Regrettably, banana production, a cornerstone of Nepal's agricultural landscape, is facing a decline due to the relentless onslaught of pests and diseases, necessitating urgent intervention.
Drawing inspiration from the successful intervention against the banana bunchy top virus disease (BBTV) in Tanzania, supported by USAID’s Current and Emerging Threats to Crops Innovation Lab, PlantVillage has recently intensified its efforts to aid Nepalese farmers in combatting diseases and pests affecting banana crops.
The PlantVillage Nepal team conducted a comprehensive assessment of banana farms in Pratappur Municipality in the Nawalparasi district of Central Nepal. The objective was to gauge the prevalence of major diseases and pests, understand farmers' perspectives on banana cultivation challenges, and document their existing management practices.
A multitude of detrimental diseases plaguing bananas was identified, including Banana Fusarium wilt, Banana Xanthomonas wilt, Banana Black Sigatoka disease, and Banana Yellow Sigatoka disease. Particularly alarming was the impact of the banana scarring beetle, significantly compromising the market quality of bananas.
Krishna Nand Chaudhary, a leading banana farmer, lamented that bananas infested by beetles were often rejected by wholesalers and retailers in the western region of Nepal. Such circumstances compelled farmers like him to invest substantial amounts—around 25,000 to 30,000 rupees ($300 to $360)—in chemical pesticides every banana growing season.
Commercial Banana farmer sharing problems in Banana field
Paroprakash Chaudhary, another banana farmer, revealed his reliance on chemical management methods from the initial stages of banana cultivation to the flowering stage to protect the crop from pests and diseases.
Gautam Kurmi, yet another banana farmer, voiced concerns about diminishing banana cluster sizes and fruiting issues.
The lack of awareness among many farmers about diseases in the field often leads them to attribute unfavorable conditions to the impact of climate change, resulting in significant financial burdens on banana farming.
A notable contributor to banana production losses is the presence of soil-borne pathogens. The common practice among farmers of leaving diseased banana leaves and harvested pseudostems in the field inadvertently nurtures these pathogens. These remnants become breeding grounds for spores, causing persistent disease outbreaks in subsequent seasons.
Unmanaged diseased plant parts
Krishna Nand Chaudhary highlighted, "We leave leaves, pseudostems, and remnants in the field, which gradually decompose and naturally transform into fertilizer."
Raising awareness among farmers about the adverse effects of leaving diseased plant parts in the field is crucial. Exploring alternatives for managing these remnants is essential.
One promising solution is repurposing these leftover materials as biomass to create biochar, which can be applied in the field. This not only aids in replenishing carbon in the soil but also serves as a means of managing soil-borne pathogens.