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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Banana plant disease threatens East African livelihood

To help the sustainability of banana plants, UF researchers have been studying a bacterial infection threatening the East African staple.

Ariena van Bruggen, a professor of plant pathology at UF, said the disease is called banana Xanthomonas wilt, which is caused by bacteria that causes the plants to wilt and makes bananas inedible.

The banana plant’s bacterial infection, initially found in Ethiopia, has spread to Tanzania.

Van Bruggen said the disease is a threat to the survival of farming communities in Central and Eastern Africa because these groups depend on bananas and plantains for calories.

People in the country use banana leaves to cover other banana bunches, which can spread the infection.

Mpoki Shimwela, a UF doctoral alumnus from the department of plant pathology, said yellow ooze secretes from a cut on any part of an infected plant.

To prevent spread, the government mandated farmers cut down infected banana plants.

When farmers cut down infected plants, the bacteria spreads from their contaminated tools to the plants, van Bruggen said.

“Some of these farmers don’t have money for bleach, which is recommended to sterilize tools,” she said.

Van Bruggen said the disease has not affected American communities yet. She said American communities need to be aware of potential outbreaks of the disease because of illegal shipments of plant materials.

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