Plant doctor advice increasing availability of clean banana suckers in Kitema, Uganda

By Mary Bundi and Charles Tumuhe

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In Uganda the majority of the young people are unemployed, and efforts to create employment opportunities within the agriculture sector are yielding little to no interest among them. Agriculture is not viewed as a viable employment sector, due to the perceptions that agriculture as a profession is labour intensive, results in high crop losses from pests and diseases, and generates low income with little profitability that cannot support their livelihoods.

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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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