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  • Author or Editor: Rony Swennen x
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Four types of morphologically distinct somaclonal variants were identified in a population of False Horn plantain (Musa spp., AAB group) plants produced by in vitro shoot-tip culture. Field performance of these variants was compared with true-to-type plantain to evaluate their horticultural traits. Significant variation was observed for plant and fruit maturity, leaf size, yield and its components, but not for leaf number, plant height, or suckering. Three of the four somaclonal variants were horticulturally inferior to the original clone from which they were derived. Yields of these variants were very poor due to inflorescence degeneration or abnormal foliage. Only the `French reversion' variant, which resembled an existing cultivar, outyielded the true-to-type clone. However, its fruit weight and size were lower. Somaclonal variation through micropropagation is of limited use in plantain improvement as it mostly mimics naturally occurring variation along with the observed poor horticultural performance of somaclonal variants.

Free access

East African diploid cooking bananas, commonly called Mchare, are a staple crop for millions of subsistence farmers in Tanzania, particularly in the Pangani region in northern Tanzania. Several pathogens constrain Mchare production significantly and threaten food security. Sources of resistance to these pathogens have been identified; however, partial male and female sterility impedes successful resistance introgression, complicating the breeding process. Mchare cultivars are also the only known surviving representatives of a diploid banana subgroup that contributed unreduced gametes to many of the most widely grown and successful triploid dessert bananas (‘Cavendish’, ‘Gros-Michel’, ‘Silk’, and ‘Prata’). As such, they represent an essential intermediate step in the conventional improvement of bananas worldwide. We assess the amount and viability of pollen among Mchare and wild genotypes to identify the most fertile Mchare cultivars that can be used in conventional banana improvement. Pollen was collected from 14 banana genotypes for quantification and viability testing over 7 months, and the optimal time for pollen collection was determined to be 0800 HR. Significant variation among banana genotypes in terms of both overall pollen production and percentage of pollen viability was observed. The wild-type bananas ‘Calcutta 4’ [International Musa Germplasm Transit Center (ITC) 0249] and ‘Borneo’ (ITC0253) had the greatest overall pollen production (> 31,000 pollen grains/anther) and viability (∼74%), whereas ‘Ijihu Inkundu’ (ITC1460; Mchare genotype) was the least productive (almost completely sterile), with an average pollen production of a few hundred grains per anther and a viability of 7%. There were significant differences among months in terms of pollen viability, with the greatest average viability observed in May, April, and February (> 51%), and the lowest average pollen viability in July (41%). Significant differences were observed among the Mchare genotypes, with ‘Huti-White’, ‘Huti green bell’ (ITC1559), and ‘Mchare Laini’ consistently producing more substantial amounts of total pollen and an overall more significant proportion of viable pollen. This information is vital to improve Mchare bananas and the global breeding of dessert bananas. The choice of Mchare banana used in improvement programs could affect fertility and the likelihood of breeding success.

Open Access

East African banana (Musa sp.) breeding efforts have focused mainly on enhancing ‘Matooke’ productivity through the development of high-yielding, pathogen-resistant cultivars with adequate stability to contribute to regional food security. Before a breeding program can recommend promising cultivars for release, they must pass the sensory screens; be evaluated in the target population environments; and the data analyzed for yield, adaptability, and stability. Twenty-four primary and secondary triploid hybrids [NARITA (N)] derived from ‘Matooke’ bananas, six triploid local ‘Matooke’ cultivars, and one exotic cultivar were evaluated for their yield, adaptability, and stability across the East African region at three highland sites in Uganda’s western and central regions, as well as at three sites in Tanzania’s northeastern and southern highlands regions, from 2016–19. A randomized complete block design with four replicates was used for multisite trials. The mixed-model restricted maximum likelihood/best linear unbiased prediction approach, along with additive main effect multiplicative interaction model biplots, were used to dissect and visualize genotype-by-environment patterns. Following the likelihood ratio test, both genotype and interaction effects were highly significant, confirming the influence of genotype and site heterogeneity for selecting specific and broadly adapted cultivars. N23 had the greatest yield across all sites associated with adaptability and stability, outperforming the overall mean yield of all genotypes by 34.2%. In Tanzania, N27 (second), N7 (third), N18 (fourth), N4 (fifth), N12 (sixth), and N13 (seventh); and in Uganda, N17 (second), N18 (third), N2 (fourth), N8 (fifth), N13 (sixth), N12 (seventh), N4 (eighth), and N24 (ninth) demonstrated good adaptability and stability, as well as high yield. Furthermore, the fungal pathogen Pseudocercospora fijiensis had no significant effect (P > 0.05) on yield, stability, and adaptability of the hybrids. As a result, they can be introduced into areas where black leaf streak constrains banana production significantly and threatens farmers’ livelihoods. The average site yield potential ranged from 9.7 to 24.3 t⋅ha–1 per year. The best discriminating sites for testing breeding clones were Lyamungo in Tanzania and Sendusu in Uganda. Hence, these testing sites are recommended as ideal examples of locations for selecting superior genotypes.

Open Access