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SCIENCE & PLANTS: Uganda scientists develop GM bacteria-resistant bananas



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   BANANA WILT BREAKTHROUGH BOON TO EAC

SOURCE:  East African Business Week, Tanzania

AUTHOR:  Editorial

URL:     http://www.busiweek.com/editorial/editorial/4654-banana-wilt-breakthrough-boon-to-eac

DATE:    04.03.2013

SUMMARY: "A major breakthrough for banana farmers and consumers alike was announced recently by the Chief Executive Officer of Crop Bioscience Solutions, Mr. Wilfred Mushobozi who reported that Uganda researchers at the Kawanda Research Institute, near Kampala, had developed a banana wilt-resistant variety. The Arusha-based scientist, told East African Business Week, that the wilt, is a bacterial disease caused by strain known scientifically as Xanthomonas campestris pv. Musacearum."

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BANANA WILT BREAKTHROUGH BOON TO EAC

Joint and concerted efforts by East African scientists, researchers and academicians is already beginning to pay off, a sign that integration is the best way forward the EAC.

A major breakthrough for banana farmers and consumers alike was announced recently by the Chief Executive Officer of Crop Bioscience Solutions, Mr. Wilfred Mushobozi who reported that Uganda researchers at the Kawanda Research Institute, near Kampala, had developed a banana wilt--resistant variety.

The Arusha -based scientist, told East African Business Week, that the wilt, is a bacterial disease caused by strain known scientifically as Xanthomonas campestris pv. Musacearum.

Reported around 2001, the wilt has been very destructive with incidence of 70-80% in many plantations and yield losses of 90% reported on thousands of farms. In Uganda records show it has caused annual losses of up to $360 million contribution to GDP.

Bananas and their cousin, the plantain, are a staple in East Africa, with Uganda having the highest consumption per capita in the whole world.

It is estimated that in Uganda alone, a person consumes 3.6kg per day and 191 kg per year. This is roughly 16 times the amount eaten by people living in the United States.

Bananas are a source of potassium and vitamins A, B6 and C, rich in minerals and dietary fibre and are easy to digest.

Scientists and nutritionists say that combined with milk, it is possible to live on these two food sources alone for an indefinite period of time.

They are also a rich energy source, with carbohydrates accounting for 22% and 32% of fruit weight for banana and plantain, respectively.

Because of their popularity, bananas are a cash crop for East African farmers, and their export sales fuel household incomes and exports mainly in the region?s cities and towns.

Bananas are also a source of medicine, clothing, tools, shelter, furniture, paper and handicrafts.

The news from Kawanda will be a welcome boon to farmers who after losing colossal acreages to the wilt, had resorted to growing other crops and/or giving up on farming, a move that has affected household incomes and challenged the economy.

Banana prices shot up causing inflation and distorting market forces considerably. The EAC members states should now get on a countrywide campaign to publicize the breakthrough, distribute new seed varieties and encourage farmers to grow the crop considering the health advantages enumerated above.

More importantly, scientists should be rewarded and many more encouraged to find home-grown solutions to local challenges. Integration is promoted in such ways.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   EA FARMERS TO GAIN FROM DISEASE RESISTANT BANANA

SOURCE:  East African Business Week, Tanzania

AUTHOR:  Kenan Kalagho

URL:     http://www.busiweek.com/the-eac-issues/eac-news/4630-ea-farmers-to-gain-from-disease-resistant-banana-

DATE:    04.03.2013

SUMMARY: "Farmers in the region are likely to benefit from the bacterial wilt resistant banana plantlets that have been developed in Uganda. The technology involves combining the genes of white pepper and that of bananas. [...] According to Wilfred Mushobozi, the Chief Executive Officer of Crop Bioscience Solutions [...] the newly developed wilt resistant crops will be distributed throughout East Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo free of charge to farmers."

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EA FARMERS TO GAIN FROM DISEASE RESISTANT BANANA

ARUSHA, TANZANIA - Farmers in the region are likely to benefit from the bacterial wilt resistant banana plantlets that have been developed in Uganda.

The technology involves combining the genes of white pepper and that of bananas. Banana wilt has been affected the quality of their yields and thereby reducing the prices of banana at the world market. With climate change, population increase, pest and diseases, soil infertility as well as drought due to climate unpredictability, scientists around the world are struggling to find the best ways of solving these challenges using modern methods.

According to Wilfred Mushobozi, the Chief Executive Officer of Crop Bioscience Solutions, who is also a scientist based in Arusha, Ugandan researchers at the Kawanda Research Institute have managed to breed banana wilt resistant crops. He stressed that the newly developed wilt resistant crops will be distributed throughout East Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo free of charge to farmers.

The bacterial wilt in Banana is caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum (Xcm) with symptoms that include progressive yellowing and wilting of leaves, shriveling of male buds, premature ripening and internal discoloration of fruits. For Uganda, it is estimated that the disease caused losses of up to US$35 million in 2005, and it was projected that in 2006 the country was expected to lose up to US$100 million as the disease had already spread to at least 30% of all banana growing areas.

According to reports from Agricultural and Development Research Institute, a large number of farms also were destroyed in 2006 in Kagera region in Tanzania, a region that borders Uganda to the north-western part.