Defending East Africa against banana bunchy top disease

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With recent outbreaks in Tanzania and Uganda, banana bunchy top disease (BBTD) emerged as a significant threat to banana crops in East Africa. The disease, caused by the banana bunchy top virus (BBTV), can lead to yield losses of 70 to 90% in the first season, with subsequent seasons seeing no bananas produced. Recent surveys have revealed the devastating consequences of BBTV’s spread and the threat of its rapid spread to previously unaffected areas in East Africa.

Growers and other stakeholders are unfamiliar with the symptoms of this new disease in the region, hindering early recognition. Furthermore, the dwarf and stumpy shoots of the virus-infected plants are often mistaken for young suckers, leading to further delays in identifying the disease and, worse, further spread when such shoots are harvested for replanting in new regions.

To address this challenge, IITA conducted a training workshop on “Diagnosis and detection of BBTV infection in banana” and “SOS for root, tuber and banana (RTB) crops in Africa: A regional surveillance and emergency response action to contain the banana bunchy top disease outbreak in East Africa” as part of the project. This project is funded by the USAID Innovation Lab for Current and Emerging Threats to Crops (CETC IL) led by Pennsylvania State University, USA, and the CGIAR Plant Health Initiative.

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