Bananas Research - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT

Our research on bananas at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT aims to revolutionize banana growing by highlighting its genetic diversity, developing resilient varieties, and empowering farmers for a prosperous and sustainable future.


The Importance of Banana Research

Millions of people across the world depend on bananas as a source of food and income. However, despite increasing global banana production, yields of banana – both dessert and cooking varieties – are far below their full potential. 


History of Banana Research at the Alliance

Banana-related research at the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT began in 1985, when the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP) was founded to promote the conservation and safe exchange of genetic resources in support of banana improvement, largely in response to the threat of the emerging Black leaf streak disease (Black Sigatoka).


Our Research Approach

The Alliance researches the diversity of bananas and their wild relatives, building on smallholder farmers' knowledge to make production systems more productive and resilient to shocks. Our scientists are identifying varieties that are resistant to major pests and diseases, tolerant to drought, and suited to the socio-economic contexts in which they are grown.


Where We Work

Together with our international, regional and local partners, we work throughout the tropical belt in which bananas thrive, including the areas with the greatest genetic diversity: South and Southeast Asia, the Pacific, East and Southern Africa, West and Central Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Thematic Research Areas


The Alliance Musa Germplasm Transit Centre (ITC) is home to the world’s largest collection of banana germplasm.
Its mission? To contribute to the secure long-term conservation of the entire banana genepool and protect the collection for the benefit of future generations under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Characterisation & Evaluation

The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT works with partners to evaluate the ITC material for important traits such as resistance to biotic stresses, nutrient content and resilience to current and future climate challenges.

Genomics & Bioinformatics

With the revolution of sequencing technologies, genomics provides a powerful toolkit for understanding banana genomes, and harnessing untapped genetic diversity conserved in genebanks. This knowledge empowers researchers, breeders, and farmers to better conserve and use bananas, and develop more resilient, and sustainable hybrids.

Our Research Approach

Scientists from the Alliance are using the latest Next Generation Sequencing technologies, which create an extraordinary amount of genomic information to: 

  • produce high-density genetic markers for a large number of accessions conserved in genebanks to support diversity studies;
  • sequence, assemble and annotate key genomes, thus producing useful information for researchers and breeders;
  • conduct pre-breeding activities such as genome-wide association studies and large-scale transcriptome studies to unravel the genetic traits of certain banana varieties (e.g. resistance to biotic and abiotic stress, seedlessness, etc.).

Documentation & Information

The Musa Germplasm Information System (MGIS) is a database of passport data, phenotypic and genetic information on accessions of bananas (both wild and cultivated) conserved in field and in-vitro genebanks worldwide. Please visit MGIS to order material from the ITC genebank.

Pests & Diseases

The Alliance is making progress against important banana pests and diseases across all banana-producing regions, from Xanthomonas wilt and banana bunchy top disease in Africa to Fusarium wilt in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Vitamin A rich banana diversity in East Africa

Varieties identified that are high in Vitamin A precursors perform well under various growing conditions and are accepted by local communities for its taste and use in traditional recipes.

Partnership and Outreach

The Alliance coordinates MusaNet, the global collaborative framework for Musa related research and a partnership of key stakeholders, which aims to ensure the long-term conservation and increased use of Musa diversity worldwide.  

The structure of MusaNet consists of an Expert Committee and seven Thematic Groups in which experts discuss and propose solutions on key thematic areas of Musa research. Critical links with the three regional banana research networks (MusaLAC, MusAfrica and BAPNET) are ensured with Alliance coordination and representation in the Expert Committee.  

The strategic framework of MusaNet is provided by the Global Strategy for the Conservation and Use of Musa Genetic Resources, which sets priorities, engages partners and users, and facilitates knowledge sharing between researchers and farmers. Stakeholders - including donors, partners, and beneficiaries - have provided extensive input into the development of the strategy. Donors such as The Global Crop Diversity Trust use the strategy to allocate funds to priority activities. MusaNet provides the mechanisms to ensure the efficient coordination and implementation of the Global Musa Strategy and encourage the involvement of all partners. 

The Alliance manages the MusaNet website, the MusaLit online publication database, the MusaContacts email list and ProMusa - a reference for all things related to banana production. 


Rachel Chase 

Recording precise satellite information for an experiment into an eco-efficient fungicide to tackle the deadly black sigatoka in plantain.

Recording precise satellite information for an experiment into an eco-efficient fungicide to tackle the deadly black sigatoka in plantain. 

©Neil Palmer(CIAT)

Banana Databases

MGIS - the Musa Germplasm Information System is the most extensive source of information on banana genetic resources in collections around the world

Musalit - the largest repository of bibliographic references on banana

Musarama - the banana image bank

Musacontacts - the place to find people working on banana cultivation

Musabase - a database designed to advance methods in banana breeding

Banana genome hub - a platform that centralizes genetic and genomic data on the Musa acuminata genome sequence and the sequences of closely related species

Greenphyl - a web platform for comparative and functional genomics of approximately 30 sequenced species, including several Musa species.

Meet The Team

Guy Blomme

Senior Scientist, Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture - Healthy Banana and Enset Production Landscapes

Talk To Us

Would you like to reach out to our team of scientists working on banana crops?