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Front. Plant Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fpls.2018.00558

Banana21: from gene discovery to deregulated Golden Bananas

 Jean-Yves Paul1*,  Robert Harding1, Wilberforce Tushemereirwe2 and  James Dale1
  • 1Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
  • 2National Agricultural Research Organisation, Uganda

Uganda is a tropical country with a population in excess of 30 million, more than 80% of whom live in rural areas. Bananas (Musa spp.) are the staple food of Uganda with the East African Highland banana (EAHB), a cooking banana, the primary starch source. Unfortunately, these bananas are low in pro-vitamin A (PVA) and iron and, as a result, banana-based diets are low in these micronutrients which results in very high levels of inadequate nutrition. This inadequate nutrition manifests as high levels of vitamin A deficiency (VAD), iron deficiency anaemia and stunting in children. A project known as Banana21 commenced in 2005 to alleviate micronutrient deficiencies in Uganda and surrounding countries through the generation of farmer- and consumer-acceptable edible bananas with significantly increased fruit levels of PVA and iron. A genetic modification approach was adopted since bananas are recalcitrant to conventional breeding. In this review, we focus on the PVA-biofortification component of the Banana21 project and describe the proof-of-concept studies conducted in Australia, the transfer of the technology to our Ugandan collaborators and the successful implementation of the strategy into the field in Uganda. The many challenges encountered and the potential future obstacles to the practical exploitation of PVA-enhanced bananas in Uganda are discussed.

Keywords: Banana (Musa spp.), East African highland banana (EAHB), Staple crop, Uganda, Micronutrient deficiency, Vitamin A Deficiency, Pro-vitamin A, Carotenoids, biofortification

Received: 13 Feb 2018; Accepted: 09 Apr 2018.

Edited by:

Felipe K. Ricachenevsky, Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Brazil

Reviewed by:

Hamid Khazaei, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Michael A. Grusak, Children's Nutrition Research, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Paul, Harding, Tushemereirwe and Dale. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Jean-Yves Paul, Queensland University of Technology, Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, 2 George St, Brisbane, 4000, Queensland, Australia, jy.paul@qut.edu.au