07 Feb 0ngoing research on Sukari Ndizi (Apple bananas) improvement for resistance to Fusarium wilt
Fusarium wilt of banana, popularly known as Panama disease, is a lethal fungal disease caused by the soil-borne fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc) that has been a big threat to the productivity of Cavendish /dessert bananas for years. This fungus enters the plant through the roots and colonizes the xylem vessels thereby blocking the flow of water and nutrients. As the disease progresses upward through the plant, it clogs the vessels and blocks the flow of water and nutrients.
The fungus can survive in the soil for more than 20 years and has a long latent period (it might be detected long after the introduction). In Uganda it affects dessert bananas commonly called Sukari Ndizi or Kabalagala, the most widely distributed banana cultivar in Uganda and can cause up to 100% yield loss. The use of infected planting materials, water, soil particles, tools, footwear and machinery can lead to the spread of the disease-causing fungus spread from plantation to plantations.
Scientists at the national banana program have been researching how to breed apple bananas that are resistant to fusarium. They developed two high-yielding, consumer acceptable apple banana hybrids (Musa species, AAB genome group) with resistance to Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense race and the tests are in the final stages of evaluations pending submission for release by the ministry of Agriculture, animal industry and fisheries.
According to Henry Buregeya the lead scientist behind the research on finding a solution to fusarium, his motivation comes from childhood memories as a child in Mbarara. Sukari Ndizi bananas were not only a delicacy but also a quick snack that one carried to school to feed on during the day. To further cement the place of Sukari Ndizi in his mind is a saying in Runyankole, “Otine minekye tagiira baijukuru” meaning, one without ripes, cannot have grandchildren. This is mainly because grandparents that have a plantation with Sukari Ndizi was popular with children and was visited often for the very reason that children get to eat as many ripes as possible. Making their visits pleasant.
However, he says in the recent past, he realized that most homes in Ankole did not have any more plantations with Sukari Ndizi due to the effect of fusarium wilt. This led him on a quest to find a solution to the problem so that his children and the rest like them on the do not miss out on the wonderful experience of eating and sharing these handy ripes with a solution to fusarium wilt insight.