Uganda goes bananas for the M-9 variety

Just over five years ago the National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) Kawanda released the M-9 banana variety; since then it has seen an unprecedented rate of adoption, due to its popularity among farmers and consumers. M-9 or Kabana 6H, is resistant to Black Sigatoka (BS) disease and tolerant to nematodes and weevils.

Dr. Jerome Kubiriba, the head of NARL's Banana Research programme said that south-western Uganda produces an estimated 12 million tonnes, which is 60 percent of the national output, while the central and eastern parts of Uganda produce 30 per cent.

"One reason why the Ankole sub-region produces more bananas than other sub-regions is the higher altitude at which it is located, where temperatures are cooler. Hence conditions are unfavourable for the breeding, reproduction and multiplication of weevils, nematodes and fungus, which cause Black Sigatoka disease," the scientist explained.

The situation is the opposite in Buganda, Bunyoro and Busoga, which are lower in altitude hence hotter and favourable to weevils, nematodes and BS infestations.

There is a rise in these in the three regions due to global warming, and therefore greater infection of the local banana varieties. Thus M-9, which is resistant/tolerant to the challenges, comes in handy to enable the farmers in Buganda, Bunyoro and Busoga to re-establish their banana plantations that have been affected.

The M-9, is a hybrid between Calcutta--an India-originated banana (which possesses lots of resistance to most tropical pests and diseases) and an East African Highland Banana (EAHB) variety which is among the Ugandan local types.

M-9 was bred by a team led by NARL's current director, Prof Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, and included scientists from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

To read the full article on Ugandan bananas, please click here.


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