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John L. Griffis Jr., Ph.D

Biotechnology consulting bears fruit for African banana growers

John L. Griffis Jr., Ph.D., made his first consulting trip to Malawi in southeastern Africa in August 2019. He has since continued to volunteer his knowledge remotely during the pandemic. Aided by nonprofit organization Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) and federally funded, his work has included guiding the setup of biotechnology laboratories and training farmers and local volunteers in banana production, pest and disease control, soil management and post-harvest handling of crops to minimize loss.

Griffis’ expertise in propagating plants from tissue culture and his hands-on experience combating a highly infectious banana virus are helping farmers a world away revive a heavily affected fruit industry.

Most importantly, he’s empowering growers to fight the banana bunchy top virus, which halts fruit production and is responsible for Malawi losing about 90 percent of its banana plantations since the mid-1990s, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. As a result of the virus, Malawi has resorted to importing crops, which still doesn’t meet demand and drives up consumer prices.


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