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Banana in Sri Lanka: Status and Prospects


Banana in Sri Lanka: Status and prospects

Chandrasiri Kudagamage* Introduction

Banana is the most important fruit crop in Sri Lanka in terms of hectarage, production and consumption. The area of banana cultivated in 2003 showed a slight increase over the year 2002. The increase is mainly due to the newly established commercial scale production units in the country. However, the production did not show a similar trend (Table 1).

Table 1. Comparison of hectarage, production and export of banana. Year Parameter 2002 2003 Area (ha) 47 850 49 255 Production (t) 380 628 393 384 Exports (t) 7.16 5.89

Government policy

According to policy guidelines outlined by the government of Sri Lanka, agriculture research will be more focused to address the issues of productivity, crop yield and quality, superior varieties, economic efficiency of agronomic practices, sustainability of agriculture, management of markets and external issues. Both local development and introduction of superior varieties subjected to plant protection regulations is envisaged. The operational diagnostic indexing of imported planting material will be further strengthened. Provision of improved varieties and high-quality planting materials in sufficient quantities and at competitive prices is a necessary requirement to raise the crop productivity and income of the farmer. The capacity of government farms for producing planting materials will be strengthened to create competitiveness with the private sector which has a major share in the production of planting material. A major goal of the present agricultural plan is to raise the farming capability of the peasant farmers through the mobilization of farmers through the formation of farmer societies (FS) and empowerment of them with technical knowledge, marketing capabilities, investment capacity and bargaining power.

*Director, HORDI, Gannoruwa, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.

126 Advancing banana and plantain R&D in Asia and the Pacific - Vol 13 A

Shortage of trained extension personnel at village level and the lack of modernity in the extension and technology transfer system are the constraints to the delivery of extension services and technology in effective manner. The work plan developed for the next 5 years suggests two strategies: first extension and technology at village level to take place through FS assisted by extension staff at central and provincial level and second to modernize extension and technology delivery through the utilization of state­of­the­art technology based on cyber extension.

Current R&D projects

The bulk of the research and development of banana is conducted by the Department of Agriculture (DOA). The other institutions involved are Institute of Postharvest Technology, Faculties of Agricultural Sciences of different Universities, Department of Plant Science of University of Colombo, Department of Botany, Kelaniya University and Industrial Technology Institute. The research programme of DOA is based on six thematic areas; 1. Production of disease-free planting material 2. Characterization, evaluation of banana germplasm and development of varieties 3. Management of banana pests and diseases through environmentally compatible methods 4. Productivity improvement through better agronomic and irrigation methods 5. Soil nutrient management for different banana growing areas 6. Causal factors and management of internal browning of banana. The various projects/programmes undertaken in each thematic area are presented in Table 2.

Progress of germplasm evaluation under International Musa Testing Programme (IMTP)

Several varieties obtained from IMTP since 1999 after the commencement of the programme were evaluated at Regional Research Station, Angunakolapellessa. The promising two varieties FHIA-17 and FHIA-23 were subjected to multilocational testing at Angunakolapellessa (Dry Zone), Girnadurukotte (Intermediate Zone) and Weerapana (Wet Zone). FHIA-17 and FHIA-23 showed promising results of higher bunch weight and good adaptability (Table 3 and Table 4). The two varieties did not show any leaf disorders. However, there was high incidence of stem weevil at Angunakolapellessa.

Banana in Sri Lanka: Status and Prospects Table 2. Current R&D projects of banana in Sri Lanka.

Objecti ves 1. Production of disease-f ree planting material Title of the research Maintenance of banana germplasm by tissue culture Protocol optimization for tissue culture Field testing of tissue-culture planting material Multiplication of basic planting material Tissue culture propagation of virus free planting material 2. Characterization and evaluation of banana germplasm and development of varieties Germplasm evaluation and selection Molecular characterization Name of researcher D.P. Prematilake D.P. Prematilake D.P. Prematilake S.M. Nagahawatta S. Vaheesan & V.G.S. Perera A.J. Warusawitharana E.M.D.S.N. Ekanayake, W.G.B. Samarasinghe S. Weerasinghe S. Weerasinghe I. Ariyaratne E.M. Dassanayake I. Ariyaratne I. Wahundeniya Location HORDI


HORDI HORDI RARDC, Angunakolapelessa PVIC, Gabadawatta


Multiplication of nuclear planting material Germplasm evaluation Assessment of status of banana virus diseases in Sri Lanka Identification of different strains of banana streak virus by molecular methods Heat therapy to eradicate banana bract mosaic virus in Embul banana Identification and management of insect vectors of banana bract mosaic and streak virus Survey of leaf diseases of banana Studies of biological control and varietal resistance to panama disease Temporal distribution of banana weevil Insecticidal control of banana weevil Development of management package of Sigatoka leaf disease in the wet zone Yield evaluation under high-density planting Soil nutrients on postharvest diseases Adaptability testing for high-density banana in NCB soil Status of rain-fed banana cultivation in southern dry zone Evaluation of different irrigation regimes on two banana varieties Development of nutrient management package for mid country of Sri Lanka Influence of N & K on growth and yield of banana Utilization of high-grade Eppawala rock phosphate for banana instead of rock phosphate Influence of Ca on the development of internal browning syndrome of banana Effect of boron and calcium on internal browning of banana Investigation of internal browning of banana

RARDC, Angunakolapelessa RARDC, Angunakolapelessa HORDI HORDI HORDI HORDI

3. Management of banana pests and disease through environmentally compatible methods

R.G.A.S. Rajapaksa R.G.A.S. Rajapaksa S.M.C. Subasignhe L.C. Wijetilake P.W. Alahakoon


