Saving a precious crop: sustainable management of the black Sigatoka disease of banana
Black Sigatoka, caused by Mycosphaerella fijiensis, is currently one of the major constraints for production of banana and plantain worldwide, including Sub-Saharan and East Africa where millions of people rely on these crops for daily sustenance. Conventional control strategies include resistance and pesticide use but neither are highly efficient and chemical control is furthermore harmful to the environment. In collaboration with Makarere University in Uganda, University of Copenhagen aims at testing a range of biologically based control agents against the disease. A key element in the protection strategy is to identify and test harmless naturally occurring agents which can stimulate the host plant to defend itself against the disease. Furthermore, the mechanisms by which they reduce disease will be examined. Such studies will increase the understanding of the interaction between host and pathogen and form the basis for understanding and utilising natural resistance against the pathogen efficiently (useful for breeding programmes). In addition, knowledge and methods generated in the current project can form the basis for solving other important disease problems in the area. Results from the project will be disseminated internationally and locally to farmers and their organisations. Furthermore, a commercial business partner will be approached at the end of the project to discuss the prospects for wider use of the findings.
Project Completion Report:
The overall objective was to contribute to the stabilisation of banana production in Uganda by improving management of Black Sigatoka, a menacing foliar disease of banana and plantam. The project was to deliver this impact by (1) Developing alternative tools for management of the disease focusing on induced resistance via piants extracts and microorganisms; (2) Elucidation of the interactions between host and pathogens in oreder to generate needed knowiedge for design of disease management strategies. Over the past three years, the following was achieved:
1. We have developed tools for conducting controlled experimentation of this very tall plant enabling more precise measurements to be made and thus generate needed knowiedge for design of disease management.
2. Effective, non-pathogenic inducers of resistance against M. fijiensis, the cause of Black Sigatoka have been identified including a strain of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens and the soil inhabiting fungus Fusarium oxysporum . We also identified extracts of the aromatic piants Tephrosia vogelli, Capsicum annuum (garlic) and Syzygium aromaticum (cloves) as particularly effective for disease control.
3. This project has trained two MSc students and one PhD student and up-graded research infrastructure that will support future related research in the country.
4. This project has established an international network to use advanced science
capacity in the north to address development challenges.