A paper published by a team led by scientists from IITA was among the top 10% most downloaded of all papers published between January 2018 and December 2019 in Wiley’s Plant Pathology journal.

The research team received the news in a congratulatory message and an online certificate from the Journal. Part of the message stated: “We are excited to share that your research, published in Plant Pathology, is among the top 10% most downloaded papers! What it means: Among work published between January 2018 and December 2019, yours received some of the most downloads in the 12 months following online publication. Your research generated immediate impact and helped to raise the visibility of Plant Pathology.”

The open-source paper, “Sources of resistance in Musa to Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum, the causal agent of banana xanthomonas wilt” published on 17 September 2018, announced a breakthrough in the search for banana varieties that are resistant to the lethal bacterial banana wilt disease. It proved wrong the belief that all banana varieties in the Great Lakes region are susceptible to the condition and provided hope in the banana breeding efforts for varieties resistant to the disease—one of the most effective ways to control the disease.

Victor Manyong, the IITA hub director, congratulated the team, noting that this was an indication of the quality of science generated by the team and the potential impact of the work to address the challenges facing agriculture productivity for smallholder banana farmers in the region.

The findings of the paper are significant for smallholder farmers in the Great Lakes region of Africa where banana is an important food and staple crop as its production has been greatly affected by the bacterial banana wilt disease.

The bacterial banana wilt disease, which is regarded as the most devastating disease of banana in the region, is transmitted by insect vectors, contaminated garden tools, and infected planting material. The disease, which causes premature ripening and rotting of the fruits, wilting, and eventually death of the plant, has drastically affected the production of highland cooking banana in the region and the food and income of millions of farmers.

“This is exciting news for the team. We are extremely pleased with the recognition”, says George Mahuku, the IITA plant pathologist based at IITA Tanzania and lead scientist for the work.

“As a follow-up to this work, we are now screening a population made from one of the resistant varieties ‘Monyet’ and a susceptible variety ‘Kokopo’ to identify biological markers (quantitative trait loci – QTL) of genes associated with resistance. This information will be used to develop protocols for the rapid transfer of resistance genes to susceptible but farmer-preferred cultivars. We are also continuing with screening other banana types to identify more sources of resistance,” Mahuku said.

Other researchers in the team are drawn from the Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research, Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic, the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria, South Africa as well as IITA banana researchers based in Uganda and Arusha.

The research was funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

This article was first published on the Inter Press Service website.