Virus threat to ba­nanas

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO BUSINESS - Larry Bent­ley

THE Agri­cul­tural Re­search Coun­cil (ARC) is on high alert fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of the Ba­nana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal’s ba­nana plan­ta­tions.

There have been no cases re­ported in Zu­l­u­land, but grow­ers are mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion.

The dis­ease gets its name from the bunchy ap­pear­ance of in­fected plants.

The BBTV can be trans­mit­ted through ba­nana aphids, (Pen­talo­nia

ni­groner­vosa) and through in­fected ba­nana plant­ing ma­te­rial.

Prior to the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of BBTV in South Africa, the virus was first de­tected in neigh­bour­ing Zam­bia and Mozam­bique.

This new in­fec­tion raises con­cerns for South Africa’s ba­nana grow­ers and con­sumers.

Early de­tec­tion of fur­ther in­fec­tions is cru­cial to pre­vent crop losses.

Ba­nanas are an im­por­tant fruit pro­duced and con­sumed in South Africa and, if left un­con­trolled, the virus could spread to other ba­nana grow­ing parts of the coun­try, with dire con­se­quences for the in­dus­try and the econ­omy.

Any fur­ther spread of the virus could dev­as­tate the ba­nana in­dus­try, cur­rently val­ued at R1,9-bil­lion and pro­vid­ing more than 100 000 jobs.

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Con­trol mea­sures for the dis­ease in­clude farm­ers scout­ing for ba­nana plants with symp­toms on plan­ta­tions, re­moval of in­fected plants and con­trol of the ba­nana aphids.

ARC CEO Dr Shadrack Moe­phuli as­sures ba­nana pro­duc­ers that ARC is hard at work with DAFF to com­bat the spread of the virus threat­en­ing ba­nana pro­duc­tions for both com­mer­cial and small­holder farm­ers.

Sur­veys are be­ing car­ried out in col­lab­o­ra­tion with DAFF around Ko­matipoort and Kieper­sol.

These sur­veys will be ex­tended to other ba­nana grow­ing re­gions of South Africa.

ARC is mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion in KwaZulu-Natal to de­ter­mine the spread of the dis­ease.

Larry Bent­ley

Healthy new hands ap­pear as the ‘bell’ un­folds on a ba­nana plant

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