Special Correspondent

TIRUCHI: The National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB) in Tiruchi was working on developing a genetically modified banana that would be resistant to diseases, according to director M.M.Mustafa.

The five-year project, funded by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), has been under way at the NRCB for over the past one-and-a-half years.

A team of researchers led by S.Uma, principal scientist, NRCB, was working on developing the transgenic banana that would be resistant to the sigatoka leaf spot disease among the Grand Naine (‘nei vazhai’ in Tamil). The ICAR has extended funding to the tune of Rs.1.30 crore for the project.

The NRCB is simultaneously working on developing a genetically modified ‘rasthali’ variety of banana that would be resistant to the wilt disease, Dr.Uma said.

Meanwhile, the NRCB has been sanctioned a project for developing a molecular diagnostic tool kit for detection of wilt disease causing pathogens in banana suckers and soil by farmers. The ICAR has sanctioned Rs.75 lakhs for the three-year project, Dr.Mustafa said. The research team working on the project would be led by R.Thangavel, senior scientist, NRCB.

The NRCB has also bagged a project to study the role of vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizal (VAM) fungi in developing disease and drought resistance in banana and increasing yield through absorption of soil nutrients. The ICAR has sanctioned Rs.8 lakh for the three year project.

The Centre was also working on two other international projects funded by Bioversity, France. One of this was on screening banana varieties for drought tolerance.

The centre has got Rs.27 lakh for the project. The other project was for regeneration of important banana accessions so that they were conserved and protected from genetic erosion. Under the project taken up with a funding of Rs.57 lakh, the NRCB would take up in-vitro conservation of about 200 accessions, Dr.Mustafa said.