Macropropagation Technology to Produce Banana Seedlings Free from Plant Parasitic Nematodes in Central and Eastern Kenya
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Banana (Musa spp) is one of the most important food crops contributing to food "security for majority small holders in Kenya. However, banana production has not reached its full potential' due to pest infestation. Plan parasitic nematodes (PPN) are maj or pests ofbanana mostly transmitted to new fields through infested, planting material. Macropropagation is a technology that can produce affordable seedlings. A survey was carried out in Eastern and Central regions in Kenya to determine important banana pests and diseases PPN was found in more than 20% of the farms surveyed. These were Radopholus spp. and Pratylenchus spp. Macropropagation nurseries were set up in Meru Central, lmenti South Mitunguu, Imenti south Tharene, Kerugoya, Embu and Mathioya districts and in Kenyatta University to evaluate, the efficiency of Macropropagation 'technology to produce banana seedlings free fromPPN. Selection of corms was done using an established protocol. Five functional roots were selected randomly from 10 corms of each variety used for propagation and scored for nematode damage. Seedlings that arose from the nurseries were monitored and tested for presence of PPN. Results showed that 92% farmers in the area surveyed use suckers as, the major propagating material thus increasing the chances of disseminating the pest, Furthermore less than 15% of the farmers treat their suckers prior to planting. The root: scored showed that Kampala, Sweet banana, Uganda green and Cavendish banana varieties had 19%,23 %,36% and 46% damage respectively, indicating more damage in Cavendish varieties which are used for commercial purposes 100%, of the seedlings showed no symptoms of infestation. No PPN were extracted from any of the roots. Macropropagation technique can be used to produce banana seedlings that are free of plant parasitic nematodes. This technology should be taught to farmers to improve banana productivity and the life of plantations.