Banana disease and microbiota research extensively covered in Wageningen World

Published on
September 17, 2013

Not a single banana is grown in the Netherlands, but much of the knowledge to protect this important food crop against two disastrous banana diseases is developed by Wageningen UR. Banana research is the cover story of the latest World Wageningen, the quarterly magazine for alumni and contacts of Wageningen UR.

Making bananas resistant to fungal diseases

Banana is the fourth most consumed food crop in the world. For more than 400 million people in the tropics bananas are a staple food. But banana crops worldwide are getting destroyed by two fungal diseases: the Panama Disease and Black Sigatoka. Nothing can be done once the Panama Disease has infected a plantation. The fungus can remain in the soil for decades. This leaves banana producers no choice but to abandon the plantation and start another one elsewhere, often at the expense of tropical rainforest. The Black Sigatoka disease is being fought with massive ampounts of fungicides. Also not sustainable in the long run. Wageningen UR now has eight researchers, some fifteen PhD students and two postdocs working on the development banana varieties that are resistant to these diseases. They do so by introducing resistance genes from wild bananas into edible bananas.

Effect of gut microbiota on health

Wageningen World also extensively covers Wageningen UR's worldwide renowned research on intestinal microbiota. The Microbiology group does one discovery after the other about the influence of the intestinal bacterial composition on the human health. These discoveries get published in the world's most prestigious scientific journals such as Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and The New England Journal of Medicine.