In banana, nematodes, weevils and Panama disease globally affect food security, causing yearly crop losses of many billions of Euro in Canary Islands, Caribbean and Africa. In regions such as Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) millions of farmers rely on cooking banana, plantain and ensete as starch staple food crops and for income. Pesticides no longer represent a sustainable option for control, and many have been progressively withdrawn or are highly restricted. Increasingly banana production has to look to alternative IPM strategies to build a sustainable long-term future.
Real IPM Kenya and Biobest are partners in the EU sponsored Horizon 2020 project “Microbial Uptakes for Sustainable management of major banana pests and diseases (MUSA)”. As Dr Henry Wainwright from Real IPM Kenya said, “this project offers a great opportunity to achieve sustainable intensification of Musa spp. and ensete crops, through identification, development and implementation of IPM based on beneficial microorganisms”. The inaugural meeting of the project was recently held in Tenerife and Dr Lieselot Van der Veken (Biobest) and Collins Wanyama (Real IPM) attended and had the opportunity to visit banana plantations on the north side of Tenerife.
When interviewed for the local press Dr Van der Veken emphasised “Increasingly we are seeing the increased demand by consumers for lower pesticide use in food crops. This project has real opportunity to deliver sustainable crop protection solutions through the expanded use of microbes that will have the opportunity to replace pesticides. Increasingly there are new pathogens threatening this global crop and only by determined international cooperation can we tackle these challenges.” The project draws together partner organisations from Italy, Spain, Belgium, UK, Costa Rica, Cuba as well as Kenya and will run for the next four years. A major development of the project will be the identification and evaluation of endophytes and biocontrol agents (EBCAs) integrated with banana plant germplasm to develop information-based IPM strategies that have been tested in a variety of field conditions.