This is what a farm can look like if the disease Sigatoka negra strikes. One of the most important jobs Asoguabo’s agroengineers do is teaching farmers to prevent it.
Sigatoka Negra originated in Asia, and appeared for the first time i Ecuador in 1987. Today it’s one of the banana farmers’ biggest problems. The disease is caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella, and the symptoms are brown specks on the leaves of the banana plant. Within three-four weeks the leaf turns black and dies. This leads to the bananas ripening to early. The banana bunches grow too small, the fruits become short and deformed and the taste is acid. The growth of the plants is also disrupted.
If the disease is allowed to spread, it destroys the entire farm. Planting again and waiting for the next harvest takes a year.
To prevent the disease the farmers use chemicals, but on organic farms it’s forbidden. In stead the farmers keep the disease in check by cutting off leaves where the specks are appearing. The bananas can do with four-five leaves per plant. This way Sigatoka can be prevented, but it takes a lot more work. That’s one of the reasons it’s more expensive to grow organically.
Asoguabo’s engineers teach the farmers to prevent Sigatoka by trimming the plants correctly, irrigating, draining and fertilizing so the plants stay strong and able to withstand the disease.
Source: El Cultivo del Banano (Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería), Programa Nacional del Banano Sección Cooperativas
Read more in the book ”Banana – the Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World” by Dan Koeppel.