Nematodes, commonly called roundworms, and are some of the most destructive pathogens damaging banana and plantain crops across the globe. Chemical nemacides have been banned in most of the world due to their dangerous toxic and carcinogenic nature.
Israel’s Rahan Meristem biotechnology company has now developed banana plants resistant to nematodes – a development that will save banana growers the world over millions of dollars in lost crops.
Up to this point, improvement of banana strains has been slow due to the banana plant’s natural sterility, but lengthy field testing and genetic modification have now yielded excellent results: plants immune to the parasitic organisms.
"We are very pleased with our accomplishment of creating genetically-engineered banana varieties that were proven highly resistant to root nematodes,” Rahan CEO Onn Barzilai said. “Our unique technology will also be used to improve additional crops against nematodes in a sustainable and safe manner."
Rahan Meristem was founded in 1974 by members of Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra, located on Israel’s coastal border with Lebanon. Initially, Rahan's workers developed new procedures for large-scale propagation of over two hundred plant different kinds of plants, including ornamental, industrial, fruit and vegetable crops.
By the mid 1980's, the company focused on a smaller variety of plants, and in vitro propagated banana plants became the leading product. “Combined with the high level of pre-existing expertise of banana agrotechnology on Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra, Rahan became a center of research and consultation for the banana industry throughout the world,” the company’s web site claims.
The company currently employs 110 people, and aside from its main office in northern Israel, maintains agencies in Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Serbia and Croatia.