[Science News] - In search of wild bananas in Australia

Fri 15 Sep

A scientist from Meise Botanic Garden, in collaboration with other partners, has embarked on an expedition to Australia in search of the genetic ancestor of the edible banana and other wild banana species. The aim of the initiative is to find alternatives to edible bananas, which are currently threatened by emerging diseases such as Fusarium wilt and Banana BunchyTop Virus (BBTV).

The international expedition will take place in northern Australia. Belgian researchers, including Steven Janssens of Meise Botanic Garden and Bart Panis of Bioversity International, will join Australian collaborators from the University of Queensland and a scientist from the International Musa Germplasm Transit Centre (ITC) genebank. The main aim of the expedition is to collect leaf samples from the banksii banana (Musa acuminata ssp. banksii), considered to be one of the main ancestors of the edible banana. These samples will be used to map genetic diversity. Seed samples will also be collected for long-term storage in the seed bank of Meise Botanic Garden. The scientists also plan to germinate and grow these seeds for further research.

The use of modern DNA analysis techniques will make it possible to obtain detailed genetic data on the different species and populations of wild bananas, in the hope of discovering specimens that are resistant to drought and disease. This approach is part of the fight against climate disruption and the growing threats to food security from plant diseases and pests.