R. Markham
A brief review of banana research and development efforts over the past 20 years suggests that the major pre-occupations of banana researchers – leaf spots, Fusarium wilt, bacterial wilts, bunchy top, nematodes, weevils – have not greatly changed and that we have not ‘solved’ any of the major problems of growers. New pathogen problems, such as Xanthomonas wilt, have cropped up, and others in which research effort has been invested, such as the streak virus complex, remain intractable. Meanwhile, many of the solutions proposed, such as high-yielding, disease-resistant hybrids, genetically transformed versions of existing cultivars and forecasting systems to reduce spray applications, also look discouragingly familiar. And even where they have been delivered as promised by researchers, they have not been widely adopted by producers. On the other hand, papers submitted to this symposium do suggest a move away from such ‘single-technology’ solutions towards more integrated, knowledge-based approaches, which recognise the complexity of both the biophysical and the socio-economic dimensions of crop production problems. This trend is evident across the whole spectrum of research, from genetic modification projects that start by trying to understand the finer details of plant-pathogen interactions, to organic banana projects that seek to understand the underlying processes of crop and agro-ecosystem health, indicating some convergence between what would previously have been considered ‘high-tech’ and ‘low-tech’ approaches. It is also encouraging to see a greater emphasis on the social and policy environment that can enable or inhibit the adoption of new technologies, as well as the process of producer-level innovation as a whole. Unfortunately, the multidisciplinary study of complex systems is not cheap, and several years of consistent investment may be required to yield results. Similarly, the adoption of relatively complex, knowledge-based technologies implies a serious investment in capacity building at various levels. The onus is now on advocates of such approaches to demonstrate that the required investment is truly cost effective in terms of greater impacts and sustainability. In conclusion, it is argued that better targeting of research efforts and concerted international action provide the key to ensuring that the substantial investments required by integrated, knowledge-based approaches are indeed cost effective in practice.
Markham, R. (2009). MANAGING DISEASES AND PESTS OF BANANA: THE WAY AHEAD?. Acta Hortic. 828, 417-427
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2009.828.44

Acta Horticulturae