Bananas in Nigeria hit by wild virus – IITA

The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, on Monday announced that a plant virus, called Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV), was ravaging farms in Nigeria. 

The institute said that Nigeria was the second largest producer of banana in West Africa. 
In a statement signed by Mr Godwin Atser, IITA Information Officer, the institute said the disease was a serious threat to the banana plant. It said that devastation by BBTV on banana fields would  have a negative impact on the country’s economy and thwart efforts towards food security.
The statement credited, Dr Lava Kumar, a virologist at the Institute, as saying during a visit to farms ravaged by the disease at Idiroko in Ogun, that the disease, if not checked, would jeopardise the livelihood of farmers.
“If not checked, the virus will devastate banana farms and jeopardise the livelihoods of millions of farmers, who earn their livelihoods from the crop,’’ Kumar said.
He stressed the need for urgent management actions to prevent further spread and help farmers in the affected areas.
“Systematic studies on yield losses have not been done but empirical observations indicate 50 per cent to 90 per cent loss in the affected region.
“There is a severe shortage of clean planting material. Urgent management actions are required to prevent further spread and also help farmers in the affected areas,’’ Kumar said.
The statement said that Mr. Charles Onyeani, Head of the Post-Entry Quarantine, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), warned against the movement of banana planting materials from infected areas. It stated that the virus, which was first discovered in 2012 by IITA in collaboration with University of Ibadan and NAQS, was widespread in Ogun. 
Nigeria produces 2.74 million tonnes of banana, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, making the crop one of the important staples in the country, the statement said.
The disease has been reported in 14 African countries, 13 of which represent a combined banana production area of 2.28 million hectares, contributing 19.75 million tonnes per annum, according to  an FAO report.
The disease is known to occur in all the major banana producing regions in Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Burundi, Rwanda, Malawi, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Zambia.
Dr Rachid Hanna, an entomologist at IITA, said: “The virus is spread through an insect, banana aphid (Pentalonia nigronervosa), which is widespread in all banana and plantain-producing areas in Nigeria.
The statement described symptoms of the disease on a plant, including that the plants became smaller and stood more erect, giving the plant a bunchy appearance.
It added that plants infected early in their growth did not produce fruits, resulting in total loss of yield, while plants infected at later stages might produce deformed fruits.
The statement said no durable source of resistance had yet been identified but eradication of infected plants and planting healthy material was the best available solution. (NAN)

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