4. Productivity improvement through better agronomic and irrigation methods

S.M. Bandara K.H. Sarananada I.K. Warshamana W.A.K. Karunathilaka M.A. Roonage

ARS, Girandurukotte FRU, Gannoruwa RARDC, Aralaganwila RARDC, Angunakolapelessa NRMC

5. Soil nutrient management for different banana growing areas

J.M.P.B. Jayasundara P. Weerasinghe S.D.R. Wanniarachchi

HORDI RARDC, Angunakolapelessa FCRDC, Horana

6. Causal factors and management of internal browning of banana

P. Weeraisinghe S.D.R. Wanniarachchi J.S. Weerasinghe

RARDC, Angunakolapalessa FCRDC, Horana

Investigation of causal factors of internal browning HORDI - Horticultural Crops Research and Development Institute RARDC - Regional Agriculture Research and Development Centre FCRDC - Fruit Crop Research and Development Centre

RARDC, Angunakolapalessa L.C. Wijetilaka RARDC, Makandura FRU - Food Research Unit PVIC - Plant Virus Indexing Centre PGRC ­ Plant Genetic Resources Centre NRMC ­ Natural Resources Management Centre

FHIA-03 and SH-3640 were released by the varietal recommendation committee of the Department of Agriculture (Local Name Pulathesi and Kandula, respectively) in 2001. These varieties are presently being multiplied conventionally and through tissue culture in both state and private tissue-culture laboratories. These varieties have high yield and

Banana in Sri Lanka: Status and Prospects


finger weight. Results further revealed that it is necessary to maintain the nitrogen content of the third youngest leaf (lamina 3) greater than 3.0% at the late vegetative stage to obtain good yield (Weerasinghe et al. 2004). Among the cultural measures to increase the quality of banana dehanding or bunch trimming resulted in more uniform fruits having higher fruit length, girth and weight in `Ambul' (Mysore), `Kolikuttu' (Silk) and Ash Plantain (Weerasinghe and Ruwanpathirane 2004). Anthracnose caused by Collectotrichum musae and crown rot caused by Lasiodiplodia theobromae, Collectotrichum musae, Fusarium species and Verticillium theobrome are important postharvest diseases of banana which affect the quality of banana available for export and local market (Anthony et al. 2004). To prevent crown rot and anthracnose bananas are universally treated with systemic fungicide such as benomyl, a possible human carcinogen and teratogen. Studies have shown essential oil of Cymbopoyon nordus, Cymbopoyon flexuosus and Ocimum basilicum to possess significant microbial properties. Fumigant bioassay developed by Abeywicrama et al. (2003) is a valuable tool to identify the efficacy of plant oils, before in vitro testing is conducted. In subsequent studies, spraying of essential oils of Ocimum basilicum (0.16% v/v) prior to cool storage was found to be a safe, cost-effective method with commercial potential for controlling postharvest diseases and extending storage life.

Marketing of banana

The private sector plays a dominant role in the marketing of banana. Wholesale marketing centres of banana are located in different parts of the country. At these centres, collectors/farmers sell their products to wholesalers, who in turn sell them to retailers. There is a certain amount of grading in these centres, however there are high postharvest losses due to bad handling and transport. There are five varieties of banana in the market namely, `Ambul' (Mysore), Ambun (Cavendish), `Kolikuttu' (Silk), `Seeni' and `Anamalu.' `Embul' and `Seeni' are cheaper than others (Table 5).

Table 5. Prices of banana in 2002-2003. (Rs/fruit)

Variety `Ambul' (Mysore) `Kolikuttu' (Silk) `Seeni' `Anamalu' (Cavendish) `Ambun' (Cavendish) 2003 Farm gate price 2002 Wholesale 0.01 0.03 0.02 0.05 0.01 0.04 0.05 Retail 0.03 0.08 0.02 0.07 0.07 2003 Wholesale 0.02 0.05 0.01 0.05 0.51 Retail 0.03 0.08 0.02 0.07 0.07

130 Advancing banana and plantain R&D in Asia and the Pacific - Vol 13 A

Capacity building

DOA undertakes major training and capacity development programmes through their In-Service Training Institutes. Banana is given high priority in the curriculum of the training programme of the pre-seasonal training courses arranged twice a year. A training workshop on Banana Disease Identification and Healthy Planting Materials Production was held in 2004. for researchers, extensionists and development specialists of various research institutions, universities and private sector institutions involved in banana R&D. The highlight of the event is the participation of Dr A.B. Molina, regional coordinator of INIBAP, Prof H.J. Su, plant virologist, and Dr S.C. Hwang, consultant of the Taiwan Banana Research Institute, as resource persons. At the end of the workshop, a programme for the development of healthy planting materials was developed by the participants with the assistance from the experts.


Abeywickrema K., S. Anthony and R. Watawala. 2003. Fumigant action of selected essential oils against banana fruit pathogens. Journal National Science Foundation Sri Lanka (324): 427 ­429. Anthony S., R. Abeywickrama, R. Dayananda, S. Wilson and L. Arambewela. 2004. Fungal pathogens associated with banana fruit in Sri Lanka. Mycopathologia 157:91-97 Rodrigo V. H. L., C. M. Sterling, S. Thennakoon, A. M. W. K. Senavirathna and P. D. Pathipan. 2003. Technology refinement of rubber/banana intercropping using a farmer participatory approach. Tropical Agriculture Research and Extension 6: 77 ­84. Weerasingha P., N. H. R. Premalal and S. N. R. Saranasingha. 2004. Influence of Nitrogen on crop performance of leaf Nitrogen status of dense ­ planted banana. Annual Symposium of Department of Agriculture 6: 217-226. Weerasingha S. S. and K. H. Ruwanpathiran. 2004. Effect of de-handing on bunch characteristic of banana. Annual Symposium of Department of Agriculture 6: 227-236.



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