The 29th International Horticultural Congress | Sustaining Lives, Livelihoods and Landscapes | 17-22 August 2014
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Unravelling the Banana's Genomic Potential

Sponsored by the ISHS Section Banana and Plantain and ProMusa

Photo on left, a bunch of Ruhuvia Chichi, the name in the Solomon Islands of a diploid cultivar. The Solomon Islands is one of the rare places where diploids are still cultivated. (photo credit G. Sachter-Smith). Photo on right, yellow and wilted leaves are typical symptoms of Fusarium wilt, (photo credit G. Blomme)

The fifth joint ISHS SEBA-ProMusa Symposium will be held as one of the symposia of the 29th International Horticultural Congress in Brisbane, Australia on 17-22 August, 2014. The overall theme for the symposium will be "Unravelling the banana’s genomic potential".

Today, for the first time in history, more than half the global population lives in cities. Urbanization is taking place at an alarmingly escalating rate, placing great strain on food supply systems, mostly on those delicately balanced and overburdened systems in the developing world. How do we ensure sustainable delivery of the required food quantity and balanced nutrition, while at the same time guaranteeing environmental protection and fair income generation to producers? With global climate change threatening crop production across the globe, the burden to feed the growing and increasingly urban population is further exacerbated.

Banana currently acts as a starchy staple food crop for approximately 500 million people, particularly those in the least developed countries, where many poor families are involved in its cultivation and many others benefit as consumers. In many parts of the world, productivity remains well below the optimum and, in certain areas, pitifully poor. Banana is also a potential gold mine of vitamins and micronutrients. With the banana genome recently unravelled, that potential is now more than ever ready to be exploited by the scientific community beyond boundaries not yet imagined. The genome sequence provides access to the plant’s over 36,000 genes, making it possible to identify those genes responsible for particular traits, such as disease resistance, dwarfism, fruit quality and many more, and opening up many exciting new opportunities.

This symposium will take stock of ongoing research efforts with the impact of the recently sequenced genome, and how this has influenced various areas of banana research since, taking centre stage. Special attention will be given to Fusarium wilt tropical race 4, which is already a major problem in Asia and poses a huge threat for banana production in Africa and Latin America. The contribution of banana to human health and nutrition will also be highlighted, with a special focus on Pacific bananas.

The ProMusa community is now preparing for the symposium. An online collaborative workspace is being initiated where potential attendees can post updates, engage in discussions, undertake in Q & A and make enquiries. We very much look forward to interacting with you online to begin with and later in Brisbane in August 2014.

Oral and poster papers are invited on the following themes:

  • Impact of genome sequence on research/breeding/management
  • Biotic and abiotic stresses, and plant interaction
  • Contribution of banana to human health and nutrition
  • Diversity in Musa
  • Other


Dr Inge Van den Bergh, a nematologist by training, is working as Musa Germplasm Evaluation Scientist for Bioversity International. She leads the International Musa Testing Program and has been involved in the screening of Musa diversity for vitamin A content. She has been the coordinator of the ProMusa network since 2006, focusing on improving the exchange of information and knowledge in the banana R4D community.

Dr Mike Smith is a senior principal scientist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. He has over 30 years research experience in tropical crop biotechnology with applications for banana plant protection and genetic improvement. He was formerly the chair of the Promusa Crop Improvement Working Group. He is based at Maroochy Research Station in southeast Queensland.

Jeff Daniells is a principal horticulturist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. He has 32 years experience in horticulture research and development, particularly on bananas. Jeff is responsible for the Australian field collection of banana varieties which contains over 200 different types. His studies on bananas have included crop nutrition, irrigation, plant spacing, leaf diseases and maturity bronzing. Jeff has travelled extensively through tropical countries undertaking his work. He is currently chair of the ProMusa Crop Production Working Group.

Dr Rob Miller is currently a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Cell Biology at University of Brasília. He has a background in plant pathology and molecular biology (MSc. University of Bath, UK; PhD. University of Reading, UK). He is currently chair of the Promusa Crop Improvement Working Group, and also an active member of the Global Musa Genomics Consortium.

