The Banana Asia-Pacific network (BAPNET) is the first network to have chosen who will represent them on the ProMusa Steering Committee. In January, the BAPNET Steering Committee unanimously elected Gus Molina, the Asia-Pacific regional coordinator for Bioversity International’s Commodities for Livelihoods programme. He had been acting as the network’s representative since their admission to the Steering Committee last May.
Until now, Africa has been a relatively minor player in world banana trade: Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana accounted for around 4% of the trade in 2007 (FAOSTAT export data). Both Angola and Mozambique will join the nations that export their fruit to Europe, with major joint venture investments by the US-based Chiquita Brands. Dole, the world's biggest fruit company, is also reported to be looking for partners in Angola, having recently invested in a large plantation in Ghana through its part-ownership of Compagnie Fruitière. Cameroon regularly states that it intends to increase its exports.
The first symposium organized under the new alliance between ISHS and ProMusa was held in South Africa in September 2007. Participants from 25 countries came together in White River, South Africa, to discuss the status of banana diseases and pests and progress made in their control, and to identify research priorities for the coming years. The meeting, titled Recent advances in banana crop protection for sustainable production and improved livelihoods, included a 3-day symposium, followed by a field visit to banana farms and a 1-day workshop. In total, 46 oral papers and more than 40 posters were presented.
Hill bananas (AAB, two ecotypes Virupakshi and Sirumalai) are grown at a height of 2000 to 5000 feet with well distributed annual rainfall of 1250-1500 mm in the lower Palaini, Sirumalai and Kolli hills. Hill bananas, unique to the state of Tamil Nadu, are known for their special flavour and long shelf life. Hill bananas are perennial in nature, cultivated along with coffee and pepper also as a multitier system. Hill bananas are highly susceptible to Banana bunchy top virus (BBTV). BBTV has been the sole cause for reduction in Hill banana cultivation from 18,000 ha in 1970s to a mere 2,000 ha at present.
A new project, based on a recommendation made at the latest ISHS/ProMusa Symposium, will help predict the impact of the dreaded Fusarium strain on banana production in Africa.
Members of the ProMusa network have joined forces to take on the challenge posed by banana streak viruses (BSV). DNA sequences of these badnaviruses are integrated in the B genome donated by the wild species Musa balbisiana. The ability of some of the sequences to form infective particles has led to restrictions on the distribution and use of B-genome-rich cultivars. Certain institutions have even stopped using cultivars containing the B genome in their breeding schemes. But if these cultivars are anything like their balbisiana ancestor, they could be more tolerant to drought than cultivars derived only from Musa acuminata, which donated the A genome, and as such play an important role in safeguarding future banana production against the effects of climate change.
Greetings everyone! I thought I'd share here a modified version of an article I've written for a local newsletter about the student farm I help to run.
Close to 48 million tonnes of banana are produced every year in Asia, making the fruit one of the most important crops in the region. The fruit is part of the daily diet of Asians both as fresh fruit and processed delicacies, and plays an important role in the livelihoods of millions of banana growers who supply the local and export markets. The region, however, faces many challenges. Banana bunchy top disease has caused significant damage to the banana industry in many Asian countries over the last 20 years, and the recent outbreaks of tropical race 4 (TR4), a highly virulent race of Fusarium wilt, are extremely alarming. But there is also good news. Asia lies in the center of origin of the crop, and is home to a rich diversity of wild and cultivated bananas. This genepool is a valuable source of genetic variability that has been the basis for crop evolution and is of vital importance for direct use by farmers or for breeding new varieties.