Script 71.2

Notes to broadcasters

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This script will be of special interest to those broadcasters with listeners in eastern Africa. It features recommendations for the control of Xanthomonas (pronounced ‘zanthomonas’) bacterial wilt in bananas. Bacterial wilt poses a significant threat to banana production in the eastern African region. These recommendations can be used as a series of spots separated by sound effects or music, or incorporated into other programming.

Please note that this disease is not widely spread and most farmers do not yet need to worry about its control. It is important however, that farmers learn to recognize and watch out for signs and possible presence of the disease.

Where the disease does exist, media, scientists and farmers need to work together to inform people and to encourage them to take the necessary measures to bring the disease under control. The following resource people and research institutions can keep you informed of new developments in banana wilt research, or provide you with additional information for your radio programs.

Dr. W.K. Tushemereirwe
Head, National Banana Research Programme
PO Box 7065, Kampala, Uganda
Tel: (256)(41)(566158), Fax: (256)(41)(566381)
Email: |

Global Plant Clinic
CABI Bioscience, Bakeham Lane, Egham, Surrey TW20 9TY UK
Tel: 44(0)1491 829080 ext. 4069, Fax: 44(0)1491 829100
Email: |

Dr. Simon Eden-Green
EG Consulting, 470 Lunsford Lane, Larkfield, Kent ME20 6JA, UK
Tel: 44(0)1634 245704, Fax: 44(0)1634 245690
Email: |


Host 1 (Intro):
Some of our listeners who live in Uganda may already be familiar with a new disease that is affecting one of our major crops – the banana. And if you grow bananas anywhere in East Africa, you will be interested in our program today, because we’re going to talk about how farmers can watch out for this disease and help to control it.


About three years ago, farmers at a village in central Uganda noticed a disease that they had not seen before. This disease was later confirmed to be something called Xanthomonas bacterial wilt – also known as banana bacterial wilt. Since then, banana bacterial wilt has been slowly spreading throughout eastern and central Uganda and now poses a new threat to bananas throughout East and Central Africa.

If you are a farmer, you should become aware of the symptoms of this disease. The most obvious sign of disease that you are likely to see is that the leaves turn yellow and start to droop. But these symptoms can have many different causes, so it is more important to pay attention to the fruits and flowers. For example, you may notice that some of the fruits appear to be ripening too early, and very quickly. Or the fruits are discolored when you cut them open. Or you see flower buds that are black and shriveled. If you see these things, then you may have banana bacterial wilt. This disease is probably carried by flies and other insects and it can spread very quickly, so take action fast!


You are probably wondering what kind of action you need to take if you come across banana bacterial wilt. As it happens, a group of scientists working at the Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute and the Mukono District Extension Service in Uganda have been looking for ways to control and manage bacterial wilt in bananas. The scientists have some important advice for farmers who grow bananas and want to prevent the disease from spreading. Today we are going to share this advice with you.

First, if you see a banana plant that you think is affected by banana bacterial wilt and this disease has not been seen before in your area, it is important to contact your local agricultural advisory or extension service as quickly as possible. If they know about the disease, they might be able to help you stamp it out before it can spread to other banana plantings. They will probably advise you to destroy the plant as quickly as possible. Here are the things that you should do.

Cut down the affected plant and suckers and cut up the roots so that the plant cannot sprout again. Then dig a hole in the same place, and bury the plant. Or place the leaves on the ground and pile the stem, roots and fruits on top and cover them with soil, so that the remains can rot down quickly. Do not remove the plant from your field.

It’s also important to clean your tools because the disease can spread easily to healthy plants on tools that have been used to cut or dig up diseased ones. By this I mean that you should disinfect the tools you use on the banana plants. Dip your machete in a household bleach solution as you move from plant to plant so the disease won’t spread.

If you know you are going to be working with diseased plants, save that work until the end of the day. That way you can take your tools home right away and treat them using disinfectant, or simply by heating them in a fire until they are just too hot to touch.


As I mentioned earlier, banana wilt is probably spread from plant to plant by flies and other insects as they visit the flowers. So another way to stop the disease from spreading is to remove the buds before they turn into flowers. What you want to remove is the large bud at the bottom of the stalk – the one that is closest to the ground. Break off this bud as soon as the last hand of the bunch emerges. You can either twist it by hand or use a forked stick. Try to avoid using a knife which could spread any infection from plant to plant.

And if traders visit your garden to harvest banana fruits, there’s something else you should know. If banana bacterial wilt disease is present in your area – then you must insist that the traders disinfect their cutting knives before they cut your plants.

And finally, if you have livestock, keep them out of your banana plantation. As they move around, their feet might spread the disease.


Once again, I will repeat these important steps for the control of banana bacterial wilt.

  • Destroy banana plants that are affected by the disease. Make sure you dig up and bury the whole plant – roots and all – in your fields.
  • Clean your tools in a household bleach solution as you move from plant to plant.
  • Try to save any cutting or digging of diseased plants until the end of the day.
  • Remove the large bud at the bottom of the stalk before it flowers.
  • Don’t allow livestock in fields where there are infected banana plants.

There’s something else you can do to reduce the chance of having diseases in your bananas, and in fact in all of your crops. I’m talking about crop rotation.

Crop rotation is an important part of sustainable farming. By crop rotation I mean that each part of your field has a different crop growing in it every year or every two years. So, for example, if you grow bananas in one place for two years in a row, then the next year you should grow something else. Diseases are less able to survive and spread if you rotate your crops.


Today we’ve been talking about how farmers can manage the disease called bacterial wilt of bananas. Remember that it’s also very important to talk to an agricultural extension worker if you think you see bacterial wilt in local bananas. An extension worker can give you more details about how to prevent and control this disease. And talk to other farmers about what you’ve heard on this program. Thanks for joining us today.

– END –


  • Contributed by Jennifer Pittet, Thornbury, Ontario, Canada.
  • Reviewed by Simon Eden-Green, EG Consulting, United Kingdom.

Information Sources

  • Correspondence with Richard Markham. International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP). March 2004.
  • Tushemereirwe, W., et al. “An outbreak of bacterial wilt on banana in Uganda“. InfoMusa. 2003: Volume 12, Number 2.
  • Eastern Africa: New disease threatens banana production. AgriForum.
  • Cuddeford, Vijay. Understanding plant diseases, part two. Toronto: Developing Countries Farm Radio Network, 1997.
  • Eden-Green, S.J. (2004). Banana Xanthomonas wilt.