Opening Keynote

Angélique D’Hont, Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement, France. Angélique D’Hont’s research interests are focused on understanding the structure and evolution of complex genomes involving polyploidy, interspecific hybridity and structural heterozygosity. She leads a research team ‘Genome structure and evolution’ at CIRAD, Montpellier, France (, whose current activities focus mainly on banana and sugarcane, two polyploid complexes, making use of comparative genomics, molecular marker diversity, genetic mapping and molecular cytogenetics. These studies are closely connected with genetic improvement programs. Recently, she coordinated a large effort on banana genome analysis, producing the first monocotyledon high-continuity whole-genome sequence reported outside Poales and providing an essential bridge for comparative genome analysis in plants.

Theme 1: Musa Diversity and Conservation

Uma Subbaraya, an Indian national, works at the National Research center for Banana (NRCB) in India, where she was the founder scientist and for 23 years has been involved in exploration, collection, evaluation and utilization of banana of India and abroad. She was instrumental in the establishment of a holistic conservation strategy through field and in-vitro genebanks, a DNA bank and a Cell Suspension bank at NRCB. She is involved in the development of a ‘National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants for Banana’. She has developed a high-throughput in-vitro technique for banana mass propagation through somatic embryogenesis for the tissue culture industry and macro-propagation techniques for large-scale multiplication for farmers. She has developed infrastructure at NRCB for research on Functional Genomics and Proteomics studies in banana. She has been credited with the release of the very high yielding cultivar ‘Udhayam’ and has four more in pipeline. She has popularized many exotic introductions in India through ICAR-BAPNET-BIOVERSITY programs. She is involved in farmers’ oriented extension programs in India and is a member of ProMusa, MusaNet and the Global Musa Genomics Consortium.

Theme 2: Host Reaction to Biotic and Abiotic Stress

Altus Viljoen is professor in Plant Pathology at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. His research focuses on aspects pertaining to the protection of agricultural crops against Fusarium diseases, and includes integrated disease management, fungal biology and epidemiology, and plant-microbe interactions. He is particularly involved in banana Fusarium wilt research in Africa and Asia where he contributes to research activities, advises banana companies and producers, and participates in scientific meetings.

Sebastien Carpentier was appointed assistant Professor in the Division of Crop Biotechnics, Department of Biosystems, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, in October 2011. He leads his own research group which, focuses on stress physiology of crops and plant proteomics/mass spectrometry. He also heads the Mass spectrometry facility at KULeuven (SYBIOMA; He obtained his PhD in 2007 from KU Leuven and did a postdoc at the university of Wageningen (WUR) and Plant Research International, The Netherlands (2009-2011) in the framework of a mobility fellowship granted by the FWO.

Theme 3: Crop Improvement for Host Reaction and Quality

Frédéric Bakry, Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), France. Frédéric Bakry is a senior scientist at CIRAD in Montpellier. For more than 30 years his work has been dedicated to the improvement of banana specializing in plant breeding and genetics. He is currently involved in several regional and international projects focusing on genetic inheritance as well as the release and dissemination of new disease-resistant dessert and cooking banana hybrids.

Theme 4: New Cultivars for Farmers and Consumers

James Dale is the Director of the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities at Queensland University of Technology. His group’s research focuses on biofortification (pro-vitamin A and iron) and disease resistance (bunchy top and Fusarium wilt) of bananas through genetic modification. His group has field trials in Australia and is collaborating in field trials in Uganda. In addition to Uganda, the group has collaborations in Kenya, India and Indonesia.

Theme 5: Integrated Crop Management and Value Chains

David Turner, University Western Australia, Australia. Prof David Turner trained in agronomy and whole plant physiology and has conducted research in banana since 1962. He has enjoyed working with colleagues and students in many areas of research including plant development and environmental physiology. He continues these interests at the University of Western Australia where he is an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Plant Biology.


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