Macropropagation Technique for Production of Healthy Banana Seedlings.
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Banana (Musa spp) is one of the most important crops providing food security, nutrition and income for many smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. However, production is hindered by scarcity of high quality seedlings, insect pests and diseases. To improve availability of quality seedlings macropropagation technology is being introduced in Kenya. This study was carried out to generate knowledge to enhance understanding and adoption of the technology. A survey was done initially to identify the key pests and pathogens of banana in Central and eastern regions of Kenya. Macropropagation nurseries were established in six sites in farmers’ fields representing different agroecological zones. Corms of banana varieties Kampala, Sweet banana, Cavendish and Uganda Green obtained in accordance with established quality assurance protocols were propagated. The health of the seedlings produced was monitored. Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense was isolated from less than 1% corms of sweet banana and Kampala varieties. Radopholus similis was isolated from all the varieties but its incidence was highest (46%) in the Cavendish variety. Endophytes and non pathogenic microorganisms were isolated from more than 90% of the corms. Over 98% of the propagated corms produced healthy seedlings and only less than 1% of the corms propagated rotted in the propagation media due to non pathogenic causes. In areas with high weevil infestation it was difficult to obtain corms with the standard required for macropropagation. The information obtained shows that macropropagation technique effectively produces healthy banana seedlings. Practitioners will need to observe quality control measures to ensure production of high quality seedlings.