The agriculture sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP) of the government of Uganda seeks to increase food security through increasing agricultural production and productivity. Food security is a key priority for the population in Uganda at 34.9 million (National Census-UBOS, 2014) and set to keep increasing at annual rate of 3%. The need to feed this population puts increasing pressure on the fixed land and is aggravated by the increasingly degraded environment, pests and diseases. Such declining and variable environments require crops adapted to a wide range of agro-ecologies such as banana.
Banana has been consistently ranked as number one crop by the farming communities in Uganda as it is an indispensable part of life for more than a half of the population. Its perennial nature coupled with an all-year-round fruiting character makes it an ideal crop for household incomes, food and nutrition security. As a climate change ameliorating agent, it picks more CO2 from the atmosphere than most other food security crops and contributes amounts of soil organic carbon comparable to that of woody species. Its dense leaf canopy and extensive root system contribute to a stable agro-ecological system. In fact, the Uganda’s matooke market unutilized potential within in urban areas is estimated at 50% and that of dessert banana at over 90% in East and Central African region. Despite these benefits, banana has suffered from pests (banana weevils and nematodes), diseases (Fusarium wilt, bacterial wilt and black Sigatoka) and more recently, drought stress. The core responsibility of the National Agricultural Research Laboratories’ Banana Research is to generate and promote technologies that increase and banana productivity and utilization for the Ugandan banana dependent communities.
The vast majority of the bananas currently grown and consumed were not conventionally bred but are selections made over probably thousands of years from naturally occurring hybrids. Cultivated bananas are very nearly sterile and as a consequence are not propagated from seed but rather through vegetative propagation, primarily suckers as well as more recently micropropagated or tissue cultured bananas. These factors, very old selections, near sterility and vegetative propagation, mean that these bananas have not been genetically improved either for resistance or improved quality and are becoming increasing in affected by serious pests and diseases.
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