Scientists unsure as new banana disease spreads

Sunday February 16 2020

Affected. An affected banana in a plantation at

Affected. An affected banana in a plantation at Kicece Primary School, Rweikiniro Sub-county, Ntungamo District. Photo by Perez Rumanzi 

By Monitor Reporters

A new deadly banana disease that emerged in January in Ntungamo District, continues to ravage banana plantations and spread widely as local agriculture experts say they are uncertain of what to do to help farmers manage it.
The disease has been confirmed in Ntungamo and Kabarole districts, according to earlier information from Ministry of Agriculture.

However, Ntungamo District officials told Sunday Monitor on Friday that the disease that started in the sub-county of Rweikiniro, has now spread to other sub-counties of Ruhaama, Rubaare, Ntungamo and Kitwe Town Council, all in Ntungamo District.

The banana plantation of Kicece Primary School in Rweikiniro was one of those severely hit.
Mr Kampson Gershom Kobwohe, the school head teacher, said the entire school banana plantation measuring about four acres has been destroyed.

“This [banana plantation] has been the source of food for the teachers and pupils. We don’t know what to do next,” said.

Mr Bernard Ndajunoha, the chairman of Kirugu ward, Ruhuma County, and also a banana farmer, said the disease started manifesting in November last year.

The disease
Mr Edmund Mukama, the Rweikiniro Sub-county agriculture extension officer, said the fast-spreading disease attacks banana fruit, drying them from the stem at all the stages of development.

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“The disease attacks a banana fruit from the banana tree either as a young fruit or after it has developed and ready for harvesting. It turns the fingers brown like it has been roasted in fire, later drying the banana fingers,” Mr Mukama said.

He said the biggest danger with the new disease is that it attacks all breeds of bananas and no one knows how it spreads or how it can be managed.

Ms Esther Atwine, the Ntungamo District agriculture officer, said they received the complaints and visited the plantations.

“We are waiting for the samples we took for study at Mbarara Zonal Agriculture Research Centre to know whether it’s a bacteria or virus and know the mode of transmission so that we can prevent its further spread. However, we are advising farmers to cut down the affected plants and chop them into small pieces like in the case of the banana bacteria wilt. We shall come up with measures on how to control it soon,” Atwine said.

On Friday, the senior communications officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ms Gladys Kajura, said updates about the disease could be got from crop protection department of the Ministry of Agriculture. But attempts to reach the commissioner for crop protection were futile by press time.

Compiled by Tonny Abet, Perez Rumanzi & Nobert Atukunda

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