Disease tolerant bananas introduced to Pacific
A new variety of banana is being introduced to Pacific countries to safeguard them from a dangerous strain of Panama disease.
A new variety of bananas is being introduced to Pacific countries to safeguard them from a dangerous strain of Panama disease.
Six new varieties of the Giant Cavendish banana were received by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in April.
A SPC plant pathologist, Tony Gunua, told Christopher Gilbert they are tolerant to the disease which has destroyed banana crops in South America, Australia, and Indonesia.
TONY GUNUA: So, it can withstand the disease and still produce. Unlike before where Cavendish wasn't very tolerant of Tropical Race 4. When it gets it, it just dies, no producing anything. So 'tolerant' means it has some resistance to tolerate the disease.
CHRISTOPHER GILBERT: Now the SPC has received these six new varieties what will happen to them? Will they be distributed to countries and islands throughout the Pacific?
TG: Yes, currently mass-multiply it and then give it to countries upon request, all of the island countries in the Pacific yes.
CG: And then it's up to those countries to decide what they will do with them?
CG: How much of an issue is Panama disease in the Pacific? I know that in Central and South America, and in South-East Asia, over the last 100 years it's been an issue, but in terms of the Pacific Islands how prevelant is it?
TG: The records that we have here is there is Race 1 that was responsible for the catastrophic diseas in Panama (where the name is derived). We have it but it is non-agressive. It was reported in Saipan, that's Northern Marianas, PNG, Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia, Pohnpei, but they are they non-aggressive types. The one that is very damaging is the Tropical Race 4. That's in South-East Asia and it entered Australia in the 1990s. It's contained. It's in Indonesia but not in Papua New Guinea and not in the rest of the Pacific so that's why SPC had to take the six varieties tolerant to Race 4.
CG: It's a precautionary step.
TG: That's right. So that the people will have it when it comes. It will kill the normal Cavendish varieties but these tolerant ones will withstand the disease if it happens that the disease comes into our region. So it's kind of a precaution yes.
CG: How urgent is it to distribute these tolerant varieties, is it quite urgent?
TG: No, there is no imminent threat because now there is a protocol, the Safety Material Transfer Agreements. It means that all bananas that go to a new country has to be indexed for diseases. The SPC has been doing that.
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