Faced with the threat of multiple pests and diseases, banana producers in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries are increasingly looking to alternative integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to build a long-term sustainable future, according to crop management company Biobest.
Along with Real IPM Kenya, Biobest is a partner of the EU-sponsored Horizon 2020 project, ‘Microbial uptakes for sustainable management of major banana pests and diseases’ (MUSA).
The inaugural meeting of the project recently took place in Tenerife, with Dr Lieselot Van der Veken of Biobest and Collins Wanyama of Real IPM in attendance.
Dr Henry Wainwright of Real IPM Kenya commented: “This project offers a great opportunity to achieve sustainable intensification of Musa spp [banana] and ensete crops, through identification, development and implementation of IPM based on beneficial microorganisms.”
The banana sector in the Canary Islands, the Caribbean and Africa suffers yearly crop losses worth billions of euros as a result of nematodes, weevils and Panama disease. In regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, millions of farmers rely on bananas, plantains and ensete for both food and income.
For such farmers, pesticides no longer represent a sustainable option for controlling disease, according to Biobest, with many being progressively withdrawn or highly restricted.
“Increasingly, we are seeing the increased demand by consumers for lower pesticide use in food crops,” said Biobest’s Van der Veken. “This project has a 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, which is set to run for the next four years, draws together partner organisations from Italy, Spain, Belgium, the UK, Costa Rica and Cuba, as well as Kenya.
According to Biobest, a major part 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”.