Lot has to be done on epidemiological study on Enset: Sabura Shara

AMU’s PhD scholar Sabura Shara at KU Leuven, Belgium, presently engaged in investigating how Enset Bacterial Wilt (EBW) disease spread, susceptibility aspect and role of soil nutrients that might be causing severity is his main research focus. Being half-way through he could only offer some palpable reasons, while credible outputs are yet to come up; following is excerpt of his interview. Click here to see the pictures.

Mr Sabura said research on Enset so far done is minimal and didn’t offer comprehensive insight into epidemiological aspect. Some screened varieties and suggested sanitary measures, but still there is lack of adequate knowledge on agro-ecological niche. Hence, I am engaged in dealing with what agro-ecological niche can be related with severity of EBW and its progress vis-a-vis different climatic elevation and soil fertility management.

He adds, I have conducted field trials at three stations at Gircha 3013, Dorze 2403 and 1200 Meters above Sea Level (masl) for Enset adapts wide elevation ranges. Its growth is good at about 2000-2750 masl; at low elevation scarce water availability impedes growth but irrigation help it grow faster but yield may not be as expected, higher altitude hampers growth due to low temperature.

Presently, in his 2nd trial at Gircha station, researcher is manipulating experiments with lime and manure and fertility management, he said Enset needs apt temperature, soil nutrients and precipitation. If any of these factors aren’t optimum plant will be stressed; it can’t photosynthesis effectively and growth will be stunted, diseased and may die faster.

In two years, he adopted two approaches, first surveying farms and interviewing farmers and until recently he had visited over 400 farms in six months and found that application of manure, soil management were inapt and cultivation frequency skewed. Analysis of soil and leaf samples at KU Leuven, Belgium laboratory revealed farmers don’t apply manure uniformly and gradient of soil fertility didn’t show direct link with nutrient elements in leaves.

In 2nd approach, he adds establishing field trials to find what’s happening at different agro-ecology niche, disease progression and compared them with farmers’ fields. At Gircha, he said, he dealt in four major treatments i.e. fertilized not-inoculated, fertilized inoculated, not-fertilized inoculated and not-fertilized & not-inoculated, which had been replicated at all three stations.

Explaining technique, he said he had injected isolated bacteria - Xanthomonas campestris pv musacearum into plants and analysis revealed that disease progression was dependent on temperature variation. Preliminary data analysis indicated that after inoculation leaves started wilting first at Arba Minch, three and four weeks later at Dorze and Gircha respectively due to temperature variation.

The researcher is working on two local varieties i.e. Maze and Zinke (ensete ventricosum) but Ethiopia has over 300 Enset varieties, which are cultivated indigenously. But from research and extension point of view government isn’t giving adequate attention, he maintained.

Enset contains starch and minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese and its known indigenous delicacies i.e. kocho, amicho and bulla.

As of now, Mr Sabura with his two approaches at farmer’s farm observed difference in fertility management with no clear link with plants susceptibility and probably due to lack of knowledge they were found to be managing afflicted plants differently. They even suspect insect spreading disease but analysis of collected sample turned out to be negative.

He said, 1st trial is completed with laboratory work and data analysis underway while 2nd trial will end in 2018. The final goal is to develop agro-ecological niche sensitivity model for EBW. Five Belgian master students have been working with him to find details of agro-ecological niches; later, he is expected to look into alleged insects’ role in spreading disease.

Delving deeper, he said Enset research is challenging because agronomical information is unavailable because disease is pretty less investigated; he agreed Enset research is complex and he along with other bodies have miles to go.


(Corporate Communication Directorate)