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Archive for August 26th, 2009

Two Banana Diseases Spread in Africa

Posted by feww on August 26, 2009

As the world shrinks, crop diseases flourish

A shrinking world means less land to grow food, diminishing topsoil, smaller ailing forests, warmer acidic oceans… worsening climate extremes, sea level rises, drought and deluge…

Two banana diseases are threatening Africa’s staple food crop.

Bananas [and plantains] are staple food crops for at least 50 million people in the countries surrounding the Great Lakes of Africa, located in and around the Great Rift Valley.

Two banana diseases spreading in Africa would affect the staple food for at least 5o million people in a dozen or so countries on the continent according to  various agricultural research reports.

The banana bunchy top viral disease has infected 45,000 hectares of plantation in Malawi, in addition to 11 other countries that were affected last year, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has reported.

Leaves infected with Banana bunchy top virus (Photo: Ron Heu, Survey Entomologist – Hawaii Department of Agriculture)

“We found the disease to be well-established in Gabon, DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Northern Angola and central Malawi,” CGIAR quoted a researcher at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture saying.

Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) has reportedly affected countries in central, eastern and southern Africa. The virus spreads from plant to plant by aphids, causes the leaves to sprout from the plant’s top, resulting in a “bunched” appearance and stunting its growth.

infected_fruits 3
Fruit infected with Banana bunchy top virus (Photo: Ron Heu, Survey Entomologist – Hawaii Department of Agriculture). Note height of the entire bunch is about the same as legth of a healthy banana.

[NOTE: BBTV virus attack is terminal. Normally, a banana plant infected with the virus will not produce any fruit; however, the virus harm can be mitigated in a number of ways including in-vitro propagation of banana plants through shoot tip cultures, controlling the aphids and destroying any plant that shows signs of the disease.]

Infected_plants 2
Plants infected with Banana bunchy top virus (Photo: Ron Heu, Survey Entomologist – Hawaii Department of Agriculture)

“CGIAR said another study earlier this year found banana bacterial wilt disease in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, western Kenya, northwest Tanzania and north and South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Reuters reported.

Researchers believe that the disease could spread to Burundi.

Uganda, Africa’s largest banana grower and consumer, has experienced bacterial wilt for nearly a decade,  incurring annual losses of up to $200 million as a result, said CGIAR.

“All but the traditional varieties of bananas in sub-Saharan Africa lack tolerance to the two diseases, which necessitates more research into the continent’s local … varieties,” it said.

“The diseases require drastic and expensive control measures such as completely excavating entire banana fields and treating them with pesticides, or burning the plants in order to complete the disease.”

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