Panic as New Banana Disease Sweeps the Tropics

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By- Cliff Abenaitwe

Uganda has been put on alert by reports of a deadly viral banana disease- Banana bunchy top disease (BBT) in the neighboring countries. The disease has already wreaked havoc in Eastern Congo, some parts of Rwanda and it also reported in Burundi.

According to Doctor Fen Beed,(right) Imagea pathologist with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) based in Dar es Salaam, this dangerous disease is in Eastern Democratic republic of Congo and in the neighboring Rwanda; not far away from Uganda. According to Fen, this disease viral disease attacks and completely destroys all banana varieties and is transmitted by aphids. 

This disease is spread through plant materials like Matooke, banana suckers or other banana materials when transported from an infected area to another. “It is this mode of spread that puts the neighboring countries at risk. That is why we are on alert and ready,” Doctor Kephas Nowakunda a research officer with the national banana research program at the National agricultural Research organization (NARO) explains.

Scientists say that this disease is as deadly as the viral banana bacterial wilt which has already destroyed thousands of acres of banana plantations in Uganda.

Doctor Nowakunda reveals that following reports of this disease outbreak in Congo and Rwanda, Uganda has been on alert. “After this disease was reported in DRC and Rwanda, we dispatched a team of scientists to monitor our borders. The team discovered that the disease is not yet in Ugandan and since then, we are closely monitoring the situation,” he explains.

According to Doctor Nowakunda this disease is easy to recognize once it attacks your plantation. “Every vigilant farmer can recognize this disease. It makes the leaves stunted, they become yellow especially along the edge, and the plant becomes stunted,” the researcher elaborates.

With the possibility of this disease spreading to Uganda, farmers in banana rich western part of the country are now having sleepless nights after witnessing the destruction of their plantations by another viral disease -Banana Bacterial wilt.

Doctor Charles Lagu, scientists with the Mbarara zonal agricultural institute says that farmers must adopt improved disease resistant yet quick maturing banana varieties or stand to witness the demise of their income and food source.impp

NARO- the principal research organization in Uganda has already developed banana types like M20, M9, and M21 which mature fast, are disease resistant and they give high yields while trials for genetically modified varieties are in advanced stages.

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