National Geographic visits Wageningen University and Research

On January 24, National Geographic visited WUR and filmed during a course that Prof. Kema is teaching on Frontiers in Medical and Veterinary Biology. They were particularly interested in banana research and visited the Unifarm Greenhouse facility to film ongoing trials and experiments of students. The footage will be part of flagship National Geographic Explorer program and results from the NG Magazine article on Future Farming in The Netherlands. The NG Explorer program will be broadcasted in the autumn of 2018 and reaches approximately 400 million people in 171 countries in 45 languages.

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Minister Sigrid Kaag visit to WUR


Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, has visited Unifarm at Wageningen University & Research (WUR). She was received by Louise O. Fresco, chairman of WUR and professor Gert Kema.
The minister was shown around in the greenhouses of the Unifarm Greenhouse facility. Professor Kema informed her about the panama disease in bananas. Furthermore, three PhD students explained their specific research in this area, for example ways in which the fungus that causes the Panama disease can be tackled.


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Gert Kema crossed the globe

During the autumn of 2016 Gert Kema visited several important banana research teams and banana production regions and discussed many ongoing and new research projects around the globe.

Kema visited the Philippines from September 26-October 1 where he worked with PhD student Maricar Salacinas, and various INREF partners to start a field trial on anaerobic soil disinfestation to reduce the Foc inoculum in soils. He then continued to Indonesia to work with the Indonesian PI’s on administrative details of the KNAW-SPIN project and to discuss and prepare a joint science week later during the year (see below).

Gert Kema continued to Colombia with PhD student Fernando Garcia who addressed the banana growers in Santa Marta on the progress of the INREF program and to discuss current and future collaborative projects with the national banana corporation (AUGURA), the banana producers of Santa Marta (ASBAMA) and the National Agricultural Institute (ICA).
Mr. Fernando García-Bastidas MSc, Colombian PhD student in the INFEF program at Wageningen University and Research, was the main instructor during two banana Fusarium wilt training sessions in October and November 2016 at the substations of Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario (The Colombian Agricultural Institute ) (ICA) in Antioquia and Barranquilla, Colombia. Fernando trained ICA staff in the identification of Fusarium wilt in the field and in laboratory detection through molecular techniques including PCR, qPCR and LAMP

In Ecuador Gert met various partners and discussed collaborative research and participated in the 13th International banana forum organized by ESPOL university and the Ecuadorian Banana Exporter Association (AEBE) where he gave a talk on the latest findings with respect of the genetic diversity in Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense, the Fusarium wilt pathogen of banana. Gert also visited several banana producers to discuss the current problems and perspectives on-site in Quevedo and in Guayaquil together with Dr. Egbert Spaans, the Dutch honorary consul of The Netherlands in Guayaquil.

In China Gert visitied Dr. Sijun Zheng, Bioversity International and Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, in Kunming, China for a seminar and a field visit in southern Yunnan, bordering Vietnam, and from there continued to give a talk at the Southern China Agricultural University in Guangzhou. There he also continued the discussion on the possibility for collaboration between SCAU and Wageningen University & Research that was kicked off last May in Wageningen during a visit of a SCAU delegation.

After China, Gert continued to Indonesia for a science week with all KNAW-SPIN PhD students, the three post-docs and the Indonesian and Dutch PI’s. During this week the group studied overall diversity along 16 transects from a societal, agro-ecological, soil and disease perspective at four different sites on Java (see article on this subject below).

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Minister of Agriculture of Costa Rica visited Wageningen University and Research

On 21 November Mr. Luis Felipe Arauz, Minister of Agriculture of Costa Rica visited the banana program at WUR. Gert Kema and Rafael Segura Mena, INREF sandwich PhD from the national banana coporation of Costa Rica (Corbana), had the honour to explain ongoing banana research with a focus on Panama disease and black Sigatoka. The minister has a PhD in plant pathology from UC Davis and served as professor at the University of Costa Rica. As banana is among the most important export crops of Costa Rica, no wonder a lively discussion developed next to the greenhouse with over 4,000 young banana plants.

Also visite the official website of the Ministry Of Agriculture of Costa Rica:

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Fernando Garcia-Bastidas in Santa Marta Colombia

Last month Fernando Garcia-Bastidas was international speaker at the “I technical banana Colloquium: threats and challenges of the Banana sector facing variability and climate change” in Santa Marta Colombia. The meeting was organised by Asbama ( Asociación de Bananeros del Magdalena y la Guajira) and CIAT (Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical). Fernando was invited to a dissertation of Panama Disease with emphasis on Tropical Race 4. It was a great opportunity to meet fellow scientists and to discuss threats and opportunities. In the picture from left to right: Dr. Mario Orozco-Santos (researcher at INIFAP, Mexico), Fernando (Wageningen UR, Netherlands), Dr. Anuar Escaf (CEO ASBAMA, Colombia) and Germán Calberto Sánchez (Researcher at CIAT, Colombia).

See also:


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Finding wild banana accessions infected with Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense (Foc) causing Fusarium wilt of Panama disease in the tropical rain forest. That’s the goal of the second expedition PhD student Nani Maryani Martawi is conducting now in the Eastern Indonesian islands Papua, Sulawesi and Flores.

Maryani: After my first expedition last summer in Borneo and Java, I am now again in Indonesia for a second expedition on the Eastern part of my home country. During this expedition, I collect together with other experts banana corms and leaves from banana plants infected with Panama disease, that stand in the outer circle of the rain forest. We will take soil samples as well.

DNA analysis
When I am back at Wageningen University, I will analyse the samples in order to extend our understanding of the genome diversity of Fusarium in banana. We expect a huge diversity since the host and pathogen originate both from this region. With this information we will better understand the current Fusarium epidemic that is largely driven by TR4 strains. Moreover, it is extremely useful to have a clear picture of the overall Foc diversity and its pathogenic potential.

Genome-wide diversity of Banana and Panama disease
Maryani started almost two years ago with her PhD that is part of the Scientific Program between Indonesia and The Netherlands (SPIN), funded by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

Feel free to contact Nani about her PhD project.

On the picture: Maryani and others joining the expedition holding a banana pseudostem infected with Panama disease.


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