Outreach: Lasiyo's Organic Bananas

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaA former rice and peanut farmer in Bantul, Yogyakarta, cultivates dozens of local banana varieties organically. He has shared his knowledge at several universities and even in Italy.

    Five thousand banana seeds flourish on Lasiyo Syaifudin’s 300-square-meter yard in the Ponggok hamlet in Bantul, Yogyakarta. Planks with the names of each variety are planted on each row of the plants, which are one to three months old. Among the varieties are pisang raja (lantundan), klutuk (Musa balbisiana), kojo, pisang ambon (cavendish), and kepok kuning (saba).

    In another plot not far from the banana nursery, there is an herb orchard planted with the ingredients for organic pesticides, such as chives, ginger, dwarf pepper, green chiretta, neem, galanga, and turmeric. Sacks of fertilizer made from chicken, goat, and cow manure as well as oyster mushroom waste are piled in one side of the yard. Next to Lasiyo’s home is a row of plastic barrels containing rice starch water and liquid from banana stem.

    The 64-year-old man says cultivating bananas organically has brought him many benefits. The banana trees he has planted on a 3,000-square-meter orchard 1 kilometer away from his home are resistant to diseases. “Organic fertilizers and pesticides have been proven to be effective in warding against diseases that afflict banana trees,” said Lasiyo on June 19.

    According to Lasiyo, only 10 percent of the 2,000 banana trees have died from fungal and bacterial attacks. The Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense fungal plant, known as Foc, causes banana trees to wilt, which is why the disease is known as the Fusarium wilt disease. Bacterial infections in the stem, caused by Ralstonia syzygii celebesensis, causes red spots that resemble blood, earning the disease the moniker “blood disease”. Meanwhile, bacterial infections caused by Pseudomonas solanacearum causes a disease called the bacterial wilt.

    The Laboratory of Plant Diseases Bacteriology at the Gadjah Mada University’s (UGM) agricultural department studied Lasiyo’s organic fertilizer and found that it contained Bacillus spp., which adversely affects Foc tropical race 4, or Foc TR4. The fungal is a new race that evolved from Foc race 1. TR4 is more lethal and has destroyed banana plantations in South America in the 1950s, which is why the Fusarium wilt is also known as the Panama disease.

    According to the Tropical Fruits Research Center, the Panama disease has spread to 15 provinces in Indonesia, namely Aceh, North Sumatra, Lampung, West Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, North Sulawesi, and Papua. “It’s possible that there have been Panama disease attacks in other provinces not yet surveyed,” said Deni Emilda, a researcher of pests and diseases at the Tropical Fruits Research Center in Solok, West Sumatra.

    It is difficult to eradicate Fusarium wilt because the culprit fungal plant can survive in the soil for decades. The wilt disease has spread to all banana producing centers in Asia, Africa, Australia, and America. The most popular banana in the world, the cavendish, has not escaped its attack.

    Another disease that afflicts bananas is bacterial blood disease. In Indonesia, the disease first emerged in Sulawesi in 1905. By the 1980s, it had been distributed evenly throughout the archipelago. Five years ago, the disease entered continental Asia, specifically, Malaysia and Thailand.

    Lasiyo says although the blood disease causes his banana leaves to rot, he has never experienced crop failure due to fungal and bacterial attacks because of his use of pesticides and Trichoderma. He mixes sawdust, softwood, bran, and dolomite to produce fungacide. “The fungacide can also control the more lethal Fusarium,” said Lasiyo, who heads the Agricultural and Village Affairs Training Center.

    Lasiyo began cultivating bananas after the great earthquake in 2006 destroyed the former rice and peanut farmer’s house. He decided on bananas because they were easy to care for and because of his pitadahe gesang (live guide) philosophy. “Bananas always leave behind shoots, or life,” explained Lasiyo, who has two children and two grandchildren.

    Lasiyo learned from a number of banana experts. In 2008, he invited a researcher from UGM’s agricultural department to provide training on cultivating for the farmers group he heads, the Permata Hati Farmers Group. He worked hard to learn until his venture began to grow.

    Among the researchers who introduced Lasiyo to organic fertilizer and pesticide were Siti Subandiyah, a lecturer at UGM’s agricultural department and head of the university’s Biotechnology Research Center.

    At first, Lasiyo obtained banana seeds from the Plasma Nutfah Pisang Yogyakarta orchard, which has a collection of 300 banana varieties. After that, he obtained banana seeds from the UGM, Bantul Agricultural Office, and from his travels to a number of regions, including Wonosobo Regency, Central Java. He also took seeds from his own village, where numerous banana trees have flourished from the time he was a boy.

    He multiplied the seeds using the shoots, or vegetative reproduction. The middle-school equivalency program graduate plants over 30 varieties of organic bananas and markets only nine, namely raja bagus, raja buluh, raja serai, raja nangka, klutuk, kojo, yellow cavendish, ambon lumut (a type of giant cavendish), yellow saba, and white saba. A seed costs Rp12,000 on average. Certain varieties, such as raja santan, penjalin, and goroito, are not sold because there is fear they may go extinct. “These varieties are in short supply,” said the head of the Amboi Agro Mirasa Boga Bantul Cooperative.

    In September 2016, Lasiyo was invited to Turin, Italy, for the Salone del Gusto Terra Madre, an international gastronomy exhibition attended by researchers from 70 countries. A video of Lasiyo’s organic banana farm was played at the event. The visit had the support of Slow Food Indonesia on the recommendation of an Italian researcher.

    Lasiyo has received numerous invitations from universities to share his knowledge on the cultivation of organic bananas, among others the UGM, National Development University, and the Yogyakarta State University. His orchard and home are never quiet as visitors frequently come to learn about banana cultivation.

    Siti Subandiyah believes Lasiyo has played an important role in conserving and cultivating organic bananas. According to Siti, Lasiyo’s is cultivating bananas sustainably because he uses organic humus and manure fertilizer. Additionally, Lasiyo is creative in his search for natural ingredients for his organic fertilizers and pesticides, for example, mixing fertilizer and kwini mango to reduce the smell.

    Organic fertilizers also safeguard soil nutrients and supporting organisms, like worms, maintaining soil fertility.

     Finally, Lasiyo properly cultivates his bananas by keeping shoots to a maximum of two per cluster, with varying maturity. Plants are maintained with proper fertilizer and irrigation so that each tree can have a minimum of 10 leaves per stem. “The peduncles are large and good,” said Siti.

    She added that Indonesia, rich with genetic sources for bananas, is an important country for the plant’s breeding, for the purpose of developing cultivars resistant to diseases that threaten banana production in the world. “The conservation and protection of bananas’ genetic resources require the country’s attention.”


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