Florida International University scientists used simulation models to predict how changes in temperature and rainfall might affect the commercial cultivation of bananas in 11 South and Central American countries. According to the press release, the authors found that while weather conditions may become too hot and dry in many existing plantations, chances for raising successful crops could improve in areas of Mexico, Peru and Ecuador. The study is available (behind a paywall) on the website of the journal Ecological Economics.
A news piece published in the journal Nature reveals that the TR4 fungus recently reported to be in a commercial banana plantation of northern Mozambique might have been there for two to three years. The piece downplays the impact of TR4 by noting that the export trade, which is dominated by Cavendish bananas, accounts for only about 13% of global production. What is not said is that twice as many Cavendish bananas are grown for domestic markets, according to the statistics published in the May 2012 issue of FruiTrop.
Tropical race 4 (TR4) of Fusarium wilt has been discovered on Cavendish bananas in Mozambique. This was announced today by the Mozambique Department of Agriculture, together with IITA, Stellenbosch University and Bioversity International. It is the first report of TR4 in Africa.
Wageningen UR Plant Research International is collaborating with the TASTE Foundation and several Latin American universities and agricultural organisations on the biological control of the red rust thrips for organic producers in Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. The tiny insects leave red spots when they feed on the banana fruit and female flowers. Even though the problem is purely cosmetic, affected bunches cannot be exported since supermarkets won't buy them. The main strategy the scientists are working on involves luring the insects in a pheromone trap, where they will be exposed to a deadly fungus with which they will contaminate their conspecifics.
After discovering banana freckle on two more properties in Australia's Northern Territory, an eradication circle of 1 km around each of the two infected properties was established. All the plants within that circle are cut up and the stumps treated with herbicide. The plant material is then trucked to a dedicated disposal site where it is buried. No banana plant will be planted for 12 months to ensure the pest does not reappear. During that period, all properties within 2 km of the infected properties will be inspected. If banana freckle is not found, the Northern Territory will be declared free of the pest.
Taiwanese researchers developed a biochip than can detect three banana viruses simultaneously: cucumber mosaic virus, banana bunchy top virus and banana bract mosaic virus. The researchers claim that the device is eight times more sensitive than traditional methods. They are also working on adding the banana streak virus to the biochip.
Visitors to the Banana Museum in Sainte-Marie, Martinique, were recently asked to weigh in on an improved hybrid produced by the French Agricultural Research Centre for Development (CIRAD). Called Fhlorban 925, the small banana tastes like a Cavendish, but unlike the latter it is resistant to leaf spot diseases and nematodes, and as such requires less pesticides. Some 900 kg of the new cultivar are currently grown on 2 sites in Martinique and 4 in Guadeloupe, where scientists from the Institut Technique Tropical are studying its agronomic performance. It's also being tested in cold chambers in Rungis, outside Paris. If the various evaluations are conclusive, the objective is to commercialize it by 2015.
A first report of Fusarium oxysporum's tropical race 4 outside southeast Asia was published in Plant Disease. The diagnostic was performed by scientists from Wageningen UR (University and Research Centre) using samples sent by Jordan's Ministry of Agriculture. It appears that 80% of the banana plantations in the Jordan Valley, which represent a total of only 1,000-1,500 hectares, are now infected.
IITA announced that 26 improved hybrids of East African highland bananas are about to be evaluated for their agronomic performance and disease resistance. Dubbed NARITAS because they are the products of a collaboration between NARO (National Agricultural Research Organization) and IITA (the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture), the hybrids will be tested in various banana-growing areas of East Africa by national programmes in collaboration with Bioversity International.
In a piece on how the UK supermarkets' banana price war is making sustainable production impossible for producers and their workers, Alistair Smith of Banana Link is quoted as saying that "Competition law so far deals only with cartels of suppliers, not with cartels of buyers. But we're in a new world where cartels of buyers can force down prices, whatever the sector".
Filipino farmers talk about their experience with the Tropical race 4 fungal strain that attacks Cavendish bananas in a video produced for a group of Wageningen UR researchers working on Fusarium wilt (better known as Panama disease). The series contains other videos on the dreaded disease.
No sooner had freckle disease been found on Cavendish bananas that the Northern Territory's Department of Primary Industry put several farms under quarantine. The disease was originally found in hobby farms and depending on the results of a survey of 300 farms, the authorities will decide whether to try eradicating the disease. The disease had been observed on other cultivars, but never on Cavendish ones.
James Dale of the Queensland University of Technology in Australia speaks with freshfruitportal.com about the various projects he and his team are working on, from making bananas resistant to bunchy top and Fusarium wilt to tackling vitamin A and iron deficiencies.
Bioversity International and IITA are collaborating on the organization of a global alliance to control the spread of bunchy top in Sub-Saharan Africa. Earlier this year they organized a workshop — Building a collaborative, public-private R4D alliance
for an integrated control of banana bunchy top disease in Sub-Saharan Africa — whose report is now available on the website of the Roots, Tubers and Bananas research program.
A mapping tool developed by the Roots, Tubers and Bananas Consortium Research Program is now available online. RTBMaps, as the website is called, was launched with some 25 map layers, including poverty and food-security indicators as well as production constraints. No sooner had it won an international award, that observers of the agricultural scenes started commenting on the online tool.
Living in a cyclone prone area has necessarily led to the development of coping mechanisms to survive their aftermath. One of these, from Futuna island in Vanuatu, is a method to preserve unripe bananas for up to two years. Another one from Samoa is a propagation method that can produce 50 shoots from a single plant to accelerate replanting after a cyclone. This traditional know-how is being disseminated as part of a SPC-GIZ project.
Alistair Smith of Banana Link explains, at Fresh Fruit Portal, how a cooperative run by former Chiquita workers has survived the dramatic decline in Panama’s banana exports that has taken place in recent years. The Cooperativa Bananera del Atlantico R.L., known as Coobana, has some 500 workers, 220 of whom are members of the cooperative.
As part of its ambitious campaign to eradicate bunchy top, the Australian Bunchy Top National Project funded by the banana industry and the Australian government has produced a four-minute video targeting the general public. A shorter version focuses on the symptoms and what to do in case of infection.