Ecuador is the largest exporter of bananas in the world. We talked to Jose Dominguez, a member of Bayer’s Fruits and Vegetables division for Latin America, and Ana Paulina Posso, part of the Marketing Division at Bayer in Ecuador, about food security, sustainability measures, and how to improve banana production.
Banana is one of the most important crops in Latin America.
How important is the banana to Ecuador?
Ana Paulina Posso: It is one of the most important crops in many of the PACA countries (Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador). Ecuador has been the top exporter in the world for many years, exporting 6 million tons of bananas per year. One out of every three bananas in the world comes from Ecuador. Almost 80% of production goes to Russia, the United States, Turkey, Belgium, China, Argentina, Chile, Italy, England, and Germany.
Jose Dominguez: Ecuadorian bananas are a high-quality product in world markets. It’s a fruit that, due to its characteristics, has a long shelf life, which is well-liked in markets of very distant destinations. The banana is the first agricultural item of economic importance, mainly for the country’s coastal region.
In the case of Ecuador, what are the main difficulties that producers face in relation to the cultivation of bananas?
Jose Dominguez: One of the great challenges is the control of fungal diseases, nematodes, and pests. A big threat is black sigatoka which is present in all the countries that produce the fruit. If not treated properly, it can reduce productivity by up to 50% and increase the risk of resistance to fungicides. Root health is another issue for producers. A root system which is damaged or subjected to extreme conditions can reduce the vigor of the plants, decrease the quality of the harvested fruit, and cause significant yield losses.
What are biological products and what part do they play?
Ana Paulina Posso: In Ecuador, we recommend that farmers advance in the control of pests, diseases, and weeds, and protect the environment and the communities with goals that optimize agricultural production, even with innovative biological phytosanitary products. These are based on bacterial or fungal microorganisms or are obtained from plant extracts to protect crops. Used in integrated programs with preventive products of traditional chemistry, biological products help farmers in Ecuador produce bananas according to the new consumer demands. This is possible through integrated and rotation programs where we combine chemical and biological products together with various mechanisms of action as excellent tools for optimal management that prevents the emergence of disease resistance.
Jose Dominguez: Bayer has the best portfolio for handling bananas, using the products in comprehensive programs. Biologicals are products that are organic and require lower applied doses per hectare. The use of fungicides of a biological nature, with organic certification for the control of sigatoka in bananas, in alternation with traditional chemistry products, can optimize up to 25% of the applications. With knowledge, a farmer can reduce the total chemicals used in their production by 60%, or fewer kilograms of active ingredient per hectare per year.
What is the importance of this type of innovation for food security?
Jose Dominguez: It is our role to raise the technological level to find the key to increasing productivity per hectare. This development includes increased use of innovative products conforming to new global trends demanding better quality fruits as well as stricter import requirements for individual countries.
Ana Paulina Posso: Experts in health and nutrition agree that a balanced diet that contains fruits and vegetables can help improve health and prevent disease. Advances in plant breeding, crop protection and storage, processing, and transportation are providing consumers with better and wider access to diversified diets. The improvement in health care, together with safe and accessible foods, contributes to the increase in life expectancy throughout the world.
How can the use of biologics support sustainability in agriculture in Latin America?
Jose Dominguez: One of the biggest global problems is obesity all over the world. One of the weapons you must use to fight this epidemic is to eat healthier, and to consume more fruits and vegetables. Thus, consumers around the world have greater demands in regard to the origin of these foods. Because its nature and conditions, Latin America is ideal for producing these foods for local and international consumption. We need more techniques for the integrated management of pests and diseases, where we will recommend the use of biologicals, best agricultural practices, and natural enemies with fully balanced solutions, among other things.
Ana Paulina Posso: The biological portfolio of Bayer has fungicides, insecticides, and nematicides. They complement the recommendations of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) that make up the sustainable role of the farmer. In addition, we have advised a growing number of local producers on good agricultural processes during commercial visits and in events like fairs or congresses to promote the solutions and show that it is possible to produce more while improving the quality of food security and natural resources at the same time.
These articles might also be interesting:
Fruits of the Caribbean
“Only together can we make this world stronger”