Banana Breeding


Uganda is a country well-endowed with significant natural resources, including ample fertile land, regular rainfall, and mineral deposits. The economy is basically agricultural, and it occupies 80% of the working population.

Uganda’s moderate climate is especially pivotal to the production of both livestock and crops such as bananas. Different banana varieties that are hybrids with AAA, AAB and ABB genome constitu­tions are a staple food for a billion people in Asia and Africa and have 2n=3x=33 chromosomes.

The most widely grown cultivars are cooking types belonging to the East African highland banana (EAHB) subgroup (AAA genome).  The other bananas grown in the country include dessert bananas, such as 'Sukali Ndizi’  (ABB genome) and 'Bogoya’ (AAA genome), Plantain cultivars (locally called 'Gonja') (AAB genome) for roasting and 'Kayinja’  (ABB genome), and 'Kisubi'  (ABB genome) for making beer.


East African Highland bananas (EAHB)

East African Highland bananas (commonly known as “matooke” in Uganda) are triploid banana cultivars originating from the African Great Lakes region. Bananas and plantains (Musa spp.) are a major staple food for  more than 20 million smallholder farmers in Uganda. EAHB are also known as the Mutika/Lujugira subgroup.

  • Scientific name: Musa acuminata 'East African Highland'
  • Higher classification: Musa acuminata
  • Origin:  African Great Lakes region
  • Cultivar group: Musa acuminata (AAA-EA) or the Mutika/Lujugira subgroup of the AAA group

The Biology of EAHBs (growth cycle) has 3 stages: Vegetative development (6-8 months), Flowering (3 months) and Fruit stage (3 months).  This means the time between planting a banana plant and the harvest of the banana bunch is from 9 to 15 months, depending on the variety grown and growing conditions. Banana fruits are seedless. Such fruits are called parthenocarpic, i.e., they produce fruit without fertilisation

Planting materials

EAHB (Matooke) bunches are harvested at fruit mature green stage, peeled, wrapped in banana leaves, steamed or boiled, mashed, then can be eaten with or without a sauce.  The fruits may also be eaten directly after boiling or steaming. About 70% of matooke production is consumed at household level while 30% is sold through agents/brokers, wholesalers and retailers to the urban consumers as bunches, clusters or fingers. In Uganda, the annual domestic banana consumption is between 220-460 kg/person and is the highest in the world.

Banana and Plantation Production

Banana and plantain production information in most banana-growing countries in Africa between the year 2000 (FAOSTAT, 2000) and 2017 (FAOSTAT, 2017) (Arinaitwe et al. 2019)

Although bananas have the estimated production potential of >70 tonne/ha/yr, from the recent 1990's, the production reduced to 10-15 tonnes/ha/year in Uganda. It's plantation life also reduced from about 30 yrs to 5 yrs. This declining productivity was because of the complex problems such as pests and diseases, reduced soil fertility, poor agronomy practices, inferior varieties, drought and socio-economic problems. All these led to the reduced yield ad short plantation life. Some of the common pests and diseases included; Nematodes, Weevils, Black Sigatoka, Fusarium wilt and the Banana bacterial wilt (BBW).

Common pests and diseases


The establishment of the EAHB crossbreeding programs by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in the mid-1990s in Uganda was to;

  1. Devise means to control pests and diseases
  2. Develop and release bananas similar to local varieties but with increased resistance to pests and diseases
  3. Develop farmer acceptable high yielding banana varieties 

Components of Matooke breeding

Banana Breeding Cycle 

Breeding strategy: Hybridization 


Evaluation and selection process : From 12 to 8 years


A number of improvements have been made in East African Highland Banana breeding between 1990 and 2020. The NARO Banana breeding team has bred and released seven banana (matooke) hybrids since 1990’s. These hybrids are high yielding coupled with resistances to common pests and diseases. They include:-

 The attributes for each hybrid can be found on this page (Banana Hybrids)


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