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Success in banana disease field trial

Plant genome company Evogene Ltd. and banana biotechnology company Rahan Meristem (1998) Ltd. have successfully field tested banana varieties that are resistant tolerance to Black Sigatoka (also known as Black Leaf Streak Disease), the most damaging disease threatening commercial banana plantations.

The joint project seeks to discover and validate genes with the potential to resist Black Sigatoka. As part of Rahan field trials, bananas with genes discovered by Evogene, through its ATHLETETM computational technology, demonstrated a lower infection rate than banana crops which did not contain the selected genes.

Current methods to control Black Sigatoka include the use of fungicides, which can account for 30% of a grower’s production cost and adds 15-20% to bananas' retail price. In addition to this substantial cost, frequent use of fungicides has significant adverse environmental and health effects.

“With banana constituting the world’s fourth most valuable food staple, Black Sigatoka is particularly devastating, affecting over 50% of this $2.5 billion crop,” said Rahan CEO Ron Dinar. “The disease has the capacity to reduce yields by 35-50%, causing tremendous impact to growers in major producing countries of Central America, the Caribbean Islands, Africa and the Far East." He added that the initial field trial results have the potential to combat one of the world’s most devastating crop diseases.

Evogene president and CEO Ofer Haviv said, "Our joint work with Rahan is one of our first collaborations in the biotic field. We are very pleased with these results which reinforce our confidence in the applicability of our unique discovery capabilities with respect to plant diseases and other biotic threats." He added that he hoped to expand the collaboration with Rahan to provide a more effective, healthier, and economically viable alternative to the use of fungicides in banana cultivation.

Source: www.globes-online.com

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