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Control for banana crown rot found

February 10, 2011

January 22, 2011, 12:44am

MANILA, Philippines – A recent discovery has unveiled a potential biological approach to combat the dreaded banana crown rot disease.

Dr. Dionisio Alvindia, a scientist of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Mechanization and Development (PhilMech) in Nueva Ecija has discovered that a bacterium can be used in controlling banana crown rot, the most severe postharvest disease that has been plaguing the local banana industry for many years.

Crown rot is caused by several fungi including Lasiodiplodia theobromae, Colletotrichum musae, Thielaviopsis paradoxa, and a complex of Fusarium spp. These fungi infect the crown through fresh wounds created after trimming the crown of the banana hand into crescent shape.

Alvindia said that crown rot is controlled commercially by dipping hands or clusters of banana in fungicide solutions. Prolonged use of this, he cited, can lead to the build-up of resistance in pathogens.

Without chemical treatment, bananas shipped from the country show signs of the crown rot within 21 days in transit, making them less saleable to consumers. Hence, the need for a biological control alternative.

The bacterium, which was isolated from the surface of green Cavendish banana fruit, has been identified as Bacillus amyloliquefaciens DGA 14 that forms a creamy white colony. In the laboratory and field conditions, results confirmed that B. amyloliquefaciens DGA 14 produced a diffusible metabolite that inhibited L. theobromae, C. musae, T. paradoxa, and F. verticillioides. According to the study of Alvindia, B. amyloliquefaciens DGA 14 antagonized pathogens by production of extracellular antibiotics and direct contact as observed in vitro and on the natural substrate.

PhilMech Director Ricardo Cachuela said that Alvindia’s discovery will greatly benefit the local banana industry, especially the exporters, because that will make their banana better in quality. Countries buying bananas from the Philippines, like Japan, have very strict standards when it comes to chemical residue, he said.

He also revealed that the organic solution to the banana crown rot has already been applied for a Philippine patent, and a number of cooperatives and agribusiness companies involved in large-scale banana planting have approached PhilMech so they can start applying the organic solution in their operations.

Dole Asia, for instance, has expressed interest to test the organic solution in their operations. The same intention has been expressed by large banana plantations in Davao, Bukidnon, and Dumaguete, among others.

Aside from banana, Alvindia said this organic solution can also be applied to pineapple and papaya. He said further field tests are needed to verify its efficacy.

Alvindia said that without intervention, the incidence of rotting non-chemical bananas could go up to 86 percent; but with good management practices, this can be reduced to 17%. “This technology doesn’t need sophisticated equipment to produce and apply. Just mix it in water and dip the bananas in it,” he said.

As it eyes for the commercialization of the organic solution, PhilMech is negotiating with Chemrez Technologies, Inc., a manufacturer or resins and specialty products on the manufacture of a stable carrier which will be necessary for mass production of the organic solution for banana crown rot. — Melpha M. Abello

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