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Researchers developed organic technology from banana plant waste to combat PCN in East Africa

Potato production in East Africa is under increasing threat from the invasive and highly destructive potato cyst nematode (PCN) Globodera rostochiensis. Researchers have now developed an organic technology from banana plant waste material which might well being a practical solution for potato farmers to combat PCN. Dubbed ‘wrap and plant,’ the solution involves enclosing potato seed before planting in a thick absorbent paper made from the fibers of banana plants.

This strategy provides a protective barrier for the plants against damage by PCN. These research findings, led by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and North Carolina State University, USA, working with various partners in Kenya and elsewhere, have been published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

The research team says: “Wrapping seed potatoes within the lignocellulose banana-paper matrix substantially reduced G. rostochiensis field inoculum and increased potato yields by up to fivefold in Kenya.

They note that one of the most significant discoveries of this study was that even without the nematicides, the ‘wrap and plant’ technology protects potato plants from PCN damage, adding: “Our study demonstrates the use of waste organic material to sustainably manage PCN, and potentially other crop root pests, while increasing potato yields.”

The banana-fibre characteristics make the ‘wrap and plant’ paper dense, rigid and sturdy, such that it remains intact in the soil while also allowing the plant’s roots to germinate and thrive. Although the paper is durable, it is also biodegradable, and it eventually decomposes.

Source: Nature Sustainability. Abstract and paper here
Photo: Wrap and plant paper. Courtesy International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE)
Research details: Ochola J., Cortada L., Mwaura O., Tariku M., Christensen S.A., Ng’ang’a M., Hassanali A., Pirzada T., Khan S., Pal L., Mathew R., Guenther D., Davis E., Sit T., Coyne D., Opperman C. and Torto B. (2022) Wrap-and-plant technology to manage sustainably potato cyst nematodes in East Africa. Nature Sustainability
Collaborating institutions: International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe); International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); Kenyatta University, Kenya; North Carolina State University, USA; Ghent University, Belgium; Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, Gainesville, FL, USA.

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