An international project whose goal is to boost banana production in Tanzania and Uganda brings together a team of international researchers to deliberate on delivery of hybrid varieties to farmers. The team will be coming together from  23 April to 27 April at the Arusha-based Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) to review their progress and plan for next years’ activities.

Lead banana breeder at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and project’s team leader, Prof. Rony Swennen said: “The Breeding Better Banana project is focused on breeding varieties that farmers like and with resistance against the key problems. However, bananas are difficult to breed because they are sterile and do not produce seeds. “Breeders deal with this (challenge) by using fertile parent varieties that produce seed, but the process takes a long time. ”The Breeding Better Bananas Project seeks to deliver to farmers the much needed improved high yielding and disease resistant hybrid varieties that are expected to have 30%  higher yield compared to the current varieties grown by farmers under similar conditions.

The project is focusing on the two most popular cooking bananas in the region, East Africa Highland Banana (EAHB) also known as Matooke, and Mchare which is grown mostly in Tanzania. The project brings together leading banana researchers from Tanzania, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, India, Kenya, Malaysia, South Africa, Sweden, Uganda and the USA. The project has ascertained that the pathogens spreading black Sigatoka disease are spreading to new areas, perhaps due to climate change. For sustainability, the project is also nurturing the next generation of banana researchers, through post-graduate student and technical staff training in advanced breeding techniques.

The project is conducted within the framework of CGIAR Research Programme on Roots, Tubers and Bananas. – Daily News

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