Banana farmers in Chitwan are switching to G9 bananas because the formerly more common Malbhog variety is being increasingly plagued by disease. However, growers have not been able to completely give up the Malbhog banana. Although G9 is less prone to disease and has higher productivity, farmers are not much interested in this green variety because it is not as marketable.
Indra Dhungana, agriculture officer of the banana zone of the Prime Minister's Agriculture Modernisation Project Chitwan, said that banana is being cultivated on 2,000 hectares in Chitwan.
Most farmers grow the Malbhog variety. Recently, a disease called Panama Will has appeared on Malbhog banana crops. It is a type of fungal disease which makes the leaves turn yellow.
Dhungana said that the problem had been seen in many banana fields. After the disease infects one plant, it does not take long for it to spread to the entire field, he said, adding that farmers faced a great risk. He said that about 30 percent of the banana fields in Chitwan had been ravaged by the Panama disease.
Meghnath Timilsena, chief of the Project Implementation Unit of the Prime Minister's Agriculture Modernisation Project, compared Panama disease to Covid-19. There is a high risk of the disease being transferred from one plant to another, he said. It also spreads quickly. Its character is very similar to that of Covid-19, he said.
Banana farmers also said that the disease had spread, putting the banana farming business at risk. Though the G9 variety has high resistance to the disease due to some special features, farmers are not interested in growing it.