IITA banana breeder honored at international Musa meeting
On 3 May in Miami, Florida, IITA banana breeder Rony Swennen was honored with a prestigious award by the Association for Cooperation in Research and Integral Development of Banana and Plantains (ACORBAT).
The award, which was presented by Dr Jorge Sandoval, President of ACORBAT, recognizes Swennen’s “unquantifiable contributions to the development of Musa research in various topics and appreciates his initiative, commitment, and dedication to farmers and students all over the world.”
In his keynote presentation during the 12th International Banana Congress titled “Breeding new banana varieties for Africa with strategies for global relevance,” Swennen talked about the importance of cooking banana and plantain in Africa. “Banana and plantain are important staple crops in Africa. About 35% of global banana production comes from there alone, with farmers reaching only up to 20- 40% of potential yield.”
He highlighted the need for growing improved banana varieties both for economic enhancement and global relevance which would promote all efforts that had been put in place by Musa researchers and students all over the world.
In the past 31 years, IITA, in collaboration with 14 partners all over the world, has been working to improve the banana breeding platform. The breeding pipeline aims to increase breeding efficiency, involving flower biology to increase seed set, improved management with a tracking system, heterosis studies, and combining phenotypic with genetic data to select crosses. It also involves searching molecular markers for biotic stresses and developing genomic prediction tools to hasten selection of hybrids of interest.