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March 20, 2008

Gene modification offers possibilities of resistance to banana bacterial wilt

SCIENTISTS have developed a gene that would be used to develop varieties of banana that are resistant to the bacterial wilt.

Peter Werehire, the publications officer of the Nairobi-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation, said in the last five years, the disease has spread to 33 districts in Uganda and gone beyond into Eastern Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Werehire was recently speaking at the Science With Africa conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


The conference focused on improving cooperation between scientific research, policy development and providing a framework for utilising science technology innovations for attaining accelerated economic growth in Africa.

Werehire said the banana bacterial wilt disease is spread through the use of infected banana planting materials, infected cutting tools, vectors and browsing animals.

"When the disease strikes, the leaves of the infected plants first turn dull green before they become scalded. The plants start wilting and the bunches show uneven and premature ripening of fruit," he said.

"So, the National Agricultural Research Organisation and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture sought to access candidate genes for conferring resistance against the wilt. One such gene was the plant ferrodoxin-like protein gene from sweet pepper," he said.

Werehire said the gene has already been used to combat diseases in tobacco, tomato, broccoli, orchids and rice.

He said preliminary laboratory tests indicate that transgenic banana plants appear to be resistant to the wilt.


allafrica.com

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