The National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB), Tiruchi, will take up a project funded by the Department of Biotechnology for the conservation and rejuvenation of two near-extinct traditional banana varieties of Kolli Hills in Namakkal district.

The project envisages collection, conservation and rejuvenation of the two traditional banana varieties of ‘Karuvazhai’ and ‘Numaran.’ The two niche varieties are under threat due to the rampant incidence of bunchy top virus, fusarium wilt, nematodes and pseudostem weevil, which have completely devastated the varieties that are grown in homestead gardens for the livelihood and sustenance of the tribals of Kolli hills.

The project seeks to develop a tissue culture protocol, multiply them on a large scale for distribution to the tribal beneficiaries in the Kolli Hills and to re-establish the endangered varieties in their natural habitat, said a NRCB press release. The project will be executed by NRCB scientists, S.Uma, M.S. Saraswathi and S. Backiyarani under the guidance of M.M.Mustaffa, Director, NRCB, and in collaboration with State Department of Horticulture, Namakkal.

A series of farmers training programmes will also be organised under the project to raise awareness of the importance of the varieties and biodiversity conservation. The tribals will be trained on scientific banana production and protection techniques and farm level propagation.

The first training programme was organised at Semmedu, Kolli Hills, on Tuesday. D.Jagannathan, Collector, Namakkal, released a hand book, ‘Karuvazhai – Sagupadi Kurippugal’ in Tamil.

Beneficiaries under the project were given kits containing tissue culture plants, fertilizers, bio-fertilizers and plant protection chemicals. NRCB scientists will guide the beneficiaries over the next three years for the successful rejuvenation of these native banana varieties in their natural habitat.