Embrapa trains international partners in genetic improvement techniques

Classes took place in the laboratories and experimental fields of the research unit, in Cruz das Almas (BA)

08.09.2023 | 16:02 (UTC -3)
Lea Cunha
Photo: Disclosure
Photo: Disclosure

From August 28th to September 1st, Embrapa Cassava and Fruticulture and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization / International Atomic Energy Organization (FAO/OIEA) Joint Center for Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture held, in Cruz das Almas (BA), the “Regional training course for resistance to Fusarium via mutagenesis in banana”.

Organized by researcher Edson Perito Amorim, leader of Embrapa's Banana and Plantain Genetic Improvement Program, the training was aimed at 12 technicians from Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Austria and Brazil. “The objective was to qualify different representatives of international institutions from Latin America and the Caribbean in genetic improvement through mutagenesis in banana plants,” he explained. Mutagenesis is a process that alters the genetic information of an organism and gives rise to a new variety. “The idea is to develop varieties resistant to Fusarium wilt,” he continued. Caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp cubense, wilt is the most destructive disease of the crop, still without definitive control and present in several countries.

The course was taught by Amorim, researchers Fernando Haddad, Janay dos Santos-Serejo and Claudia Fortes, analysts Andresa Ramos, Fabiana Aud and Leandro Rocha, scholarship holder Lucymeire Morais Lino and professor Augusto Tulmann Neto, from the Nuclear Energy Center in Agriculture at the University of São Paulo (Cena/USP) – the latter, through an online lecture.

The various practical activities took place in the Phytopathology and Tissue Culture Laboratories, where information was provided on the management, introduction and in vitro multiplication of banana plants and on the evaluation of banana genotypes in relation to resistance to wilt, respectively, and in the experimental areas, in greenhouses and in the field, including the Active Germplasm Bank, crossbreeding blocks, new hybrid blocks and Cavendish-type banana plantations.

Cinthya Zorrilla, researcher at the Joint FAO/OIEA Center, highlighted the importance of training. “This is a part of the OIEA's peaceful uses of nuclear atomic energy activities in several areas, including medicine, environment and agriculture. In this case, we have a technical cooperation project that uses nuclear energy to develop varieties with resistance to Foc R4T”, she informed.

13 countries from Latin America and the Caribbean are participating in the project and other countries are expected to join. “In the future, more countries from Africa and Asia that also have a problem with this disease will join forces. We are all going to work cooperatively, collaboratively, to develop capabilities and strengthen improvement laboratories and also the detection of the disease in these countries”, explained Cinthya.

Fusarium wilt

The fungus can enter through different routes: contaminated soil carried on shoes, tools, banana seedlings (visibly healthy, but infected) and ornamental plants, which can also be hosts.

The research already carried out by Embrapa in the areas of genetic improvement and disease management in relation to breeds existing in Brazil are a benchmark for combating a possible outbreak of R4T in the country. Embrapa monitors populations of the pathogen existing in Brazilian territory , which will assist in the selection and recommendation of varieties and even in the timely detection of an outbreak.

The disease already occurs in Australia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, China, Oman, Jordan, Mozambique, Colombia and Peru, where the focus was identified in 2020. The presence of the pest in two neighboring countries with strong friendship and commercial ties leaves Brazil in a permanent state of alert.

LS Tractor February