Pests, Climate Variation Threatening Plantain Production, Study Reveals

Akanimo Sampson

Akanimo Sampson

Pests and diseases, synthetic chemicals, and climate variation are seriously threatening the production and productivity of plantain.

Plantain (Musa spp.) is however, a staple food crop and a key source of income supporting the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

A recent study titled Subterranean Microbiome Affiliations of Plantain (Musa spp.) under Diverse Agroecologies of West and Central Africa published in Microbial Ecology explored bacterial and fungal diversity, an important aspect in increasing plant performance in plantains.

The study revealed significant differences between the High rainfall forests and derived Savanna agroecologies among the most abundant bacterial communities, and some specific dynamic responses were observed in fungal communities.

In considering the lack of knowledge on plantain-microbe associations and the need for a holistic approach to increase productivity and identify a more efficient and robust system for long-term food security and economic concerns for smallholder farmers, the study explored the self-supporting microbial ecosystems and distribution in agroecologies and seasonal regimes in the SSA.

“Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, and Zygomycota are the three most dominant fungal species in both agroecologies. Moreover, an immense array of beneficial microbes in the roots and rhizosphere of plantain, including Acinetobacter, Bacillus, and Pseudomonas spp., were found’’, said Manoj Kaushal, Systems Agronomist at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Acinetobacter, Bacillus, and Pseudomonas spp. are common biocontrol agents that suppress pathogenic microbes, enhanced by the combined antimicrobial actions exerted among beneficial pathogenic microbes.

Kaushal noted that the findings show that the diverse agroecologies and host habitats differentially support the dynamic microbial profile. This helps in altering the structure in the rhizosphere zone to promote synergistic host-microbe interactions, particularly under the resource-poor conditions of sub-Sahara Africa.

For decades, soil microbes have been considered key for protecting numerous crops from various biotic and abiotic constraints. The increase in beneficial microbial diversity of soil can control various soilborne diseases and prevent the establishment of harmful pathogens in the rhizosphere and roots of a host plant.

In addition, for Musa spp., cropping practices tend to influence microbial community structure and compositions. These differ under diverse agroecologies and climatic conditions.

The study, led by IITA in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), is the first to describe bacterial and fungal communities associated with plantain-based production systems in the humid tropics with different agroecologies and seasonal regimes in SSA.

Also, the team established a model for studying plantain-microbe interactions and their mechanisms to serve as a baseline for future plant health and production studies.

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