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Miami, Florida/USA, Monheim, Germany April 21, 2016 – Yellow, curved, sweet and tasty, nutritious, healthy and available year-round that’s what consumers usually expect when they put bananas on their shopping list. However, there are a number of threats challenging the daily farm operations of banana producers in Asia and Latin America. At the 6th International Banana Congress, which is taking place from April 19 to 22, 2016 in Miami, Florida, USA, Bayer is showcasing its broad portfolio of products and solutions that support the success and sustainability of the banana industry. Experts from the company are presenting recent product innovations in the area of disease and pest control and root health management as well as novel approaches that contribute to safeguarding a high-quality fruit supply.
Bayer’s strategic approach is based on delivering integrated solutions for the banana industry that create superior value. “Fungal diseases and nematodes are giving banana growers around the globe a hard time. We are committed to supporting them in addressing their daily challenges as they strive to get the very best out of their plantations,” said Kai Wirtz, Global Fruit Crop Manager at the Crop Science division of Bayer. “Bayer is one of the leading providers of innovative chemical and biological crop protection solutions for bananas. Additionally, we offer a number of complementary services and provide expertise and on-farm advice through our dedicated crop specialists. These experts have a deep understanding of the grower’s needs and develop tailored solutions according to the local conditions.”
Innovative approaches in root health management
A key focus of Bayer’s banana experts is on developing holistic solutions for root health management as this is a growing concern of producers. A stressed and damaged root-system can reduce the vigor of plants, negatively impact the quality of harvested produce and lead to significant yield losses. Scientists at Bayer are addressing this new area of research to better understand the complex processes in the soil and develop new solutions to effectively control nematodes, soil-borne pathogens and soil pests and strengthen the roots.
“In Velum™/Verango™ and BioAct™, Bayer already offers two powerful products for targeted nematode management that perfectly complement each other,” stated Wirtz. “The chemical product Velum™/Verango™ effectively controls living nematodes in the soil. This product is combined with BioAct™, which is based on a natural organism – the soil fungus Purpureocillium lilacinum strain 251. BioAct™ colonizes nematode eggs so that hatching of larvae is inhibited. Consequently, if the chemical treatment has already been applied to remove adult nematodes from the soil, using the biological substance prevents a new generation of nematodes from growing and damaging the plant at a later stage. This combination offers growers effective means of nematode management by applying both products just once per year,” Wirtz further explained.
Novel concept to address Black Sigatoka
Another threat for banana producers is Black Sigatoka. Caused by Mycosphaerella fijiensis, it is the most devastating disease in bananas and present in all banana-producing countries. Without proper treatment it can lead to reduced productivity of up to 50 percent and increase the risk of fungicide resistance. As a result, the number of fungicide applications have increased in recent years with strong economic, environmental and social impacts – threatening the sustainability of banana production.
With its ‘Bunch of Solutions’ concept Bayer has developed an approach to ensure high-level disease control and at the same time reduce the number of applications and crop protection input costs for growers. “Due to the combination of chemical and biological products and several different modes of action in rotational programs, we have created a powerful tool for resistance management,” explained Alvaro Segura, technical expert for bananas in Central America at Bayer’s Crop Science division. “This innovative concept can help reverse the current trend of increasing fungicide applications and has already proven to be a valuable tool to make banana production more sustainable in Central America.”
Controlling and containing Panama Disease
A major challenge for banana growers in Asia is the occurrence of a new strain of the Panama Disease which infects the plant root system and is caused by the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum. On its first occurrence in the 1950s this disease caused severe damage, destroyed whole banana plantations and wiped out the Gros Michel banana, the dominant cultivar for bananas at that time. The new fungal strain Tropical Race 4 now threatens the production of today’s most popular banana cultivar as it cannot be controlled with common disease management practices. Since its occurrence, it has destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of Cavendish bananas plantations and put Asian banana production at high risk. Due to globalization and the fact that the disease is easily transmitted by soil, water and, probably, air, dissemination of the fungal pathogen to other important banana production regions, especially Latin America, seems to be just a matter of time.
“Bayer is committed to supporting growers in their fight against this devastating disease,” said Rolf Christian Becker, R&D Portfolio Manager Horticulture at Bayer. “We have joined forces with other private and public partners in the Panama Disease Consortium.” An interdisciplinary research and education fund (INREF) under the lead of the University of Wageningen addresses the management and containment of Panama Disease in global banana production under different production settings. It aims at the development and implementation of innovative tools and methods to manage the Panama Disease and to contain the vicious new strain. “In addition, our scientists work on the development of new anti-fungal substances that can complement the fight against the disease and prevent further spreading,” Becker added.
Partnering along the value chain
To ensure the supply of high-quality bananas that are produced in a sustainable way, Bayer collaborates with food chain partners along the banana value chain from growers to traders and retailers. The objective of Bayer’s Food Chain Partnership projects is to enable safety, quality, affordability, transparency and above all sustainability from the plantation to the supermarket. One successful example is an ongoing cooperation with a banana producer in the Dominican Republic who works according to organic farming principles. “This partnership reflects Bayer’s holistic approach in sustainable agriculture”, said Rigoberto Estrada, Crop Manager Banana in Pacto Andino and Central America at Bayer. “We offer this partner a high-quality portfolio of biological crop protection products backed by training measures, demo plots and a stewardship program. The partner benefits from a reduced number of product applications to control Black Sigatoka as well as banana pests like thrips and nematodes.”
Another example of a Food Chain Partnership is the project with Grupo Acon, the largest independent producer of bananas in Costa Rica. The key target is the sustainable production of bananas for European export markets with high-quality standards and a beneficial impact on both the environment and surrounding communities. “In this partnership we employ a tailored and integrated solution of chemical and biological products that offer efficient nematode control, ensure root health, manage Black Sigatoka and control weeds,” explained Estrada. “In addition to these efforts, the project includes an intensive stewardship program to train the banana growers in the correct handling of crop protection products and the right follow-up of the applications. Furthermore, technical support is provided on-site to help achieve the sustainability goals. As a result of the project, sustainable banana production has gained more credibility and exposure amongst involved banana growers and their commitment has grown.”
Bayer: Science For A Better Life
Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture. Its products and services are designed to benefit people and improve their quality of life. At the same time, the Group aims to create value through innovation, growth and high earning power. Bayer is committed to the principles of sustainable development and to its social and ethical responsibilities as a corporate citizen. In fiscal 2015, the Group employed around 117,000 people and had sales of EUR 46.3 billion. Capital expenditures amounted to EUR 2.6 billion, R&D expenses to EUR 4.3 billion. These figures include those for the high-tech polymers business, which was floated on the stock market as an independent company named Covestro on October 6, 2015. For more information, go to www.bayer.com.
This release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by Bayer management. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. These factors include those discussed in Bayer’s public reports which are available on the Bayer website at www.bayer.com. The company assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.