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.
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.