The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute (KALRO) has developed three Black Sigatoka/Black Streak tolerant banana varieties for various topographic regions in the country, insulating farmers from loses while shielding bananas from extinction considering that the fungus affect 90 per cent of 1000 banana varieties in the world, according to FAO.
Cavendish, a banana variety that accounts for 95 per cent of all bananas sold commercially is highly susceptible to the fungus.
The three varieties: Dessert or FH1A23; Goldfinger or FH1A01 and Dual Purpose/ FHIA 02 TU8 were recently identified through mutation induction technique that involves exposing seed to chemicals or radiations to generate mutants with desirable traits to bred with other cultivators. Goldfinger was first developed in Honduras in 1977 from a cross breed of SH-1739 and a local variety from Papua New Guinea. KALRO rode on gains made on Dessert and Dual Purpose varieties in Asia to make cultivators suitable for various climatic conditions in the country.
The most dreaded disease has the potential to wipe out entire banana plantation, causing 50-90 per cent losses according to FAO which is also working towards developing a more superior variety in conjunction with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Although there are a number of fungicides in the market to deal with black streak, they are hazardous and too expensive especially for stallholder farmers who mostly grow the crop for domestic consumption. The virus which normally burn banana leaves was first detected in Ivory Coast in late 50s.
The three varieties take 100-150 days to mature after flowing, a period much longer than other contemporary varieties. However, economically, their abilities to withstand black streak make them more viable. FAO estimates that close to 400m people entirely depend on banana for food.
According to Grace Watani, KALRO Thika, seedling for these varieties are available at most KALRO branches across the country and goes for Sh110 per piece.
For more information on this varieties, contact
KALRO Head office on 0722206986 or 0722206988 or Thika Branch on 0202055038