Adoption of control measures will save banana farmers from the bacterial wilt

Growing bananas in Uganda is fast becoming a profitable venture because bananas provide food for homes and serve commercial purposes as well.

Apart from bananas providing food, by-products such as fiber for hair extensions, fiber for the crafts industry, banana wine, among others, also provide additional income.

However, the crop that is consumed across the country is being threatened by the Banana Bacterial Wilt (BBW) disease. It was first reported in the country in 2005, in Kyazanga in Masaka region, where it caused almost 100% yield loss. It later spread to different parts of the country.

Dr Stephen Bua in a newly-established banana plantation free

How it is spread

Dr Stephen Buah, a researcher on the banana programme at the National Agriculture Research Laboratories in Kawanda, says the BBW disease is spread through sharing of farm tools such as knives, pangas and hoes.

It is also spread through pollinating insects such as bees, butter flies, plus monkeys of late. The monkeys tend to eat the male bud of a banana plant, in the process scratch and injure the plant. Scratches pave way for the disease to enter a disease free plant.

He adds that just like a bacterial infections occur in humans, its the same with wilt in bananas, unfortunately plants cannot be treated with antibiotics, instead, there are measures in place to manage and control the spread of the disease.

Banana bunch infected with bacterial wilt.

How to tell an infected plant

The matooke fingers ripen before maturity. When cut, they give off an oozing purse like liquid with an awful smell.

Another sign is seen through the creamy sup that appears after cutting a stem of banana, when not infected, the sup is usually colorless, Bua adds.


Buah advises farmers to uproot and remove the affected plant. Chop into small pieces, burry in a deep pit or burn with the help of dry grass.

Farm tools used in cutting or harvesting the affected plant should be washed with jik or dried under a flame of fire. As a long-term measure, he discourages sharing of farm tools to prevent the spread of the disease.

The other option is to plant wilt-resistant banana verities, produced through biotechnology or tissue culture, although the readily available option is through tissue culture being promoted by both public research instructions and the private sector, because currently, there is no law regulating the use of genetically modified organisms.

This article is an extract from HARVEST MONEY 


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