As reported in the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas’ 2015 Annual Report, significant ground has been covered in the battle against one of banana’s biggest enemies – the banana bunchy top disease (BBTD). This disease that threatens the banana and plantain production of over 5 million households in the DR Congo alone is sweeping across Sub-Saharan, West and further into East Africa.
The multi-centre research program Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) is active in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and its international team of researchers, including several scientists from Bioversity International, have made progress in building farmers’ capacity to fight back. Scientists are studying the virus that causes the disease – the banana bunchy top virus – and working with national partners and communities to establish systems for producing disease-free banana planting material.
As described in the program’s 2015 report, in order to determine the extent of the impact of the disease, they’ve improved knowledge of the disease through laboratory research, field trials and surveys at pilot sites in Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, Cameroon, Congo, DR Congo, Malawi and Burundi. The team working under Charles Staver, a senior scientist at Bioversity International, coordinator of the BBTD initiative and RTB project leader, reported that the most effective strategy for fighting BBTD is to uproot all of the existing banana plants, maintain the farms banana-free for at least half a year and replant them with healthy plants while maintaining a banana-free buffer zone around the fields. They predicted that if these practices are followed, banana production could be recovered for at least two or three harvests.
In addition to the above-mentioned work, RTB researchers have been studying the roles of men and women, especially regarding community decision-making and farm management. Charles Staver is positive that that cross-site lessons learned from this gender research will enhance impending efforts to scale out successful recovery strategies.
Bioversity International associate scientist Aman Omondi applauded the RTB initiative’s successful training efforts: throughout this process, numerous representatives of national research institutes, universities and ministries of agriculture have been trained in topics ranging from BBTD diagnostics to clean seed systems. As the disease spreads and the RTB researchers develop more tools for controlling it, this critical mass of trained people will lead the battle to defeat BBTD.
Read the original story Building communities’ capacity to control and recover from the banana disease BBTD
Photo: Lava Kumar, IITA scientist, points to a banana plant infected with Banana Bunchy Top Disease in a banana field during a Learning Alliance Workshop in Bujumbura, Burundi. Credit: IITA/ L. Kumar