Taiwanese dwarf banana variety harvested for first time in Saint Lucia

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Taiwanese dwarf banana variety harvested for first time in Saint Lucia

A new Taiwanese-bred dwarf banana variety has been harvested for the first time in the Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia.

The Taiwan Technical Mission (TTM) and Banana Productivity Improvement Project (BPIP) introduced the variety named ‘Tai-Chiao No.2' in 2019, in a bid to overcome climate change and enhance the banana industry's income. 

These bananas were planted at six trial farms in Saint Lucia, and produced their first harvest in January 2020.

The TTM will compare the fruit yield, quality, and the taste preferred by consumers between ‘Tai-Chiao No.2’ and the local banana variety. With this survey, TTM and BPIP hope to find a more suitable banana variety for farmers that will benefit the local banana industry.

The farmers used to propagate the bananas through conventional planting material without replacing the new seedlings for several years in Saint Lucia. However, the banana plants keep growing taller and higher and it becomes more difficult for farmers to maintain the good practices of banana cultivation.

It also becomes hard to control the plant disease and insect pressure in the banana field. Moreover, the banana trees were more easily damaged by strong winds and torrential rains.

This traditional method of banana breeding would decrease the quantity of bananas required to export to the EU market. Although some farmers traditionally used the rope to physically restrict the height of the banana plant, the effect was limited.

The production specialist from TTM, Johnson Wu, who has worked in Taiwan Banana Research Institute, said that the acclimation process of ‘Tai-Chiao No.2’ was a tough challenge.

First, a total of 9,000 tissue culture seedlings from Taiwan had to be planted in Saint Lucia, with the survival rate of these banana seedlings being only 35%. After that, these had to be transplanted to a demonstration farm and cultivated for another seven months.

After seven months, ‘Tai-Chiao No.2’ healthily grew at the and was already flowering and began setting fruit.

The result shows that the new variety has a shorter and more consistent growth pattern due to the tissue culture seedling. Besides this, the height of plant was significantly shorter than the local banana variety, and the stem perimeter was longer than local banana variety.

It means that the ‘Tai-Chiao No.2’ could be tolerant of high winds which would make it easier for farmers to maintain proper cultivation practices and make it easier to harvest.

Due to the traits of ‘Tai-Chiao No.2’, this new Taiwanese banana variety would not only be an excellent option for climate change adaptation measures, but also improve the quality of outputs for farmers giving them a higher quality fruit, the TTM said.

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