Dutch University Grows Bananas To Help Stamp Out Soil-Borne Disease

University Wageningen has harvested the first crop of bananas grown on coco peat and rock wool as part of a research programme intended to protect the fruit from a fungus that endangers production throughout the world

Stable foodstuff

Bananas are a basic food for millions of people in the tropics and the most consumed fruit in the world. The Fusarium fungus contaminates soil and cannot be subdued, the soil-borne fungal disease threatens banana production throughout south-east Asia. Taking the banana trees out of the soil and growing them on stone wool appears to have been very successful solution.

Controlled environment

The university grew 60 banana plants in its greenhouses on coco peat and rock wool, avoiding the threat of the soil-borne fungus. The banana plants grew very well with only an application of a nutrient solution. Growing the banana in an artificial medium allows for the nutrients the plants receive to be custom-made according to their needs, and cuts down on nutrient losses through leakage, according to the university website.

The Dutch bananas do not need disease control, which makes cultivation more sustainable than in conventional production areas.

Ripening

After harvesting, the Wageningen bananas are moved to a ripening centre operated by the Swiss-owned banana producer Chiquita, which is involved in the project along with several local companies.

Future planning

New sustainable breeds of bananas are in development that will be resistant to diseases and grown in healthy soils in a responsible social climate according to Gert Kerma, professor of tropical plant pathology at the university.

The research team is also planning a trial in the Philippines to see how precision cultivation works under ideal conditions.