The Project

Title of Proposal: Microbial Uptakes for Sustainable management of major bananA pests and diseases

Proposal acronym: MUSA

Topic: SFS-11-2016

Call for proposals: H2020-SFS-2016-2017 (H2020-SFS-2016-2)

Type of action: Research and Innovation action

Proposal number – Second Stage: 727624

Coordinating person: Aurelio Ciancio


This innovative MUSA project will holistically encompass novel IPM methods based on microbial

consortia and available banana (Musa spp.) and enset (Ensete ventricosum) germplasm, including newly

developed elite hybrids The Consortium will additionally study phenotypic and molecular reactions by

the plants to various biotic stresses. Across tropical and sub-tropical systems, pests and diseases annually

result in the loss of banana production of billion €, significantly affecting the food security of millions of

small holder growers, as well as income to both small holders and commercial growers alike. Plant

parasitic nematodes (PPN), Panama disease (PD, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense) and the banana

weevils (BW) are major threats to crops in Canary Islands, Caribbean and Africa.

As a fruit, banana is an important high income export crop and basic component of the diet in the EU and

across world regions. A significant fraction of the EU fruit market is also dependent on imported

commodities, of which bananas represent a high proportion. Conversely, in regions such as sub Saharan

Africa (SSA) and Caribbean, million farmers rely on cooking banana and plantain as a key staple food

source and for income. In export-oriented farms the Cavendish variety represents banana at the

international trade level, after elimination of Gros Michel by PD due to its high susceptibility. However,

hundreds of local banana varieties are relied upon across the tropics for local, domestic consumption.

Pesticides no longer are a sustainable option for pests and diseases management on these crops. Many

compounds have been progressively withdrawn from use in the EU or are highly restricted, due to their

high toxicity and harmful effects on the environment. Also, pesticides loss their efficacy due to resistant

pathogens. In SSA, where phytosanitary policies and regulations are often less effective,

such pesticides continue to be (mis)used, posing a significant threat to vulnerable farmers and consumers.

In Ethiopia, the drought tolerant enset is also a major perennial crop and a crucial staple crop for million

people through its edible corm and stem base. It is still vulnerable to many PPN and BW, however.

In the absence of long term IPM strategies or suitable control methods, and under the influence of

changing climates in tropical and subtropical regions, Musa spp. crops are becoming ever more exposed

to pests and diseases due to their higher multiplication and prevalence rates, induced by changing

temperatures and rainfall patterns. Furthermore, a new PD virulent strain (F. oxysporum Tropical Race 4,

TR4), has emerged from Asia having already established itself in Mozambique,

and now threatens the previously tolerant Cavendish germplasm, globally. There are no resistant varieties

alternative to Cavendish, and despite some claims, chemical control appears insufficient to arrest the

epidemics. Latin America and the Caribbean are vulnerable to TR4, which represents, along with other

pests, a severe threat to producers across banana growing regions.

The main outcome of this Project will be to achieve a sustainable intensification of Musa spp. and enset

crops, and to improve their resilience towards the cited pathogens/pests attacks. This goal will be

achieved through the identification, development and implementation of locally adapted IPM strategies

based on beneficial microorganisms and tested germplasm, and through the generation of new knowledge

and bio-based information in the three targeted regions. Partners will collect, identify and characterize

suitable beneficial microorganisms, screen, test and evaluate in the field their interactions with selected

banana lines and (via transcriptomic analyses) identify the main genes involved in driving a

resistant/tolerant or succumbent/susceptible response. These beneficial microbes include endophytes and

biocontrol agents (EBCAs) that will be integrated with tested plant germplasm to develop informationbased

IPM strategies. Field trials to determine their biological efficacy will be conducted both in

subsistence small-scale farming systems (low income, small holders, SSA) and in intensive exportoriented

plantations (Canary Islands, Caribbean). Germplasm to test will include resistant/tolerant lines

available from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), an international non-profit

research organisation based in SSA, partner in MUSA, and other sources. Appropriate dissemination,

communication and exploitation actions including formation and technology transfer will be put in place

with further stakeholder partners of the private sector (industries, producers), to ensure persistence of the

Project impact after completion.