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In 2015, Costa Rica grew and supplied one out of every 10 bananas consumed globally and ranks as the world’s third largest banana exporter. The banana industry is vital to the rural Costa Rican community and accounts for over 100,000 jobs. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder that scientists are constantly looking for ways to help farmers protect their bananas to keep up with global demand and sustain their livelihoods.
Gil De Diego Salas is director of Calinda Farm, which employs 210 Costa Ricans and exports 20 million kilograms of bananas annually. He says a major pest threating the banana crop is the nematode. “They attack the roots of the banana plant, which means that the plant doesn’t receive the water and micronutrients that are essential for a good crop. If it gets badly infested, the plant has no way of holding onto the ground.” Gil says his entire banana crop, and that of the country’s, could be destroyed without the assistance of crop protection products.
Rodolfo Ceciliano Solis, a plant scientist specializing in bananas, has been instrumental in developing a crop protection product to help control the nematode. “In 2009, a group of farmers asked us to find new ways to control these pests. We did two trials and found an effective pesticide that was environmentally sustainable.” By maintaining a constant dialogue with farmers, Rodolfo said that scientists are able to identify problems early on, before they destroy crops and livelihoods. Rodolfo emphasizes the importance of his work. “I would say 90-95 percent of bananas in Costa Rica need fungicides because they have a nematode problem.”