Book on RP bananas off the press
- Rudy S. Fernandez () - December 14, 2002 - 12:00am
A book titled "The Wild and Cultivated Bananas of the Philippines" is off the press.

The 242-page volume is written by Dr. Ramon V. Valmayor, president of the Philippine Agriculture and Resources Research Foundation, Inc. (PARRFI); Dr. Rene Rafael Espino of UP Los Baños (UPLB); and Orlando Pascua, collection curator and superintendent of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) Davao Experiment Station.

The monograph’s principal sponsors is the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR). Co-sponsors were the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain-Banana Asia Pacific Network (NIBAP-BAPNET), DA, PARRFI, and Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD).

Dr. Valmayor, former PCARRD director general and UPLB professor, said in the books’ Preface that banana is native to Southeast Asia and the Philippines is within its center of origin and diversity.

From its home in Southeast Asia, the banana was introduced to Africa and Latin America where it gained greater popularity and economic importance.

A few samples trickled to Europe – in hot-houses by rare plant collectors and fruit enthusiasts. These rare specimens became the basis for the original description of Musa paradisiaca Linn. and Musa sapientum Linn.

"Latin America and the Caribbean should be credited for develping banana as the premier fruit in the international export market," averred Dr. Valmayor, who had also served as INIBAP-Asia Pacific Network (now INIBAP-BAPNET) regional coordinator.

He added: The benefits of the banana export industry have spread to many countries in the developing world, including the Philippines.

Dr. Fernando A. Bernardo, former deputy director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), wrote in the books’ Foreword that although Southeast Asia is the recognized center of origin of wild and cultivated bananas, it was Karl von Linne or Carolus Linnaeus, after studying the banana accessions in Europe in the 1750s, who recognized two species of edible bananas: Musa paradisiaca or cooking banana and Musa sapientum or dessert banana.

These scientific names for edible bananas remained unchallenged for almost two centuries.

"Scientific studies on the morphology and classification of bananas in their center of origin have been at best sporadic beginning in the nineteenth century," said Dr. Bernardo, also a retired UPLB professor.

A few landmark studies such as those by Fray Manuel Blanco in the 1830s, Nicanor Teodoro in the early 1910s, and Eduardo A. Quisumbing in the late 1910s are worthy of note, but more studies are needed.

"For the first time," Dr. Bernardo pointed out, "we have a monograph that assembled a wealth of scientific literature as well as innovative approaches and analytical thinking on the characterization and classification of wild and cultivated bananas in the Philippines – thanks to the leadership and keen scientific efforts of Dr. Ramon V. Valmayor, foremost expert of bananas in Southeast Asia."

In the colorful and well-illustrated monograph, the authors have presented two new species of Musa and a new subspecies of Musa acuminata. Further, they have presented the latest classification and characterization of Philippine banana cultivars.

The present list of 91 cultivars include 41 varities described for the first time. Included is the long listing of cultivars and many synonyms in Southeast Asia.

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