Banana Systems in the Humid Highlands of Sub-Saharan Africa: Enhancing Resilience and Productivity

Type Book Section - Plantain Collection and Morphological Characterization in Democratic Republic of Congo: Past and Present Activities and Prospects
Title Banana Systems in the Humid Highlands of Sub-Saharan Africa: Enhancing Resilience and Productivity
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
Page numbers 1-7
Publisher CAB International
The collection and morphological characterization of Musa spp. (bananas and plantains) started during the 1950s in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) at the Institut National pour l’Etude Agronomique du Congo (INEAC) Yangambi Research Station, where 56 plantain cultivars were established in a collection. Unfortunately, that collection no longer exists as a result of years of social unrest and instability in the region. Collection and characterization restarted in 2005 at the University of Kisangani (UNIKIS) within the framework of a UNIKIS/Bioversity International-led project funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. From January 2005 to May 2007, three missions were carried out by UNIKIS to collect plantain cultivars in different parts of Oriental Province and recover major parts of the extinct plantain collection of INEAC Yangambi. A total of 65 plantain cultivars were collected in the framework of the Gatsby-funded project. From 2009 to 2012, nine MSc students, working with a PhD student, carried out collection work in 66 territories of Oriental, North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema, Katanga, Eastern Kasai, Western Kasai, Bandundu and Equateur provinces. The percentage of forest cover, and to a lesser extent province size, were positively linked to plantain diversity. Katanga, which is the second largest surveyed province and has savannah-type ecology had the lowest number of plantain cultivars. The highest plantain diversity was observed in forest zones across the Congo Basin. These comprise Oriental Province, where 69 plantain cultivars were recorded, followed by Equateur, with 60 cultivars, and Maniema, with 31 cultivars. Lower plantain diversity was recorded in the provinces where savannah ecologies predominate (Bandundu (25 cultivars), Western Kasai (22), Eastern Kasai (21), South Kivu (14), North Kivu (11) and Katanga (8)). Several putative new plantain cultivars were recorded. The highest cultivar diversity was observed within the ‘French’ plantain clone set, followed by the ‘False Horn’ and the ‘Horn’ clone sets. Nevertheless, ‘False Horn’ and ‘Horn’ plantain take up the largest proportion of the production landscape owing to their short cycle duration and the marketability of some of their cultivars (e.g. ‘Libanga Likale’, ‘Libanga Lifombo’ or ‘Lokusu’, which has large fruit). In-depth synonymy studies are needed and synonymy reconciliation between cultivars of the defunct INEAC Yangambi collection and the current UNIKIS collection is ongoing. In addition, agronomic, postharvest and molecular aspects of characterization should be considered as a means of enhancing the knowledge, use and conservation of Musa diversity across DR Congo.

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