The performance of East African highland bananas released in farmers' fields and the need for their further improvement
East African highland bananas (AAA, EAHB) form over 80% of the banana cultivars in the Great Lakes region and are a source of food and income for over 40 million in the region. The production of these bananas has been constrained by pests, diseases, soil fertility decline and most recently climate change stresses. Farmers have been managing these problems using cultural practices. These are sometimes effective, such as for Xanthomonas wilt control, but can also be very demanding. For others, no cultural control practices exist, such as for instance for nematodes in established plantations. The banana research program of the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) in Uganda therefore focuses on the improvement of bananas for pest/disease resistance and fruit quality through conventional and molecular breeding to sustain banana production. In collaboration with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the NARO breeding program has developed and officially released a number of banana hybrids to the farming communities, including 'Kabana 6H' (syn. 'M9') and 'Kabana 7H' (syn. 'M2'). The released and promising hybrids have resistance to black leaf streak and tolerance to nematodes and weevils. Their overall consumer acceptability is not significantly different from that of the landrace local check. The recipient communities value the hybrids since they are being widely distributed through sales and giveaways in addition to recipient farmers expanding their plots. However, these hybrids are susceptible to Xanthomonas wilt, and are very tall and prone to wind damage. There is an opportunity to improve the hybrids for above-mentioned and other traits exploiting Musa's over 36,000 genes in the sequenced genome.
Kubiriba, J., Ssali, R.T., Barekye, A., Akankwasa, K., Tushemereirwe, W.K., Batte, M., Karamura, E.B. and Karamura, D. (2016). The performance of East African highland bananas released in farmers' fields and the need for their further improvement. Acta Hortic. 1114, 231-238
breeding, consumer acceptability, hybrids, pest and disease resistance