By Umar Nsubuga
The banana bacterial wilt (BBW) disease is spreading in some districts of Uganda. Farmers in the districts of Bushenyi, Mbarara, Isingiro, and Masaka which are leading producers of bananas in the country, are scared by the outbreak.
The outbreak in these regions is significant because the central region and western produce more than 70 per cent of bananas consumed in Uganda, and therefore, could have serious consequences on the food and income security of small-scale farmers.
In the past decade, wilt disease destroyed 90% of bananas in Uganda. This is why strengthening and refining the control effort is now essential. But how should this be done? What is the way forward for control of the disease? How the disease is spread?
Benon Kisomose, an agronomist and farmer, says the disease is caused by bacteria.
However, transmission of the disease is through farm tools (pangas, hoes, knives and de-leafers) used by farmers as well as traders, livestock, insects, birds and bats that feed on sap from injured banana plants.
Sam Kasule, also a matooke farmer in Semuto, Luwero district says the contaminated tools and animals transmit the bacteria through injuries on roots and aerial parts of the banana plant (suckers, bunches and fresh leaves), although these means are considered minor.
Kisomose says the affected plants produce a variety of features, including leaves turning yellow and withering.
If the plant has bananas wilt, it stops growing and ripens when still immature. Fruits develop brown stains when they are cut.
Yellow pus oozes from a cut stem and the male bud after about 10 minutes. The plants stop growing and finally fizzle away. Externally, longitudinal brown stripes can be seen on the inner side of the leaf sheaths of the pseudostems.
Prevention and control
According to Kisomose, remove the male bud to retard the spread of the disease. You should use a forked stick to remove the male bud after the last cluster forms. Within six months, you will stop seeing infected plants then you can start using the garden tools again.
Destroy the sick plants by chopping them, then sun-dry them. Also, make sure you use clean suckers when planting.
Disinfect your farm tools before using them. You must also stop sharing farm tools. Hoes should not be used in the garden until the banana wilt disease is cleared.
Disinfecting a hoe as you dig is not practical. Animals should be kept off the infected fields, as they move the disease from plant to plant.