hans-Willem van der Waal Monday, 15 September 2014
Sudan 70px Sudan may seem an unlikely place for growing bananas, but it has a large potential for organic banana production.
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Revisiting a discussion on banana streak viruses and the distribution of genebank material

Anne Vézina Thursday, 14 August 2014

One of the workshops to be held during the ISHS-ProMusa symposium will discuss the problem banana streak viruses (BSV) pose to the distribution of genebank material. It will pick up on a discussion started by Australian virologist Andrew Geering at the 2007 ISHS-ProMusa symposium. Geering argued that the distribution of germplasm should be guided by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), which states that it is the responsibility of the importing country, not of the exporter (in this case the ITC), to impose phytosanitary measures. In 2008, he reprised his arguments on the old ProMusa website. He was joined by Pierre-Yves Teycheney, a virologist at the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development CIRAD who argued against relaxing the guidelines. Their arguments are reproduced below.

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Who's breeding bananas?

Anne Vézina Thursday, 07 August 2014

Bananas have a reputation for being difficult to breed; a reputation that seemed richly deserved when after more than 60 years of trying, breeders had yet to release an improved banana hybrid. No wonder you used to be able to count the number of banana breeding programmes on the fingers of one hand. Nowadays, however, you would not have enough of two hands. According to a survey done for the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, at least 12 organizations have a banana breeding programme.

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Island refuges of banana diversity

Anne Vézina Thursday, 22 May 2014

Bananas are unusual among major crops in that most of the types grown, either for export or local consumption, are farmer-selected varieties. Less well-known is the role played by islands in safeguarding cultivars that have all but disappeared elsewhere.

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Heartbleed and the banana

Anne Vézina Friday, 18 April 2014

If we are to believe the news stories making the rounds of the media, the export banana is a metaphorical heartbeat away from extinction. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that a blogger saw a parallel between the Heartbleed security bug and Cavendish bananas.

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The Future of Authentic Fair Trade Bananas

Hans-Willem van der Waal Wednesday, 02 April 2014

Last week, I participated in a discussion on what Fair Trade means for bananas. The meeting was organized by the worker-owned co-operative Equal Exchange and held at the Tufts School of Nutrition in downtown Boston, USA. The event started with a screening of Bananaland, Blood, Bullets and Poison. The movie set the scene and provided plenty of food for thought, even though it’s a bit far-fetched to attribute all the social problems and the violent history of Colombia to the banana industry alone. Nevertheless, it is clear that the banana has a troubled history, and in spite of efforts to address some issues, many remain.

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The complexity of describing banana diversity

Rachel Chase Friday, 14 February 2014

Last December I attended a MusaNet workshop on best practices for Musa germplasm collection and data management held at CIRAD’s field collection on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. The traditional group photo hints at the diversity of both the experts looking after the world’s bananas and of the bananas themselves. The setting was perfect for discussing the pièce de résistance of the workshop: the Taxonomic Reference Collection (TRC).

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The year of TR4

Anne Vézina Thursday, 19 December 2013

Ten years ago the export banana was given until 2013 before being wiped out by Tropical Race 4 (TR4), the particularly virulent Fusarium strain that has been cutting a swath through Southeast Asia’s commercial plantations of Cavendish bananas. 2013 will not go down in history as the year the iconic banana disappeared from supermarket shelves, but it will be remembered nonetheless; as the year the TR4 fungus was first reported in Africa. The news that TR4 had been confirmed in a Cavendish plantation of northern Mozambique came on the heels of the revelation that the fungus has been in Jordan since 2006. It later transpired that TR4 might also have been in Mozambique for a while, as much as two to three years, according to a news piece in the journal Nature.

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A crash course in banana bioinformatics

Mathieu Rouard Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Global Musa Genomics Consortium was created in 2001 to bring together the expertise of specialists applying genomics tools to the banana. For the first ten years, members of the Consortium steadily built genomic resources and worked to get the banana genome sequenced. The long-awaited sequence was about to be released when Dr Yasmina Jaufeerally-Fakim, now the dean of Mauritius University’s Faculty of Agriculture, sent a message to the mailing list. As a member, she thought that the Consortium was “a great initiative for getting all researchers on board and for stimulating exchange of information”. She felt, however, that many of the researchers in the South were not actively participating in or benefiting from what was going on and that the Consortium could do more “to get scientists in the South more involved in Musa genomics and the potential applications for improvement”.

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A tale of two banana sequences

Anne Vézina Thursday, 07 November 2013

The recent publication by Belgian and Malaysian scientists of a draft Musa balbisiana genome sequence in BMC Genomics went largely unnoticed, at least compared to the media attention that surrounded last year’s publication of the Musa acuminata genome sequence. The media may have a limited appetite for banana genomics but not Musa scientists. They knew from the beginning that the so-called A genome was not the whole story. No sooner had its sequence been released that French and Chinese scientists were discussing joining forces to produce a reference sequence for the edible banana’s other founding genome, the B genome donated by Musa balbisiana, which is often associated with tolerance to abiotic stresses. It looks as if they have been beaten to the finish line, but the fact is that the two scientific teams were pursuing different strategies.

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Better access to literature on bananas

Inge Van den Bergh Friday, 25 October 2013

The first issue of Musarama (a discontinued INIBAP newsletter not to be confused with ProMusa’s image bank) compared looking for articles on bananas in books of abstracts to gold panning. Finding nuggets of information became easier with the publication of bibliographies on bananas, such as the ones inserted into Musarama starting in 1988. Three years later, the Musalit database was set up but these were still early days for the Internet. Musarama continued to be the only outlet for bibliographical records until Musalit joined the web in 1998. From that point on its search interface remained more or less the same even as online searches were becoming increasingly powerful. But who has the time and patience to sift through the 194,000 hits of a Google Scholar search on the word bananas to find the valid ones, let alone the relevant ones?

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