Colombia: Clonal innovation and development projects in banana crops

Meristemos Colombia SAS and Rahan Meristem, in partnership with the Banana Association of Magdalena and La Guajira - ASBAMA, held the "Clonal and in-crops innovation and development projects to face the new threats and challenges of banana cultivation" conference. The goal of the event was to provide producers with support tools to increase their productivity through the generation of technologies that are adapted to local production conditions, and that are aimed at reducing costs, and increasing the economic and environmental competitiveness of banana crops.

The event was held at the Best Western Plus Hotel and was attended by 70 people, including technical assistants, engineers, producers, members of the administrative team of the companies related to the Association, and senior students of the Agronomic Engineering program of the Universidad del Magdalena.

The conference was presided by the Executive President of Asbama, Jose Francisco Zuñiga Cotes, and the General Manager of Meristemos Colombia, Yanai Nir's. One of the speakers, Dr. Eli KHayat, the Scientific Director of Rahan Meristem, made a presentation about the results of genetic research in banana crops.

During his speech, he said the banana and plantain were foods of mass consumption, and that the plantations worldwide have been affected by very aggressive diseases such as Black Sigatoka and Fusarium Wilt R4T, among others, which caused great losses to farmers and forced them to reduce the product supply and promote the stocks in the markets. This has led to the creation of genetic projects aimed at creating plants that are resistant or tolerant to these diseases.

"The research developed for the genetic improvement of banana and plantain has been directed towards obtaining clones that are resistant to fungal and viral diseases, as well as to improving the fruit's quality, increasing yields per hectare, obtaining fruits of greater weight per bunch, and the search for plants of low size. However, it is important to note that these varieties are not genetically modified, "concluded the Scientific Director of Rahan Meristem, Eli KHayat.

The Head of Research and Development of CI Tecbaco SA, Engineer Fabian Fonseca, who was also a speaker at the event, said Colombia produced an average of 2,200 boxes of bananas per hectare a year and that the country's potential was greater than 3,200 boxes per hectare a year. To achieve this, he said, producers must work on plant nutrition by applying the appropriate irrigation sheets, calculating salt washing and quantifying the contribution of salts (via irrigation). This will guarantee a soil management where the roots are correctly formed and the adsorption of nutrients is more efficient.

According to Engineer Fabian Fonseca, "to achieve an effective irrigation management, producers need to perform a comprehensive analysis of the variables to develop nutrition programs in banana cultivation. It is a complex issue that requires detailed climate monitoring through meteorological stations, soil monitoring through chemical analysis and field mapping, water analysis, and crop development. This is the only way to achieve nutrition programs that enhance productivity and ensure the sustainability of the crops."

At the end of the event, the attendees highlighted the importance of the issues that were discussed in the conference saying that it would allow them to implement projects to increase their productivity, generating technologies adapted to the local production conditions, reducing their dependence on agrochemicals, and contributing to the sustainable development of the banana agro-industry in the region.

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