A new banana variety is proving to be a promising answer to the very destructive Panama Wilt disease, a.k.a. Fusarium Wilt, that has been progressively infecting Cavendish plantations in Mindanao in recent years.
The new variety is a variant of tissue-cultured Giant Cavendish from Taiwan better known simply as GCTCV 219. In farmers’ fields that we visited last February 20, we witnessed robust uninfected plants of GCTCV 219 planted in infected fields side by side with the susceptible plants.
For instance, in the Mauro Farm in Calinan, Davao City, rows of GCTCV plants are being grown side by side with the susceptible Grand Naine Giant Cavendish variety. The GCTCV plants are very healthy and virtually without infection whereas 80 percent of the ordinary Cavendish planted in a row just about two meters away have been wiped out by the Fusarium Wilt disease.
In a big portion of the PFFC farm of Luciano Puyod in Lasang, Davao City, only the tissue-cultured variants are standing unscathed by the Panama Wilt disease. Now, they are planting suckers of GCTCV 219 in the infected area without any chemical treatment of the soil. That is because so far there is no chemical that has been found to control or eradicate the fungus that can remain in the soil for many years.
The resistant variant was introduced from Taiwan by Bioversity International, an international NGO, through the initiative of Dr. Agustin Molina, a Filipino scientist who has a long track record working in the banana industry worldwide. He has been with Bioversity for many years now.
So far, not only the results in the growing field are encouraging. What is also very encouraging is that the fruit is now well accepted in the international market like Japan and China, and probably even in the local market. Many consumers in the Philippines are not very enthusiastic about the locally produced Cavendish because they are considered too bland compared to lakatan.
The good thing about the fruit of GCTCV 219 is that it is sweeter than the ordinary Cavendish. In Japan it is considered an elegant tasting banana that could fetch a premium price in the market. It is a variety grown in the lowland that can compare with the sweetness of those grown in higher elevations.