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Banana Micro-Propagation Programme

This started as a project in 1993 under the Agricultural Diversification Programme, with the introduction of in-vitro tissue-cultured plantlets from France. About 1000 plants were hardened in the nursery facilities at FARC. These were subsequently planted in demonstration orchards in several locations on the island.

Varieties tested were Cavendish 901, Grande naine, and Williams, all tall varieties which needed propping so as to support their bunches. The other variety was the Dwarf Cavendish of which there were only a few plants and it was difficult to assess its potential. The tall varieties, although producing yield equivalent to 50 tons per hectare, proved to be prone to cyclones owing to their heavy bunches and heights.

Following cyclone Hollanda in February 1994, which caused a serious lack of banana planting material, FARC again took a joint initiative with the Development Bank of Mauritius (DBM) for a collaborative project aiming at the relaunching of banana production through the use of tissue culture plantlets. After a thorough literature review, a guide on the growing of banana using tissue culture plantlets was produced and disseminated.

Vitropic (France) was contacted for tissue culture plantlets of bananas. Only plantlets of variety Williams were available then, and it also happened that it was the cultivar that was recommended and grown for the international banana trade. Thus in 1994, 1995 and 1996, 23 000 plantlets of this cultivar were imported on behalf of the DBM and hardened at FARC. These were put for sale at Rs 35.00/plantlet, a price which allowed FARC and DBM to recover the costs incurred.

Through contacts made with INIBAP (International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain), three cultivars, FHIA 01(Goldfinger), 02 and 03 were introduced. Goldfinger is the first banana cultivar bred through human intervention. It was thought that Goldfinger would be a good replacement for our “Gingeli” variety because of its parentage and sour taste, although it lacks the flavour of the “GingeliGoldfinger proved to be vigorous, productive and tolerant to diseases prevalent here and made good growth under cold conditions.

As the former DARE (Directorate of Agricultural Research & Extension), later AREU had just been created, FARC had to monitor the banana development programme with its limited staff. It also encouraged the production of quality bananas through the practice of bagging and the setting up of ripening rooms. With the coming into operation of its Tissue Culture laboratory in 1996, FARC started with the micro-propagation of the 2 cultivars, Williams and Goldfinger, for dissemination to planters.

The banana project was handed over to AREU in 2002 for new introduction and for field evaluation, while the FARC continues with multiplication of plantlets in its laboratory. AREU thus introduced 10 cultivars from INIBAP in 2003, for trial and evaluation, of which varieties Williams, Petite Naine and Goldfinger were given to FARC for mass propagation and hardening.

With an expansion in demand for banana plantlets from planters, FARC took the initiative to re-initiate the introduction of some of the proven varieties/cultivars, their micro-propagation and dissemination. In this context, FARC wrote to Vitropic and INIBAP in 2004 to explore the possibility of new supplies. The FARC had to resort to import starter cultures from Vitropic, France, since INIBAP did not respond positively to request to supply of starter cultures for commercial exploitation. Starter cultures started to be imported from Vitropic, France, for mass propagation and eventual sale as hardened potted plant to planters.

Price of potted hardened tissue culture banana plants: Price which was initially Rs 35/unit was reduced to Rs 25/unit to encourage growing of tissue culture banana plants. In October 2000, following a government decision, the price was further reduced to Rs 5/unit. On 17 th January 2006, the price of potted plants was revised to Rs 30/unit, which still prevails.

Present Situation
The source of mother plants is either import from Vitropic, France or initiation from selected, healthy mother plants obtained from Riche Lieu Experimental Station or Réduit Central Research Station (CRS), and indexed (testing of plants against concerned viruses) by the Plant Pathology laboratory, AREU.

a) Propagation of banana cvs Williams and Petite Naine from imported multiplying cultures
Multiplying cultures indexed against Banana Streak virus (BSV), Cucumber Mosaic virus (CMV) & Black Sigatoka, are imported from Vitropic, France, for micropropagation & eventual supply to growers. The multiplying cultures are limited to only 5 subcultures, with a maximum multiplication rate of 1:50.

b) Initiation of banana from locally available mother plants
Initiation of in-vitro banana cultures from locally selected mother plants, available from research stations of AREU, started successfully in October 2006.

Four selected mother plants of cv Williams were obtained from Riche Lieu Crop Research Station and eleven cv Petite Naine from Riche Lieu and Rćduit Crop Research Stations, and were successfully initiated and mass propagated for sale.

The local “gingely” is presently being multiplied in the laboratory from mother obtained on January 2010, from CRS, Reduit. This would cater for demand for the local niche market.

Hardened and potted tissue culture banana plants of three cultivars: Dwarf Cavendish, Williams and Goldfinger, are put on sale at Rs30/unit. A total of 63,371 hardened, potted tissue culture banana plants were supplied to growers from July 2005 to June 2010

Page last modified: 09 March 2011

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