Wednesday 04 June 2014,Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) – Suva, Fiji. Six new varieties of the Giant Cavendish banana that are tolerant to Panama disease were received by the Centre for the Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) from Bioversity International Transit Centre, Belgium in April this year.
Panama disease is one of the most catastrophic diseases of banana in the world. It destroyed thousands of bananas in Central and South America in the early 1900s. To date, it is still an important disease in those areas and also in the South-east Asia region.
Some non-aggressive strains of the fungus that causes Panama disease have been recorded in a few countries of the Pacific but they are of no significance or threat to banana cultivation in the region. Control of this disease relies heavily on the use of clean planting material, tolerant varieties and a vigilant screening and monitoring system in the transfer of planting material. The most effective system of combating the disease is by growing tolerant varieties and/or variants like those now acquired by SPC CePaCT. These new tolerant varieties can withstand the disease and still bear fruit for human consumption.
CePaCT was assisted in acquiring the new varieties by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), together with CePaCT’s global linkages to international genebanks, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Banana Asia Pacific Network (BAPNET). The new varieties are the products of over 20 years of intensive research and development efforts by the Taiwan Banana Research Institute (TBRI) and its collaborative partners.
CePaCT also received five other new banana varieties, including the Yangambi km5 variety, known to be tolerant to the burrowing nematode, Radopholus similis, that destroys the roots of the banana plant, causing it to topple over. These five banana varieties, together with five sugarcane varieties of considerable potential for the sugar industry, were obtained from Guadeloupe, French West Indies, as part of CePaCT’s germplasm exchange programme through the SPC EU-funded International Network for Edible Aroids. CePaCT sent taro varieties resistant to leaf blight to Guadeloupe in exchange for these banana and sugarcane lines.
Damage caused by pests and diseases often results in huge losses in crop production and revenue. Their impacts on food security are even more disastrous than impacts caused by natural and climate disasters.
The SPC Land Resources Divisions Food and Nutrition Security Programme through CePaCT continues to be active in sourcing improved diversity of food crops to strengthen the resilience of the Pacific’s food security and livelihoods, despite the global challenges.