The Biotechnology and Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) says it is ready to combat the Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD) if it invades the country.
BBTD is caused by the Banana Bunchy Top Virus, and it is one of the most devastating banana diseases that also attacks plantains, wreaking havoc around the world and resulting in huge economic losses.
The disease is reported to be endemic in East Africa and, in recent times, has been found in Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, and Togo, moving towards Ghana.
The Manager of the Biotechnology Centre at BNARI, Dr Andrew Sarkodie Appiah, made this known yesterday during an interaction with officers of the Commercialisation and Communication Directorate of GAEC.
He noted that the Commission had technologies including Tissue Culture and Mutation Breeding, to help manage the disease in the short and long terms, respectively, if it was found in the country.
Dr Appiah who is also a plant virologist, stated that the disease was found in Togo in 2018 and that, even though reports suggested that it had been contained and prevented from spreading beyond the borders of Togo, there was a possibility that the disease may be lurking along the eastern borders of the country.
“Therefore, it is crucial that a thorough investigation is carried out as soon as possible along the border communities to ensure that it has not entered the country, and then the necessary steps can be taken to either prevent it from crossing the borders or apply the technologies required to produce new plants free from the disease,” he added.
Dr Appiah explained that once the plants were infected, it took a long time for the disease to manifest itself, and that was dangerous for the banana and plantain industries as well as the economy at large.
He also stated that the disease was spread through a vector called banana aphids and that it could gain access to the country through trans-boundary trade.
“With the current economic crisis, it will really be a double jeopardy, if this disease gains access to the country, and if steps are not taken quickly to produce disease-free plants.
Bear in mind that plantains in particular are one of the main staple foods in the country, and Ghana is the largest producer of plantains in West Africa and the second in Africa,” he said.
BY ABIGAIL ARTHUR