Filipino govt to distribute Panama disease-free banana seeds

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Filipino govt to distribute Panama disease-free banana seeds

The Filipino Government plans to develop Panama disease-free banana seedlings in the next four years in a bid to eradicate the disease, the Manila Bulletin reported.

The story reported the move has been made to bail out the country's largest farm export industry, which accounts for US$400 million in exports annually.

To date the disease, also known as fusarium wilt, has affected 600 hectares of export Cavendish banana plantations in Southern a Mindanao. The disease was responsible for wiping out the dominant Gros Michel variety in the 1950s, having originated in Surinam.

A solution was found to that problem was found through the Vietnamese Cavendish cultivar, which has since grown to become the major banana crop in global export markets. However, a new strain of Panama disease has broken out in Asia which has been attacking Cavendish plants.

The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARD) told the bulletin it was confident the government could wipe out the disease, through a program of disease-resistant seed propagation with private nurseries.

The program will cater for small independent farmer-producers with properties of around 10 hectares, and will give out the seedlings for free, the story reported.

Field trials will take place with Taiwanese developedr esistant Cavendish varieties GCTCV-119 and GCTCV-218, in partnership with Bioversity International.

The story reported the PCAARD supports a bill in Congress to create a Banana Research Center.

While the government is pushing to eradicate the problem, the private sector is getting involved too. Exporter Lapanday Foods Corp plans to produce 1,000 Panama disease-free seedlings through tissue culture, which it will distribute to members of the the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association.

"The mother plants for the tissue culture will come from the National Germplasm Collection housed at the Bureau of Plant Industry-Davao National Crops Research and Development Center," the PCAARD was quoted as saying.

"Infected plants will be destroyed to prevent spread of the disease."

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