The experiment of Wageningen University & Research to grow bananas on a stone wool substrate has been a success.
The greenhouses of the experimental farm Unifarm in Wageningen (the Netherlands) harvested bananas that had been grown on a stone wool substrate. This experiment was carried out with the aim to develop methods of protecting banana trees from a “banana killer” – Fusarium wilt caused by the aggressive fungi.
Fusarium wilt is a disease that attacks plant’s roots and affects fruit and seeds with possible harm to people health. There is no effective treatment to Fusarium fungi, which pollutes soils for decades. Currently, Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race IV (TR4) is devastating banana plantations in the Southeast Asia, reaching Australia and Latin America.
The experiment to grow bananas on a stone wool substrate appears to be very successful stimulating the researchers to move to field trials in two major production countries.
The Netherlands’ first-ever domestic banana trees were planted in January 2018. They developed very well in healthy plants producing very nice banana bunches. Banana-multinational company Chiquita offered assistance, providing technical expertise and ripening the fruit once it was harvested. As early as 2018 the yield was sold in local supermarkets.
For the 100th anniversary of WUR (Wageningen University & Research), we developed this plan together with the local cooperation Boerenhart: the cultivation of a regional banana in the Wageningen greenhouses. With this experiment we will investigate whether this cultivation offers prospects for further research into mastering Fusarium wilt. This is due to a soil borne fungal pathogen that threatens the banana production throughout the world. So we took the banana out of the soil.
says Professor of Tropical Plant Pathology Gert Kema.
The banana trees were planted on two types of substrates: coco peat and rock wool. This allows the growth of banana without the settlement of aggressive fungi.
An innovative project of growing bananas in greenhouses on a stone wool substrate demonstrated excellent results so the researchers are preparing for field trials in the Philippines and in Guatemala.
Now, they are focusing on economic feasibility of growing bananas on a basalt substrate and are going to evaluate the product quality, plant productivity, and supply chains. However, the new method requires further elaboration and a few technical problems have to be solved.
But banana growers suffering losses due to the spread of Fusarium wilt might consider this option. Stone wool growing requires further investments but a basalt substrate is sterile, recyclable, undecomposable and capable of growing healthy plants.
As we have informed before, stone wool substrate is used in a unique eco-greenhouse in Latvia.