Update: Plant Health News (18 Dec 13)

New technology can improve the detection papaya viruses © Prato9x

New technology can improve the detection of papaya viruses © Prato9x

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the use of technology to improve the detection of papaya viruses, toxins discovered in banana root tissue kill root pests and the vital importance of water conservation in Nigeria to avoid food crises.

Click on the links to read more of the latest plant health news!

 

 

 

 

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Update: Plant Health News (08 May 13)

The Australian banana industry wants a banana production and marketing information system to improve its resilience to cyclones, pests and diseases.

The banana industry is planning an information system to reduce crop loss

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the risk of Septoria attack if sprays are delayed, an internet data portal plan from the banana industry and new plant protein discoveries that could ease global food and fuel demands.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Banana bacterial wilt leaves thousands hungry in Tanzania

Use a fork shaped stick to twist and break the male flower bud off of the banana plant. © CABI

Use a fork shaped stick to twist and break the male flower bud off of the banana plant. © CABI

According to IPP Media, over 8,000 people in 15 villages in Kagera region of Tanzania are in dire need of food relief following an outbreak of banana bacterial disease that has destroyed 90% of the banana crop. Bananas are the staple food for people in the region. Adam Malima, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives, told the National Assembly earlier this week that the government has allocated 300 tonnes of maize to be distributed to people in the area.

Banana bacterial wilt (or “banana slim”) is easily spread through pollinating insects, tools and planting material. Disease management is notoriously difficult, often involving cultural methods that can be impractical for smallholders. One easy method of prevention involves breaking off the male flower bud using a fork-shaped stick.

The male flower bud is often where the bacteria enters the plant. Pollinating insects collect nectar from the bud and carry nectar from plant to plant, transferring the bacteria at the same time. Removing the male bud soon after formation of the last cluster stops insects from spreading the disease. A forked stick can be used to twist and break the bud. This is better than cutting the bud off with a knife which might spread the bacteria.

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Typhoon Devastates 10,000 ha of Banana Plantation In the Philippines

A NASA image from 3rd December 2012 of Typhoon Bopha (locally known as Typhoon Pablo) making land fall in the Phillipine island of Mindanao © NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre

A NASA image from 3rd December 2012 of Typhoon Bopha (locally known as Typhoon Pablo) making land fall in the Phillipine island of Mindanao © NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre via Flickr (License CC-BY 2.0)

The Philippines, the world’s third largest exporter of bananas, has lost up to a quarter of its banana plantations after typhoon Pablo, also known as typhoon Bopha, struck. The typhoon is one of the most powerful ever recorded in the island of Mindanao and has caused the deaths of over 400 people as well as destroying huge areas of agricultural regions. Stephen Antig, the executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association has said that while analysis is still in progress the damage to the banana industry is likely to be in excess of US$ 318 million after around 10,000 ha of banana plantations in the badly affected areas of Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte were destroyed. The impact of the typhoon on Philippino banana production  has huge implications for many farmers and businesses since bananas are one of the key export industries in the country. Approximately 150,000 people depend on the banana industry in Compostela Valley alone. There are further concerns that the storm may encourage the spread of Panama disease in the region, a disease caused by Fusarium oxysporum which severely affects banana plant yields.

Recovery and replanting will be a slow process, since once planted bananas take a further 9 months to mature until they can be harvested, but it is hoped the Department of Agriculture will be able to provide an assistance program.

Bananas are a key export industry in the Phillipines © Marlith via Wikimedia Commons (License CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Bananas are a key export industry in the Phillipines © Marlith via Wikimedia Commons (License CC-BY-SA 3.0)

References

‘Typhoon Affects Phillipine Banana Export’  6th December 2012, Manila Bulletin

‘Phillipines Buries It’s Dead As Typhoon Bopha Death Toll Rises’, 7th Decemeber 2012, The Guardian 

‘Phillipines: Pablo Destroys 1/4 of Banana Plantations, 6th December 2012, Fresh Plaza

Discovery of genes for resistance to black Sigatoka in bananas

Banana plant showing symptoms of black Sigatoka disease (Fred Brooks, University of Hawaii at Manoa, bugwood.org CC BY licence)

Researchers at Equador’s Biotechnology Research Centre (CIBE) have isolated the genes that are responsible for conferring resistance to black Sigatoka in the naturally resistant banana variety Musa Calcutta-4. Scientists have now been able to develop a protocol for the genetic transformation of banana cultivars Williams and Orito as well as the plantain cultivars Barraganete and Dominico. This involved creating the embryonic cell suspensions needed to complete these transformations. Black Sigatoka is caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis, which affects the leaves of banana plants, leaving them discoloured and wilting. Read more of this post

Banana genome revealed to aid crop yield improvement.

It is hoped this research will improve banana crop yields. (CC BY 3.0 Forest & Kim Starr)

Scientists working at CIRAD, a French research centre, have sequenced the banana genome for the first time. The researchers have been able to trace the evolution of the banana, as well as study the current genetic make-up of the species. This will help future research into why this crop is so susceptible to pests and disease. Improved varieties could then be developed, producing higher yields for farmers.

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Where did black sigatoka come from?

Effects of black sigatoka on plantain leaves in Colombia © Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Black sigatoka, or black leaf streak disease, a disease of bananas and plantains caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis, has caused widespread losses to banana crops over the past 50 years. A new study of the phylogeography of black sigatoka on banana leaves from around the world has helped to elucidate the recent origins of this fungal disease. Read more of this post

Down the pan

How about I start this week’s blog with a question……what is the common link between the newly-constructed toilet block in Kithimu market place and Maize streak virus (MSV)?

Left: The toilet block at Kithimu market (Credit: Claire Beverley ©CABI) and Right: Maize Streak Virus (Credit: AgBioForum)

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Creating super banana plants in the fight against nematode worms

Many banana plants cultivated in Africa are damaged by root nematodes © IITA

Scientists in the UK and Uganda are developing a genetically modified (GM) variety of banana that is resistant to nematode worms, which account for a high percentage of banana crop losses in Africa. It is estimated that the losses of crops due to nematodes amounts to $125 billion a year. Currently, nematodes are controlled using pesticides that can be toxic to humans and other organisms. The project, run by the Africa College at the University of Leeds and funded by BBSRC and DfID, has provided training to African-based scientists and aims to conduct trials of the banana plants in several African countries. Read more of this post

Weevils get bugged

Banana weevil, image from via rural

Never mind phone hacking scandals, it has recently been revealed that radio tags have been attached to banana weevils allowing their exact movements to be followed. Ignoring any controversy over invasions of privacy, this new insight into weevil journeys’ has produced some interesting results for researchers and banana growers alike.

Earlier this year a ‘weevil detector’ that could test for the presence of red palm weevils inside the trunks of palm trees allowed pesticides to be targeted more effectively. But stalking weevils has now reached a new level, as they get tracked on their daily commutes around banana plantations.

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