New banana variety gives Philippine growers "hope to rise again"
Some growers in the Philippine region of Davao are already taking to a new Panama Disease Tropical Race IV-resistant banana cultivar released by the country's Department of Agriculture (DA).
In a release, the DA said the Giant Cavendish tissue-culture variant (GCTCV 219) was sweeter than the Grande Naine variety due to its significantly higher starch levels that convert into sugars during ripening, while it also had more titratable solids and fewer acids.
The variety's acceptability for the international market was highlighted during a recent field day held at the Almocera Farm in Bagongon, Compostela Valley.
Research Farmer Cooperator Gilton Almocera said he would be harvesting the first batch of his GCTCV 219 variety in May.
"I thank the DA for extending its hand to us in addressing this problem. This has given banana farmers hope to rise again," Almocera said, adding he had lot millions of pesos from the infestation of Panama Disease - also known as Fusarium Wilt- in his four-hectare banana plantation.
DA-Region 11 Integrated Laboratories Division Dr. Susan Razo encouraged banana growers in the Davao Region to submit the necessary documents in order to acquire the tissue-cultured seedlings.
"After completion of the necessary documents, the beneficiaries will undergo training on how to grow the GCTCV 219 variety," Razo said.
The region has a total of PHP102 million (US$2.3 million) budgeted by the DA to fight Fusarium Wilt this year.
DA-Region 11 High-Value Crops Development Program coordinator Melani Provido said this budget was allotted due to the demand for appropriate interventions, such as control and management, regulatory measures and information dissemination.
"Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala prioritized the program to eradicate if not minimize the spread of the disease, which could compromise the country’s booming banana industry," Provido said.
A few drawbacks
Despite the cultivar's disease-resistant benefits, banana information-sharing service ProMusa said it did have some drawbacks such as a very tall pseudostem, a short fruit stalk, a long crop cycle, and few hands.
"In an evaluation trial conducted in the Philippines, its agronomic traits and yield were inferior to those of the Cavendish cultivar Grand Naine," said ProMusa, a platform managed by Bioversity International with funding from the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research's (CGIAR) Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas.
"It took longer to mature (233 days compared to 162 days on average) and had a lower bunch weight that resulted in a lower yield per crop cycle and per year. Although GCTCV-119 had more fingers per hand, these were shorter and thinner. As a result, fewer fruits met market standards.
"A greater hand curvature also resulted in more rejects when packed. On the other hand, the fruits of GCTCV-119 were sweeter than those of Grande naine."
A trial in northern Queensland, Australia found the GCTCV-119's longer cropping cycle was not compensated for by a heavier bunch, according to Australian Bananas Magazine.