"Costa Rica is the fourth or fifth largest banana producer and the largest exporter of pineapples", says the researcher. "The climate is perfect for disease; in the soil as well as airborne diseases." Black Sigatoka is the most significant challenge for the banana farmers in that country. "We would have lost half the trees if we did not continually use pesticides to prevent its spread."
Kyle is researching the control of the disease. "We are developing technology that produces beneficial enzymes from fermented bacteria. These enzymes are applied to the base of the trees leaves. Here it attacks the fungus, breaking through the cell wall, which weakens the disease. It works in the same way as a pesticide", continues Kyle. They are also working on boosting the trees' resistance. "So far, we have noticed that almost 20% fewer pesticides are needed when we use this technique."