Banana Bunchy Top Virus Mitigation

Community management in Nigeria, and screening wild banana progenitors for resistance.

Close up of banana leaves that are bunched together

Bunchy top is a disease caused by the Banana bunchy top virus (BBTV). It is considered to be the most devastating viral diseases affecting bananas. The IUCN's Species Survival Commission has listed it among the world's 100 worst invasive alien species.

The disease gets its name from the bunchy appearance of infected plants. Because the first symptoms usually go unnoticed, smallholder banana farmers can be caught unaware. By the time the signs of an advanced infection become apparent, it will be too late to save the host plant and its suckers, and the virus may well have spread to other plants, farms or regions. There is no known source of resistance  to the disease and all cultivars are believed to be susceptible. 

Although it was first reported in Fiji in 1889, the virus probably stems from the centre of origin of the genus Musa, which extends from India to the western Pacific. It is within this region where the solution to BBTV is thought to lie. 

Major constraints to banana breeding improvement programmes, including searching for resistance to BBTV, are 

  • Access to wild banana seed material 
  • Storage of wild banana seed material 
  • Germination of wild banana seed

Traditionally, major banana collections are kept in vitro as they are easily propagated vegetatively. Most of these collections focus on cultivated varieties. 

Unlike cultivated bananas, the fruits of wild species contain numerous seeds but little is known regarding the storage behaviour and germination of these wild banana seeds. The ability to conserve seeds and germinate them would provide a cheaper, quicker alternative to in vitro storage for wild species.


  • Understand the reaction of wild Musa spp. and cultivars to Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV), with the maximum opportunity to discover resistance sources if present.
  • Enhancing the value of Musa collections with the addition of novel Crop Wild Relative germplasms and increased knowledge of preservation of Musa seed.
  • Understanding the epidemiology of BBTV, and its distribution in Nigeria.
  • Demonstration of enhanced production at pilot sites through the use of BBTV management and mitigation strategies in low input systems, through demonstration. 
  • Packages that promote community awareness of BBTV and means for its control
Project lead

Dr John Dickie


Simon Kallow


  • Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry


  • Bioversity, Leuven, International Banana Collection
  • Meise Botanic Garden


  • Indonesian Tropical Fruit Research Institute
  • Institut Pertanian Bogor
  • Gadjah Mada University Yogyakarta


  • Bureau of Plant Industry
  • University of the Philippines Los Baños


  • Plant Genetic Resources Institute

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation