New banana varieties to 'manage' Panama disease

THE development of new banana varieties by the Southern Mindanao Agriculture Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development Consortium (Smaarrdec) is only one of the means to “manage” Fusarium Wilt or Panama disease among bananas, and not to fully control or eradicate the disease, said Smaarrdec official.

Smaarrdec, a consortium of 25 different government agencies, local government units (LGUs), and state universities and colleges implementing research and development initiatives, is still currently on its research and development projects in coming up with other Panama disease-resistant varieties of bananas.

According to Smaarrdec Regional Research and Development Coordinating Council chair doctor Lourdes Generalao, the consortium had been helping in managing the problem of Fusarium Wilt or Panama disease infestation by developing two varieties such as the GCTCB 218 and the GCTCB 219, which are believed to be disease-resistant.

A number of banana farmers in the region have started using the varieties in the hopes of lessening, if not fully avoid, the infestation.

“As long as the disease is there, they can only be managed but not fully eradicated. That’s the basic principle there because with Fusarium, it is soil-born. So anything that touches the soil can be a potential vector. That’s why we use the word ‘manage’ because we only contain the population of the disease in the level that is not very destructive,” said Generalao, who is also the president of the University of Southeastern Philippines (Usep).

“We continue to test if these are indeed the varieties we need. Research is a very long process, that’s why it is also very expensive. We should not stop in identifying these varieties,” said Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) president Stephen Antig in a separate interview.

Generalao shared that although Ecuador is one of the top banana exporting country in the world, the Philippines’ export value still exceeds that of Ecuador because of the Philippines’ banana production efficiency. This is despite the fact that the banana plantations in Ecuador are vaster than that of the Philippines.

“Our advantage here, as far as I know, is we have 6,000 contiguous hectares of Cavendish banana and that is in Tadeco. That is the only one in the world. For other plantations, they are divided into smaller plantations,” she said.

Generalao said she had recently been in Ecuador where she was asked to share knowledge about how Fusarium Wilt is being managed in the country.
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