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April 23rd, 2019 / Alliance for Science, US

CRISPR/Cas9‐based genome editing is offering new hope for protecting a critical food security crop by developing climate-smart banana varieties.

Research to identify the genes associated with stress‐tolerant traits and other uses of gene editing and genetic engineering to help banana varieties adapt to a changing climate is highlighted in an April 15 article published in Food and Energy Security, the journal of the Association of Applied Biologists.

Adaptation is important because banana is a major food source for some 500 million people. It’s grown in more than 140 tropical and subtropical nations, primarily Africa, which produces about a third of the world’s crop.  In addition to supporting food security, banana is an valued cash crop for smallholder farmers, who typically sell to local and regional markets.

But this critical source of food and income is increasingly threatened by numerous pests and diseases, including black Sigatoka, yellow Sigatoka, leaf spot disease, bacterial wilt, panama disease, banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) and banana streak virus (BSV), nematodes and weevils. Now the higher temperatures and drought brought by climate change are beginning to take a toll.

“There is a huge yield gap in banana production in the areas where several of these pathogens and pests are present together,” wrote researchers Leena TripathiValentine Otang Ntui and Jaindra Nath Tripathi. “Some of these diseases are wiping out banana from the infected fields.” Read more …