Researchers from Wageningen University & Research are harvesting the first Dutch bananas this week. Boerenhart, a supplier of fresh and local products will offer the bananas as ‘regional product’ to restaurants and hospitals in the region of Wageningen. The cultivation took place on two types of substrates: coco peat and rock wool. This allows the growth of banana without the settlement of aggressive fungi.
In the greenhouses of the experimental farm Unifarm in Wageningen a unique research experiment has been carried out since January. Bananas grow in the greenhouse in pots and on a substrate, both artificial media for plant growth. “For the 100th anniversary of WUR, we developed this plan together with the local cooperation Boerenhart: the cultivation of a regional banana in the Wageningen greenhouses,” says Professor of Tropical Plant Pathology Gert Kema. “With this experiment we will investigate whether this cultivation offers prospects for further research into mastering Fusarium wilt. This is due to a soil borne fungal pathogen that threatens the banana production throughout the world. So we took the banana out of the soil.”
A leading strategy for managing the ongoing pandemic of Fusarium wilt in bananas is the generation of resistant banana varieties. To gain insight into the diversity of the causal fungi, Nani Maryani Martawi looked to the Indonesian archipelago, where hundreds of wild and cultivated banana varieties are grown. As part of her PhD research, she studied the diversity of the isolated pathogens that cause Fusarium wilt and their co-evolution with the banana hosts.
Fusarium wilt, also known as Panama disease, has wiped out thousands of hectares of banana crops around the world. It is caused by a soil-borne fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense (Foc), which can best be managed by developing resistant banana varieties. In her dissertation, Nani Maryani Martawi introduces comprehensive studies on the genetic diversity and phylogeny of Foc strains associated with Fusarium wilt. Using cluster analyses of Indonesian and global isolates, she revealed the widest genotypic diversity ever reported for Fusarium wilt of bananas. More than half of the genotypes ever identified were present in Indonesia, suggesting that these banana pathogens co-evolved with the local banana varieties. Martawi also provides convincing evidence that the Foc Tropical Race 4 (TR4) strain, which kills the Cavendish cultivar, likely emerged from Indonesia and is still evolving alongside local varieties.
Nani Maryani Martawi defended her dissertation entitled ‘A complex relationship: banana and Fusarium wilt in Indonesia’ on 29 October 2018 at Wageningen University. For information about Fusarium wilt in general, click here.