Banana farmers in Africa are growing better crops and living healthier lives thanks to the influence of Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-Bred International. Pioneer spokeswoman Desiree Fletcher-Hayes says growers in the nation of Kenya are learning valuable lessons about genetics, like how shoots from a diseased plant produce diseased trees. Fletcher-Hayes says agricultural technologies that have been used in the U.S. for years are being applied to a different crop, bananas, a crop that’s relevant in Africa. She says Pioneer is partnering with a group called Africa Harvest to bring the new ideas to Kenya’s Chura community, where hunger and poverty are rampant. Fletcher-Hayes says “By being able to help these banana growers increase their yields, they’re being able to help them improve their livelihoods and lead a more sustainable life.” Agricultural researchers from the U.S. have introduced the Kenyans to the concept of what’s called tissue culture propagation. She says it had been typical for banana growers to take shoots from one plant, even though it was sickly, and plant that to start the next crop. The process passes on the problem to the next generation of plants which get steadily sicker and produce poorer quality fruit. Fletcher-Hayes says by growing the shoots in a controlled lab environment, you’re able to get a cleaner seedling to plant which will result in a healthier tree that will produce more abundant fruit. This year’s harvest in Chura is the first to include bananas grown via tissue culture propagation. She says banana production more than doubled while incomes for some farm families tripled.
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