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< prev - next > Agriculture Cultivation Pest and Disease Management boiling water treatment of banana and plantain (Printable PDF)
A hot bath cleans all: Boiling water treatment of
banana and plantain S. Hauser, D. Coyne
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In the humid tropics of Africa, America, and Asia, banana and plantain (Musa spp.) are important food crops for
millions of people. Global production amounts to about 140 metric tonnes. India, followed by Uganda, produces the
most, and the crop is mainly consumed and traded locally (Lescot 2008). Musa spp. are clonally propagated crops
by using side suckers removed from existing plants/mats. Axenic tissue-cultured plants are increasingly being
used, mostly for commercial plantations. Among the key biotic threats to Musa spp. are plant parasitic nematodes
(several species) and weevils (Cosmopolites sordidus). These are easily carried from field to field through the use
of infected sucker planting material, thus perpetuating the distribution of these pests. The majority of banana and
plantain fields cultivated by smallholder, subsistence farmers are infected with nematodes, weevils or both through
the use of infected suckers. Losses resulting from these pests amount annually to millions of US dollars.
The use of clean, healthy planting
material, especially when fields not
previously planted with Musa spp.
are to be cultivated, has huge
potential to halt the cyclical spread of
nematodes, weevils, and other soil-
and root-borne pests and diseases.
Plant establishment, sucker survival,
plantation longevity and
consequently yields are all increased
by the use of healthy planting
material. The duration to harvest is
reduced (Tenkouano et al. 2006,
Hauser 2007).
Nematode and weevil damage to banana roots and suckers. D. Coyne
Hot water treatment
Hot water treatment at 50°C of peeled (pared) suckers for 20-25 minutes will effectively reduce nematode and
weevil infestation in the plant crop and successive cycles (ratoons) of both plantain and cooking banana (Hauser
2000; Elsen et al. 2004, Hauser 2007). The method has been difficult for smallholder farmers to manage and
implement because of the delicate balance needed to achieve a temperature that is lethal to nematodes and
weevils in the corm tissue without causing permanent damage to the plant. For commercial plantations and
organized cooperatives, for example, this method of sucker sanitation remains a useful and effective technique.
For smallholders the method is time-consuming, cumbersome, and tricky to regulate. Although it is effective, it
has therefore proved inappropriate in many ways, despite substantial promotion.
Boiling water treatment
To improve the adoption of the hot water treatment, the technique has been adapted by IITA, to use boiling water
and immerse suckers for a short and easily measurable time (IITA 2003, Hauser 2007). Suckers are dipped in
boiling water for between 20 and 30 seconds. They should preferably be peeled, but can be used with the roots
still attached.