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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.

Tribute to Phil Rowe

Anne Vézina Monday, 29 July 2013

Mark Rowe, the son of Phil Rowe, recounts how his father convinced his mother to move to Honduras two months after the 1969 Football War between Honduras and El Salvador. He told her that they would only be there for two years. Little did he know at the time that the job of banana breeder he was about to accept with United Fruit (later known as Chiquita) would define the rest of his life, let alone that people would still be talking about him years after his death.

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TR4: will history repeat itself?

Boudy van Schagen Friday, 07 June 2013

If you believe that history will repeat itself unless we learn from it, then you may be interested in a historical review of the introduction and spread of banana pests and pathogens on the African continent. It provides some revealing insights into how most of today’s most damaging pests and pathogens were unwittingly introduced into Africa with imported planting material. Against a backdrop of increasing travel movements, it urges renewed vigilance to prevent more pathogens from creeping in.

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Slippery uses of banana statistics

Anne Vézina Tuesday, 26 March 2013

If a prize was awarded to the most popular opening line of scientific articles on bananas, it would have to go to “banana and plantain (Musa spp.) are the world’s fourth most important food crop after rice, wheat and maize”. I don’t mean it as a compliment though. In fact, I get slightly annoyed every time I see it. Firstly, it’s not clear how the claim can be verified given that it doesn’t say what was measured. Is it the number of tonnes produced? Production value in constant dollars? Consumption? Since the statement is usually not referenced, your guess is as good as mine.

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In Memoriam - Jacky Ganry

Inge Van den Bergh Friday, 08 February 2013

On February 4th, the ProMusa community lost one of its long-standing members, Jacky Ganry.

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Welcome to the ProMusa Crop Improvement Working Group

Robert Miller Tuesday, 02 October 2012

Welcome to the ProMusa Crop Improvement Working Group. We look forward to working with you and of advancing the interests of the group as we all take it forward in the coming years.

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New chairs for the ProMusa working groups

Inge Van den Bergh Wednesday, 05 September 2012

The members of the three ProMusa working groups – Crop Improvement, Crop Protection and Crop Production – have elected a new chair and co-chair for the coming years. Robert Miller has been “promoted” from co-chair to chair of the Crop Improvement working group, with Edson Perito Amorim taking his place as co-chair. The Crop Protection working group welcomes Randy Ploetz and Danny Coyne, as chair and co-chair respectively. Jeff Daniells and Thierry Lescot will chair and co-chair the Crop Production working group over the coming years.

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The road to sequencing the banana genome

Anne Vézina Monday, 06 August 2012

The recent news that the banana genome had been sequenced and published in Nature is said to have had “scientists breaking out the banana daiquiris.” My guess is that they more likely reached for their computer to download the sequence, but the point is the same. If ever a crop needed help from genomics research, it is the difficult-to-breed-and-to-study-using-classical-genetics banana. It also explains the early interest in sequencing its genome.

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The 'best genomics Venn diagram ever' deconstructed

Anne Vézina Sunday, 15 July 2012

It didn’t take long after the journal Nature put online the article on the banana genome sequence for bloggers to start commenting on the Venn diagram featuring a a bright yellow banana. David Ng at Popperfont qualified it as, “quite possibly the most complicated (and therefore awesome) Venn Diagram ever”. Jonathan Eisen, the scientist who coined the term phylogenomics, said that it was “perhaps the best genomics Venn diagram ever”, while Joe, of the It’s okay to be smart blog wrote that it is “a pretty genius way of delivering a bunch of banana data all at once”. He added that it was the first time he ever saw a six-way Venn diagram. Joe is right to be impressed, but the truth is that this is not the first ever six-way Venn diagram.

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Breeding superior cooking bananas

jlorenzen Tuesday, 03 July 2012

Banana breeders are familiar with the routine of climbing a ladder in the early morning to collect male flowers and carrying them, and the ladder, over to the intended female plants to hand-pollinate female flowers. Since flowers open sequentially each day, each floral bunch is pollinated daily for a week. You could say that banana breeders serve as surrogates to natural pollinators, in this case bats.

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Blogging your way out of anonymity

Inge Van den Bergh Wednesday, 23 May 2012

There are some notable exceptions, but most scientists only exploit one way to share their research results: they publish a paper in a scientific journal. And these papers often tend to be … well, let’s admit it … quite dry, as Adam Ruben recently described it in his blog post about “How to write like a scientist”. Aside from the occasional presentation at a scientific conference (which, unless the scientist is an especially good speaker or presents ground-breaking results, are usually readily forgotten), most of us don’t take advantage of the wide range of other media that are available these days, such as videos, status updates, blog posts, blog comments, interactive graphs and maps, tweets, etc.

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Remembering the world's most famous banana scientist

Anne Vézina Friday, 11 May 2012

I never met Norman Simmonds, on whom I recently did a page in Musapedia. He died six months before I joined INIBAP in July 2002. Prior to doing a page on him I was glad he had shared so much of his vast knowledge of bananas (I keep my copies of Bananas and The Evolution of the Bananas at arm’s length since they are the first things I check whenever I am looking for information on bananas, even though new data have since poked holes in some of his hypotheses, like his account of domestication). But having read what people said about him after his death, at 79, I now regret having narrowly missed the opportunity to pick his brains (he apparently remained active right until his last weeks). I can only imagine how intimidating it would have been. He is said to have refused an entry in Who’s Who because their letter to him was sloppily written.

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World Banana Forum: getting down to business

Alistair Smith Tuesday, 20 March 2012
WBF

Some 200 people took part in the second global conference of the World Banana Forum in Guayaquil, business capital of Ecuador, at the end of February. International fruit companies, national producers, small farmers' organisations, trade unions of plantation workers, retailers, government representatives, scientists, certification bodies and NGOs met around an agenda for change in the industry that had been set 2 years earlier in Rome at the launch of the Forum.

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Student farm bananas, update

Gabriel Sachter-Smith Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Things are going well! We have our first two plants flowering after only 7 months in the ground. This recent photo was taken at about 8 months after planting. It is gaining a lot of attention on our campus, and we already started to expand it, and will be adding even more soon as well.

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Banana scientists gather in Brazil for the fourth ISHS-ProMusa symposium

Inge Van den Bergh Wednesday, 02 November 2011

The first ISHS-ProMusa symposium ended with Richard Markham, then chair of the ISHS Section on Banana and Plantain, reminding participants “of our limited success over the past 20 years in providing workable solutions to the major crop protection problems of farmers”. We all know what these are: leaf spot diseases, Fusarium wilt, bacterial wilts, viruses, nematodes and weevils. This fourth symposium, hosted by Embrapa, similarly provided sobering accounts of the challenges scientists still face in addressing these problems. And rightly so. We should not underestimate the scale of the task at hand. But symposia also play a non-negligible role in lifting our spirits by reminding us that the steady progress of science is also punctuated by the occasional leap.

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University of Hawaii student farm bananas

Gabriel Sachter-Smith Thursday, 11 August 2011

A while ago I had written about the banana collection at the student farm program I help run here at the University of Hawaii. We have been working very hard and have some new updates I'd like to share.

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