There are many health benefits to eating bananas. Bananas are a natural mood enhancer due to high levels of tryptophan. They are officially recognized by the FDA to lower blood pressure. Bananas increase the absorption of calcium and protect your eyes from macular degeneration. In addition, bananas provide relief from constipation and are a natural antacid. Just this short list of benefits is enough to encourage one to plant a banana patch.
Since 2010, with funding from the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, the Guam Department of Agriculture and the University of Guam have been partnering to make disease-free planting stock available to farmers for local banana production. Several varieties of banana plants are available at the Guam Department of Agriculture nursery on Dairy Road in Mangilao.
“We bring new plant varieties to Guam that are disease-free and suitable for Guam’s growing conditions. A local farmer requested a banana variety called FHIA (pronounced fee-ha) that is used around the Pacific and Caribbean because of its resistance to Black Sigatoka, caused by an airborne fungus and Fusarium Wilt (Panama disease). We are happy to announce that several FHIA varieties (both dessert and plantain types) are available and ready for planting,” said Alicja Wiecko, UOG research associate and administrator of the USDA grant.
Wiecko has been working with the Tropical Agriculture Research Station in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and with the recently commissioned tissue culture laboratory in Suva, Fiji, to find planting stock for Guam. Fiji’s tissue culture facility was built with assistance provided by the Fiji government and the Australian aid program through the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. TARS in Puerto Rico has a germplasm collection of all valuable bananas that are freely distributed by the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System for educational, agriculture research or breeding purposes.
“Both laboratories have provided us with several varieties of banana, taro, and yam,” said Wiecko. “Tissue culture plants are ideal for sending plantlets through the mail as there is no risk of introducing diseases or pests.”
FHIA is the Spanish acronym of the Honduran Agricultural Research Foundation (Fundación Hondureña de Investigación Agrícola), where the first breeding program for disease-resistant banana and plantain hybrids was started. There are now many FHIA varieties that have been successfully planted in more than 50 countries.
Enhance your mood and reap the other health benefits of eating bananas by starting your own banana patch today. FHIA varieties currently available at the Guam Department of Agriculture are FHIA 1, FHIA 2, FIHA 3, FHIA 17, 18, and FHIA 21. Other banana varieties available are Dwarf French Plantain, Macao, Dwarf Brazilian, Lacatan, Williams, Ducasse, Mysore, Fiji, and Guahu (Dwarf Cavendish).
For more information and to learn how you can grow your own bananas, contact Alicja Wiecko at 735-2140 or Ricardo Lizama at 300-7974. (UOG)