By Peter Wamboga-Mugirya

Scientists have cautioned farmers and other stakeholders not to celebrate yet about a reported drop in incidence of banana bacterial wilt (BBW) disease.
This because drops and rises are common in the behaviour of pathogens that cause virulent diseases like BBW. They re-emerge and mutate against actions to stop them, and a change in environmental conditions, among other factors.

Fall in rates
Banana researchers and breeders say a drop in BBW quoted in the 2016-2017 national budget, is a result of sanitary measures against spread of BBW.
But these measures, the scientists explain, are not a panacea for eliminating the disease.
On June 8, MP Matia Kasaija who represented the President in presenting the national budget (Note: he was not yet sworn in as finance minister), alluded to a fall in BBW in some parts of the country due to education of farmers on control measures.

The campaign
Dr. Jerome Kubiriba, the head of banana research programme at National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL)-Kawanda, confirmed that BBW has reduced.
Naro and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (Maaif) spearheaded the efforts supported by UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and The World Bank.
The campaign urged farmers to heat used farm tools over fire before re-use, cutting off male buds from young banana bunches to deny entry of bacteria.
They were also encouraged to uproot and burn infected stems.

Big contribution
These measures, the scientists say, have had an impactbut hasten to add that growing BBW-resistant banana, which are still being tested, would be a big contribution towards managing the disease.
Kubiriba adds: “BBW incidence has reduced over the last two years. But this has happened before in 2006-2008. But in 2010-2012, it came back. So, no guarantee that it will not be the case.”
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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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