Establishment of research facility for banana industry pushed
- Rudy A. Fernandez () - December 7, 2011 - 12:00am

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines — A banana research center is in the offing.

The center has been envision by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Sen. Antonio Trillanes to provide technical services to banana growers in the country on full government funding.

The establishment of such a center was among the long-term strategies proposed by representatives of government and private agencies and institutions who met here recently to address the banana industry’s concerns.

Representated in the dialogue were the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD), Bioversity International, Techno-Market Consolidators Inc., and Pontmain Resources Inc.

Dialogue participants said they will seek Congress support for a banana research center that will be like the Philippine Sugar Research Institute (Philsurin), which is a private sector initiative. Philsurin is funded from contributions of P2 per Lkg (50-kilogram bag) sugar from all sugar producers.

The proposed banana center can be funded by collecting five cents, for every box of banana produced. With an estimated 65 million boxes of banana produced per year, contributions could reach $3.2 million.

Another long-term strategy conceived is the conduct of on-site trials of GC TCV-119, a Cavendish banana variety resistant to Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc), which causes the deadly Fusarium wilt or Panama disease.

Bioversity International (represented in the dialogue by Dr. Agustin Molina), through Lapanday Foods Corp. in Davao City, will provide tissue-cultured planting materials to be distributed to PBGEA members. The mother plants will be sourced from the National Germplasm Collection housed at the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry-National Crop Research and Development Center (DA-BPI-NCRDC) in Davao City.

A short-term measure recommended was a two-pronged approach to prevent further spread of the disease; early detection and monitoring, and eradication.

Banana farmers will be trained to recognize the disease’s symptoms early so that the infested plants can be immediately destroyed to prevent spread of the disease.

Fusarium wilt is a soil-borne fungal disease that causes banana plants to be stunted, wilt, and produce dry hanging leaves. It was first reported in Panama in the 1890s, devastating more than 40,000 hectares of banana plants in Central and South America over a period of 50 years.

The disease has since spread to other countries.

As of 2009, the area planted to Cavendish banana in the country was 77,600 ha or 18 percent of the 446,371 ha of total area planted to banana, now the country’s top fruit export product.

Cavendish production was 4.5 million tons, or about half the total banana production during the year. Davao del Norte (the top producer), Campostela Valley, and Bukidnon accounted for 81 percent of Cavendish production.

ANTONIO TRILLANES BANANA BIOVERSITY INTERNATIONAL CAMPOSTELA VALLEY CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA DAVAO CITY DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE-BUREAU OF PLANT INDUSTRY-NATIONAL CROP RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY-PHILIPPINE COUNCIL DR. AGUSTIN MOLINA FORESTRY AND NATURAL RESOURCES RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FUSARIUM
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