Bioversity International: research for development in agricultural and tree biodiversity

Farmer-friendly method controls banana Xanthomonas wilt disease

17 Dec 2015

Livelihoods in East and Central Africa are seriously threatened by Xanthomonas wilt, a disease that attacks bananas causing up to 100% yield loss and severely damaging the livelihoods and food security of banana farming households across the region.

Banana Xanthomonas wilt first struck East Africa in the early 2000s, and by 2004, 33% of farms in Uganda were infected. To control the disease, agricultural extension officials advised farmers to remove all infected ‘mats’ (two or more banana stems growing together) and replant with clean planting material. While this strategy proved effective, it is costly, labor-intensive and results in a major loss of food and income – not to mention banana biodiversity – so many subsistence farmers resisted implementing it.

There is a new and simpler approach to contain that devastating disease without having to destroy large amounts of plants. Widespread adoption of this ‘single diseased stem removal’ technique has the potential to bring the disease under control while saving labor and money.

Bioversity International, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the Institutional Learning and Change Initiative under the umbrella of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas are collaborating on efforts to get banana farmers in East and Central Africa to adopt this approach.

A Bioversity International team led by scientist Guy Blomme tested the single diseased stem removal in eastern DR Congo. They began at the village of Katana centre, in South Kivu, where the disease incidence averaged 80% in February 2013. Within one month, Xanthomonas wilt incidence had dropped to below 10%, and within three months of application, it was below 2%.

Find out more in this blog on the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas website

Photo: Banana plant affected by Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), Uganda. Credit: Bioversity International/N.Capozio