Distribution of Pseudocercospora species causing Sigatoka leaf diseases of banana in Uganda and Tanzania

Sigatoka leaf diseases are a major constraint to banana production. A survey was conducted in Tanzania and Uganda to assess the distribution of Pseudocercospora species and severity of Sigatoka leaf diseases. Pseudocercospora species were identified using species‐specific primers. Sigatoka‐like leaf diseases were observed in all farms and on all cultivars, but disease severity varied significantly (P < 0.001) between countries, districts/regions within countries, altitudinal ranges and banana cultivars. In all regions except Kilimanjaro, P. fijiensis, the causal agent of black Sigatoka, was the only pathogen associated with Sigatoka disease. Mycosphaerella musae was associated with Sigatoka‐like symptoms in Kilimanjaro region. Black Sigatoka disease was more severe in Uganda, with a mean disease severity index (DSI) of 37.5%, than in Tanzania (DSI = 19.9%). In Uganda, black Sigatoka disease was equally severe in Luwero district (mean DSI = 40.4%) and Mbarara district (mean DSI = 37.9%). In Tanzania, black Sigatoka was most severe in Kagera region (mean DSI = 29.2%) and least in Mbeya region (mean DSI = 11.5%). Pseudocercospora fijiensis, the most devastating sigatoka pathogen, was detected at altitudes of up to 1877 m a.s.l. This range expansion of P. fijiensis, previously confined to altitudes lower than 1350 m a.s.l. in East Africa, is of concern, especially for smallholder banana farmers growing the susceptible East African Highland bananas (EAHB). Among the banana varieties sampled, the EAHB, FHIA hybrids and Mchare were the most susceptible. Here, the loss of resistance in Yangambi KM5, a banana variety previously resistant to P. fijiensis, is reported for the first time.