Guadeloupe’s banana industry is becoming more sustainable

Bananas. Image: CEB
Agriculture

From the International News, a report on how banana cultivation in Guadeloupe is becoming more environmentally friendly:

Yellow is the new green in the French Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe. Bananas are the island group´s top agricultural export, and there is growing awareness that farming practices need to change as yields drop and damage from pesticide use rises.

Mindful of the biodiversity in his banana grove at Capesterre-Belle-Eau on the island of Basse-Terre, farmer Jean-Louis Butel follows the French government´s recommendations on sustainable agriculture.

“Environmental activists had us visit banana groves at night. We saw bats, and 300 or 400 other species living in the grove,” Butel says.

In recent years, yields in areas where bananas are grown exclusively have been on the decline.

On the positive side, attitudes are finally changing over the use of the pesticide chlordecone, which continues to pollute the soil despite being banned since 1990.

Those factors combined have encouraged Butel to switch to more sustainable methods.

Since 2007 “we haven´t used any pesticides, or nematicide (against roundworm parasites) and in 2014 we stopped using herbicides,” he says.

Butel has since started rotating sugar cane and bananas, while growing covering crops and deploying insect traps.

Overall, banana growers in Guadeloupe have reduced by 70 percent their use of pesticides, according to Jacques Louisor of the Tropical Technical Institute.

The final hurdle for many farmers is giving up treatments against the fungus that causes the leaf spotting disease called black sigatoka and can cause yields to plunge by half.

Researchers may soon be able to provide a solution: scientists at the France-based agricultural research centre CIRAD have developed a banana variety that is partially resistant to the disease.

The variety, dubbed CIRAD 925, has a slightly different taste.

It has hit the market in Guadeloupe, and by the end of the year it could go on sale in the French mainland. By 2020, it may allow farmers to transition to organic agriculture.

Read more in the full article: In Guadeloupe, going green means going bananas.

 

[Image: CEB]

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