I’m a PhD candidate at North Carolina State University, studying a disease of banana called black Sigatoka. The disease is caused by a fungus that enters into the leaves, where it kills the cells and turns the leaves brown. Plants afflicted with this disease are less able to do photosynthesis and yield a good crop.
To control the disease, banana plants on commercial plantations are currently sprayed up to 70 times per year with fungicides, and these sprays comprise up to 40% of the production cost of banana. Subsistence farmers often can’t afford the fungicide sprays, so they can be faced with losing half of their crop. Effective, environmentally friendly control methods are clearly needed.
To design new control strategies, we need to understand exactly how the black Sigatoka fungus is able to cause disease, but little research on the molecular mechanism has been done so far. My research is helping to change that.