Banana is, next to mango, among the most important fruits in India. It is also not surprising that it is the most popular fruit in the United States. In Africa, plantains and banana are essential food security kitchen staples. Perhaps the most important banana strain is Cavendish, which accounts for 50% of all worldwide production. A major natural enemy of this variety is Fusarium wilt disease that spreads via the Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense fungi. The good news is that ICAR-National Research Centre for Banana in India recently developed a new wilt-resistant Cavendish “Grand Naine” mutant. Grand Nain or Grande Naine is among the most cultivated Musa bananas.
Following this great development, Selina Wamucii talked Dr. R. Selvarajan, Director, ICAR-National Research Centre for Banana, in Tamil Nadu.
Dr. Selvarajan begins by stating what drove NRCB to develop the new resistant banana.
”The incidence of fusarium wilt on cv.Grand Naine made ICAR-NRCB to work on the development of wilt resistant Grand Naine,” he says.
And how effective are the new Cavendish bananas against Fusarium wilt disease?
Dr. Selvarajan explains: “the Grand Naine variant (NRCBGNMG 1) developed through gamma irradiation was screened for fusarium wilt in pot culture, sick plots and hotspot areas to confirm their resistance against fusarium wilt.”
Farmers will also gladly know that the Cavendish mutant is still a natural banana but provides natural resistance to wilt.
”This wilt resistant mutant is as same as Grand Naine except conferring resistance to wilt,” expands Dr. Selvarajan.
Wilt Resistant Grand Naine Distribution across India
Pointedly, in August 2023, the state of Uttar Pradesh set up a 2.8 crore ($336,335.4) banana culture lab. So, is the new Cavendish banana getting prioritization in UP or other parts of India as well?
“It has been distributed to other parts of India besides UP under AICRP (Fruits),” advises Dr. Selvarajan. “It is being tested in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, and West Bengal.”
The director adds that with the coming of the wilt-resistant mutant: “yes, (banana acreage) is expected to increase.”
This partly applies to Uttar Pradesh where 68,000 hectares of bananas are currently under cultivation.
The Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research (ICAR) also played a part in this significant development. Thus, are we likely to see improvements in sugarcane, too?
”May be,” quips the director.
African farmers, especially in Uganda, have been battling Fusarium wilt on their staple crop for years. Is there a way in which NRCB’s breakthrough could also benefit them by way of diplomacy?
”If they ask for plants, it could be supplied,” finishes Dr. Selvarajan on this diplomatic note.