Virus threat to bananas
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.
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.
Healthy new hands appear as the ‘bell’ unfolds on a banana plant