Bananas adrift in time – a case study in the Solomons

J.W. Daniells, G. Sachter-Smith, M. Taylor
Diseases, pests and environmental constraints pose a major threat to the sustainability of banana production globally. To address these challenges, the discovery and study of 'new' sources of genetic resistance and adaptability are required, along with the general conservation of diversity. The Solomon Islands, located in the south-western Pacific region near Papua New Guinea, are a major center of banana diversity. Some collections had been made by nationals of some of the diversity present but little was known internationally of the rich genetic resource present. Two separate visits to the Solomon Islands characterized banana collections, documented and collected germplasm, recommended conservation strategies and provided training in cultivar characterization. A remarkable range of genetic diversity was found, including: many AA and AAA cooking types somewhat like those present in Papua New Guinea; nine Fe'i cultivars in relatively common usage, and two undescribed wild species as well as five AAB Pacific Plantains and four ABB cooking bananas belonging to the Kalapua subgroup. About six of the unique cultivars were successfully collected and established in the regional in vitro germplasm collection of SPC in Suva, Fiji. Nine Solomon Islanders were trained in the finer points of characterizing banana cultivars. Further collecting and study/evaluation of this rich diversity will promote its appreciation and potential utilization for meeting the challenges and opportunities ahead. Future studies could also determine the spread of the 'Awawe' species and variability of morphological traits in the population. Community-based conservation could promote awareness of dietary diversity for better nutrition, via using the Fe'i bananas described in this paper. Establishing a virus-free regional field collection could help in comprehensively characterizing and evaluating regional Musa genetic resources. Existing sites could embrace the broader unique diversity of the Solomon Islands, and facilitate sharing this diversity in conjunction with a regional virus-tested in vitro collection.
Daniells, J.W., Sachter-Smith, G. and Taylor, M. (2016). Bananas adrift in time – a case study in the Solomons. Acta Hortic. 1114, 27-32
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1114.4
capacity building conservation, characterization, collection, diversity, evaluation, Musa, Solomon Islands

Acta Horticulturae