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From the Director's Desk
As the Director of NRCB, it has been an eventful and satisfying journey for me to witness the phenomenal growth of the Centre over the last 25 years as I happen to be the first Scientist to join ICAR-NRCB in 1993. The Centre has made rapid strides over the years in creating state-of-the-art infrastructure, laboratories and field facilities to take up need based, demand driven research for the benefit of banana farmers and other stakeholders. The increase in the area under cultivation, production and productivity of banana in India in the last decadestands testimony to the role played by NRCB’s research and technologies in making India the top banana producer country in the world. The national and international impact of NRCB has been apparent to all and these statistics tell their own story. ICAR-NRCB has several flagship technologies which have revolutionized the banana industry in the last decade and allowed the banana farmers and stakeholders to reap the benefits.
In this era of climate change, the Centre has undertaken focused research on evolving cultivars with desirable traits for high yield combined with tolerance / resistance to various abiotic and biotic stresses. This approach has yielded fruitful results and I am happy to say this year, three elite selections developed by the centre, Kaveri Saba, Kaveri Haritha and Kaveri Kanya, have been recommended for release as central varieties. Promising candidates such as NCR 17, a promising Nendran based hybrid, hybrids resistant to Fusarium wilt, race 1 and root-lesion nematode and TBM9, a dwarf mutant line, are undergoing multilocation trials at present under ICAR-AICRP (Fruits) and are likely to be released for commercial cultivation in the coming years. A bioreactor (patent filed) has been fabricated and validated for quick production of tissue culture plants on industrial scale and a macropropagation technology standardized for farm level production of planting material also has been transferred to the farming community.
Centre has made concerted efforts to combat the spread of TR4 in India and made significant progress in developing management strategies for this dreaded disease. Promising microbial isolates and their effective consortia have been identified for management of Fusarium wilt race 1 and tropical race 4. Diagnostic tools for banana viruses have been refined further and ICAR-NRCB has developed a test kit for rapid on-site detection of banana bract mosaic virus which is cheaper and reliable for use by farmers and tissue culture companies and also developed and validated a lateral flow immunoassay device for on-site detection of Cucumber Mosaic virus. The species complex of banana leaf and fruit scarring beetle was documented from different states of India. Isolates of microbial biocontrol agents effective against stem weevil and volatile compounds for use as attractants / deterrents against weevils from different banana cultivars were identified.
Banana Shakthi, a micronutrient mixture for banana, has made a major impact on the productivity and is widely adopted by the farmers. Major cultivars have been profiled for flavonoids and anthocyanins in peel and flower. Fruits of banana cultivars with better glycemic index have been identified. In Post-Harvest management, extension of shelf-life of banana leaf and fruits was standardized. Banana flour and peel powder-based products were prepared and characterized and an array of products and technologies based on banana starch, peel flour, stem powder and fibre are available for entrepreneurs. The Centre has facilitated the export of Nendran bananas to the Middle East which has a sizeable population of Indian expatriates by developing a sea protocol that can save the transport cost by seven-fold in association with Fair Exports, Cochin and APEDA. This year, the Centre has signed an MoU with VFPCK, Kerala and provided consultancy services towards developing a sea shipment protocol for exporting Indian banana to the European Union. Various post-harvest value added products have been commercialized through training cum sale of technology. The centre has research linkages with international institutes like Bioversity International, France; QUT, Australia; IITA-Nigeria; NARO-Uganda and more than 30 national institutes. The centre has released several mobile apps on various aspects of banana production, protection and postharvest management for the benefit of banana farmers and stakeholders.
The International Conference on Banana (ICB-2020) organized by ICAR-NRCB during 23-25 February, 2020 was a stupendous success and attracted the best researchers of India and the world. It was attended by more than 500 participants including international delegates from Australia, Belgium, France, Czech Republic, Turkey, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Philippines and Indonesia, besides scientists and other stakeholders from different parts of India, students, entrepreneurs and farmers. Scientific deliberations and discussions were held in 11 technical sessions and a satellite workshop on “Fusarium wilt, Tropical Race 4 (Foc-TR4)” was also conducted.
I sincerely hope the difficulties faced by the country due to unforeseen contingencies like the Covid-19 problem this year will soon be overcome with the stimulus package proposed by the Government of India and the in-built resilience and hard work of Indian farmers. I assure that the NRCB will be working with renewed vigour to overcome these challenges.


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