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Diversity of nematodes on banana (Musa spp.) in Kenya linked to altitude and with a focus on the pathogenicity of Pratylenchus goodeyi
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Summary Bananas (Musa spp.) are considered the most important fruit crop in Kenya, grown mostly by smallholder farmers. However, in the past two decades production has declined and has largely been attributed to plant pathogens, including plant-parasitic nematodes. To assess the understanding and awareness that banana farmers have of nematodes, a survey was conducted. The incidence, abundance and distribution of nematodes in relation to altitude were determined for different banana types on 180 farms and the pathogenicity of Pratylenchus goodeyi, originating from three different altitudinal locations, was compared on two banana cultivars. Just 2.3% of farmers were aware of nematode damage and symptoms, none of whom applied any management measures. The highest abundance of nematodes was recorded at an altitude range of 1601-2000 m a.s.l., with Pratylenchus, Meloidogyne and Helicotylenchus being the predominant genera. Across all altitudinal locations, cooking banana had higher densities of nematodes than dessert bananas. In pots, P. goodeyi populations from Embu (1300 m a.s.l.) appeared more aggressive and with higher levels of multiplication than the population from Oyugis (1100 m a.s.l.). Cooking banana ('Ng'ombe') was more susceptible than dessert banana ('Sukari Ndizi'). Nematode damage is more prominent in areas at higher altitude and on cooking banana cultivars. The findings provide key information in guiding informed and suitable management decision thresholds in relation to potential climate change.