Banana & Plantain
(Musa acuminata & balbisiana hybrids)
‘Matoke’ or East African Highland Banana
Banana and plantain are perennial crops that take the appearance of trees as they mature. Diverse cultivars are grown. Musa are believed to have originated in Southeast Asia but their introduction into Africa is unclear.
Throughout history Musa has provided humans with food, medicine, clothing, tools, shelter, furniture, paper, and handicrafts. It could be termed the "first fruit crop" as its cultivation originated during a time when hunting and gathering were still the principal means of acquiring food.
Musa are rich in vitamin C, B6, minerals and dietary fibre. They are also a rich energy source, with carbohydrates accounting for 22% and 32% of fruit weight for banana and plantain, respectively.
Banana starch, flour, and chips are processed banana products whose markets are yet to be fully developed.
Banana are grown in nearly 130 countries. Uganda is the largest producer of banana and plantain in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), followed by Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon.
Banana and plantain are cultivated in a wide variety of environments. Plants produce fruit year round, can produce for up to one hundred years and are suitable for intercropping. Vegetative propagation is necessary because they rarely produce seeds and those are not true to variety.
The major banana and plantain pests are the burrowing nematode and the banana weevil. Nematode species attack the plant's roots, resulting in whole plant toppling or reduced yield. The banana weevil, Cosmopolites sordidus, attacks the plant's underground corm, weakening the plant and causing stem breakage.
IITA has also developed and is promoting hot water treatment to rid plants of nematodes and to produce clean planting materials. Another important control tactic is the use of nematode-antagonistic plants that inhibit nematode reproduction.
To combat BXW, IITA is collaborating with partners internationally to develop reliable and cost effective diagnostic tools. Also, a genetic transformation system developed and optimized at IITA can be used to produce BXW-resistant varieties of banana.
IITA has successfully identified variations within the Black Sigatoka species in Africa and the possibility to design new diagnostic tools. Such tools would enhance the capacity of subsequent projects in selected countries in SSA.
10 September 2014
Results of field test on Xanthomonas wilt disease-resistant banana in East Africa featured in Nature Biotechnology
Genetic Literacy Project: Ethiopian enset: Can native plants be improved for economic viability?
16 December 2014
Another avenue of research focuses on how to improve the yield and robustness of native crops. Scientists with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, a research organization focused on hunger and poverty, are evaluating natural and genetically modified varieties of enset that would withstand a blight of enset and banana called bacterial wilt. Read more.