NEWS & EVENTS

NARO Scientists Celebrate Release of Ugandan-Bred Improved Matooke Bananas in Tanzania

NARO scientists from the National Banana Research Program led by Dr. Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, the Director of National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) Kawanda, celebrated with Tanzanian officials on the release of Ugandan-bred improved Matooke bananas in Tanzania.

NARO scientists with Tanzanian officials pose with the released banana tissue culture plantlets.

This was during the Accelerated Breeding of Better Bananas annual meeting held from 23 - 25 May, 2022 in ARUSHA, Tanzania at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science & Technology.

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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.

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Boosting banana nutrition for Ugandans

In an interview with Nature.com, geneticist Priver Namanya Bwesigye, also head of the National Banana Research Program reveals how she has used her knowledge in genetic modification (GM) techniques, to train NARO scientists trying to improve the banana’s nutritional value and hardiness.

Priver Namanya Bwesigye (centre) trains biotechnology students at NARO Uganda. (Credit: NARO communications)

Geneticist Priver Namanya Bwesigye is head of the National Banana Program at the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), an agency of Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. She joined the organization, based in Entebbe, in 1994 as a research assistant. In 2010, she earned a PhD in biotechnology from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia, through a programme called Banana21, a collaboration between QUT and NARO. Sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, the programme seeks to increase the micronutrients in Uganda’s staple food, the East Africa Highland banana. While at QUT, Namanya learnt genetic modification (GM) techniques, which she has used to train NARO scientists trying to improve the banana’s nutritional value and hardiness.

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Are you wearing bananas? The green apparel of the future

Banana fibre is gaining popularity in the fashion industry as many renowned clothing lines and fashion designers are embracing fabric made from banana.  The banana fibre is preferred because it is eco-friendly and biodegradable compared to other synthetic fibres.

With increasing awareness and growing importance of sustainable products, banana fibres have been increasingly used in making apparel.

An article by Fibre2Fashion.com reveals that in India, one of the world's largest banana producers with an annual output of 24.8 million tonnes and which accounts for 22 per cent of the global banana production, the banana fibre is increasingly being used in making apparel.

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Address

National Banana Research Program
National Agricultural Research Laboratories
(NARL) - Kawanda P.O. Box 7065, Kampala
along Bombo – Gulu road.

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