by E .O. Ogungbe (Nigeria)
Plantains are important food crops cultivated in the humid tropics. The crops along with maize and cassava are the most important food staples in the humid Sub-Saharan Africa. The gross value of plantains harvest in Sub-Saharan Africa exceed that of staples such as maize, rice and cassava. An estimated 70 million people in the region depend on plantains for more than 25% of their carbohydrate and 10% of calorie intake.
In Nigeria the crops are produced mainly by smallholders in the southern humid forest zone, the derived savannah and along the fadama ecologies. The crops play important role in the economy as staple food and raw materials for the emerging cottage food processing industries.
The production of plantains in Nigeria is being threatened by the devastating incidence of Black Sigatoka Disease (BSD). The Black Sigatoka is a leaf spot disease caused by fungus (Mycosphaerella fijiensis). The fungus can reduce yield by 30-60% depending on the severity of attack. The use of chemicals are also environmentally unsafe aside from the traces of harmful residue in the fruits. Black Sigatoka turned plantain into a delicacy in Urban Nigeria, due to the high cost of the fruits, as a result of reduced production essentially by black sigatoka. Since thousand of small-scale plantain farmers in Nigeria do not have access to and cannot afford the fungicides used by plantain exporters and commercial producers for control of black sigatoka the only environmentally friendly and economically sustainable solution is to plant hybrids with genetic resistance to this disease.
A trial is now on going with the following objectives.
The hybrids were planted in such a way that they were always getting inoculated from fungus produced by the local cultivar.