A new project to control bunchy top disease in West Africa launched by The University of Queensland

A project aimed at boosting banana production and improving livelihoods of banana farmers in communities blighted by the banana bunchy top disease (BBTD) in Nigeria and also in Benin, led by The University of Queensland (Australia) was launched at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, on 27  May 2016.

The project “BBTV Mitigation: Community Management in Nigeria, and Screening Wild Banana Progenitors for Resistance,” which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to develop and implement strategies for BBTD control at the community level in areas with high infection rates in Nigeria and Benin, where bananas are grown for food and income. Community involvement will be an integral part of the project, which will ensure long-term control of BBTD by facilitating access to a reliable supply of disease-free planting materials for farmers.

“In addition to activities in Africa, the project will also explore possible sources of natural resistance to the disease in wild banana from Southeast Asia where the crop originates,” said Prof. John Thomas, Virologist and the lead investigator of the project from The University of Queensland.

“This project has a major component on institutional capacity building and strengthening production of disease-free planting material,” said Dr Akinyemi, Head of the Banana program at NIHORT, Nigeria, and collaborator in the project.

“Intensive efforts are required to prevent the further expansion in these countries” said Martine Tachin, collaborator in the project from the University of Agriculture Kétou, Benin

“The project will also develop improved methods including on-site applications for diagnosing the disease and contribute to shoring up gaps in the epidemiology of banana bunchy top disease in West Africa”, added Dr Lava Kumar, Head of the Germplasm Health Unit/Virologist at IITA, and also the coordinator of the CRP-RTB BBTV ALLIANCE cluster.

The project will support and build on previous work by the ‘RTB BBTV Alliance’— a multinational, multi-stakeholder, interdisciplinary team formed under the framework of the CGIAR Roots, Tubers and Banana (CRP-RTB) program, to mount a coordinated action to halt the expansion of banana bunchy top (BBTV) disease and recover banana production in the disease-affected areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

BBTD, caused by the banana bunchy top virus (BBTV), is the most serious virus disease of banana worldwide. There is no known natural immunity to BBTV in wild or cultivated banana and infection which is mostly spread by the banana aphid and through the use of infected planting material, often leads to total yield loss. Losses in the developing world can be very high and in many areas of sub-Saharan Africa, where it continues to spread virtually unabated, they range from 50% to 100%. Extensive disease spread into new production areas has been observed during the last two decades although BBTV has only appeared recently in Benin (2011) and Nigeria (2012) and at present its distribution is limited in these countries

Collaborators in this project include IITA, National Institute of Horticulture (NIHORT) Nigeria, University of Agriculture Kétou (Benin), Bioversity International, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (UK), Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD, France), Botanical Gardens Meise, (Belgium), and national institutes in Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam.


For more information, contact: John Thomas (John.Thomas@daf.qld.gov.au), The University of Queensland; Lava Kumar (L.kumar@cgiar.org), IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria

For media inquiries, contact: Katherine Lopez (k.lopez@cgiar.org), IITA Head of Communication.


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