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The Banana Xanthomonas Wilt Pandemic
BXW is caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum (Xcm). BXW was initially reported as a disease of the closest relative of banana, Ensete ventricosum, about 90 years ago in Ethiopia. In 1974, it was reported on bananas in Ethiopia. Then in 2001, outbreaks were reported in Uganda and the DRC. In five years BXW has spread rapidly through all the central districts of Uganda and is threatening production in the major banana producing districts in the western and southwestern parts of the country. Likewise, in the DRC, the infected area has increased substantially to cover large parts of Masisi District in North Kivu Province. In Rwanda, two infected sites were observed in Cyanzarwe district of Gisenyi Province in October 2005. CRS staffs in Tanzania have reported evidence of BXW on their doorstep, roughly 30-50 miles from their borders. The present extent of infestation in East and Central Africa is shown in Table below (sample disease images).

Country Currently Affected Immediately Threatened
Burundi - Entire country
DRC Masisi District, North Kivu North and South Kivu
Kenya - Western Province, Nyanzas (Kisii area)
Rwanda Gisenyi Prefecture Rest of country
Tanzania - Kagera Region
Uganda Center, East and West North-west, South-west, Far south

BXW causes early ripening and rotting of fruits, even in the absence of other apparent external signs of the disease. As it progresses it results in wilting and death of the plant. Ratoon crops arising from infected mats are severely diseased and often wilt before producing bunches or produce bunches with rotten fruits. Once established in a locality, the disease can spread rapidly (up to 70 km per year) and is difficult to eradicate thereafter. Without proper management, yields in affected areas are reduced to virtually zero. Bananas are extremely important for food security and as a source of household income in much of the Great Lakes region. Over 20 million people depend on them as the main source of livelihood. They are grown both as a staple food crop and for income generation mainly through brewing and regional export of both cooking and dessert bananas. Bananas also protect soil against erosion and leaching both through their massive root system and their aerial leaf cover. Control measures for the disease have included destruction of infected stools, which means not only a loss of food and income for farmers but also has an impact on the environment. As BXW continues to ravage plantations, soil surface left bare becomes very vulnerable to erosion especially in the hilly terrain found in much of the Great Lakes Region.

BXW Background Information links...
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