Efficient Screening Techniques for Mutants with Disease Resistance for Coffee and Banana


Plant diseases pose a major threat to global food security. It is strongly predicted that the compounding factors of climate change and variability, newly emerging races of pathogens, and reliance on monocultures will increase the severity of the problem. The ability for Member States to maintain farmer’s livelihoods and to adequately feed their population with nutritious food is at risk. Diseases affect all crops and result in massive yield losses. Traditional breeding methods are limited by narrow gene pools, and by the long time required to develop new varieties. Induced mutations offer a safe, proven and acceptable alternative route to increase the efficiency of producing crops with enhanced resistance to biotic stress. Some pathogens capable of devastating crops produced nowadays have become more damaging because their geographical ranges expanded as a consequence of climate change.

Tropical climates, prevalent in most developing countries, cause particular concerns as they allow continuous cropping due favourable environmental conditions, leading to a build-up of inoculum. A change in temperature can directly affect the spread of infectious diseases and their survival between seasons. The recent outbreak of coffee leaf rust (CLR) in Central America has been associated with weather conditions favourable to epidemic development as has caused a serious damage and economic losses to coffee growers of that region. Climate change is also reported to cause a shift in the geographical distribution of plant pathogens and temperature changes may also favour the development of different dormant pathogens, which could result in a novel epidemic situation. Increase in temperature with sufficient soil moisture may increase evapotranspiration resulting in a humid microclimate that may lead to the incidence of diseases favoured under these conditions. Banana fusarium wilt, also known as Panama disease, caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc) Tropical race 4 (TR4), is spreading geographically. Originally limited to parts of Asia and Australia's Northern Territory, it was identified in Jordan and Africa in 2013 (http://www.promusa.org/Tropical+race+4+-+TR4).

This CRP will focus on the development of technology packages to enhance the efficiency of generation and screening mutant populations of crop species for the improved resistance to plant diseases. Vegetatively propagated banana and the polyploid perennial arabica coffee are the target species where major improvements are needed to overcome existing bottlenecks in the production and screening of mutants. Activities will also include methods of mutant characterization to facilitate breeding and transfer of adapted varieties to farmers.

CRP Overall Objective:

The overall objective of this CRP is provide tools and improved germplasm of coffee and banana to mitigate the effect of climate change driven crop disease outbreaks to enable sustainable food security and enhanced livelihoods in Member States.

Expected Outcomes:

  • Increasing the toolbox of breeders in MSs to mitigate the effects plant disease outbreaks.
  • Increased competency of breeders for improving mutation disease resistance in Member States.
  • Increased number of mutant varieties with improved disease resistance.

Expected Outputs:

  • Technology packages for enhanced efficiency of mutation breeding for disease resistance in banana and coffee consisting of a collection of protocols and guidelines produced in this CRP.
  • Efficient laboratory-based phenotypic screening protocols and guidelines for rapid and/or early detection of banana and coffee mutants with improved resistance to one or more target diseases of this CRP.
  • Efficient field-based phenotypic screening protocols and guidelines for rapid and/or early detection of banana and coffee mutants with improved resistance to one or more target diseases of this CRP.
  • Further developed and enhanced low-cost tissue culture methods.
  • New mutant germplasm in one or more of the target crops included in the project (e.g. banana, coffee).
  • Methods for characterization and utilization of induced mutations to support breeding.
  • Scientific publications resulting from research activities.

Project Officer:

I. Ingelbrecht