Experts suggest crops to replace those affected by climate change

Plantains have been suggested as an alternative to potatoes (Credit: Kurun)

Members of the banana family could become a vital food source for millions in developing countries, a new report suggests. The report was written by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) after a request was made by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). CGIAR looked at the effect of climate change on the 22 most important agricultural commodities then suggested a number of crops which may take over as key nutritional providers in the future.

Continue reading

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, 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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading