Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is globally one of the most important micronutrient deficiencies, affecting in particular the populations of developing countries. It leads not only to an increased mortality and disease susceptibility, but also to a reduced capacity for work and delayed physical development. Annually, VAD afflicts close to 20 million pregnant women and 110 million preschool children, and results in the death of up to 250,000 children each year. Within sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, bananas, including plantains and cooking bananas (Musa spp.), are a primary staple food with per capita consumption levels as high as 400 kg/year in some regions. Musa fruit are thus a major source of energy and essential (micro)nutrients for these populations. Recent work has demonstrated that there is a huge range of variation in the provitamin A carotenoids (pVACs) contents of Musa fruit, with levels approaching those found in the best-performing sweet potatoes and carrot varieties. It is thus clear that the introduction of new (or non-indigenous) high pVACs Musa cultivars in these regions has great potential to help tackle the problems of VAD in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. Here we review the current status of our understanding of the genetic diversity of Musa micronutrients contents and outline possible strategies and bottlenecks for the introduction and development of pVACs-rich Musa cultivars.
Proceedings of the International ISHS-ProMusa Symposium on Global Perspectives on Asian Challenges. Acta Horticulturae (2011) 897: 169-177