Despite the motivation and dedication of the international banana community, there are still gaps in our understanding of banana diversity and its conservation. As an example, the 2016 Global Strategy for the Conservation and Use of Musa Genetic Resources highlighted gaps in the conservation of bananas typical to the Pacific region such as the cooking Maoli – Populou and Iholena and the rare, pro-vitamin A rich Fe’i bananas. The 2019 collecting campaign funded by the Crop Trust was a good opportunity to start addressing these gaps. The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, supported by SPC, organized three collecting missions in the Pacific. In total, more than 100 accessions were collected and documented during the three expeditions. They were planted in the national collections in the Ministry of Agriculture of Cook Islands, in Samoa Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and in Papua New Guinea National Agricultural Research Institute, respectively. Unique landraces and crop wild relatives collected were also sent to the Alliance International Musa Germplasm Transit Centre (ITC) to be safely backed-up. During these three expeditions, the team also had the chance to document the wide diversity of bananas found in the three countries. Based on the model of what was done in 2016 after the collecting mission to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, three catalogues presenting the bananas were created and are available online: Cook Islands, Samoa, and West New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea hosts an incredible diversity of diploid AA bananas. Many were described after the 1980’s collecting expeditions (PNG Musalogue), more were found in Bougainville and new ones were discovered in West New Britain. Great collecting work cannot happen without collaborative people, thanks to the outstanding collecting teams!
– By Julie Sardos