Bananas are susceptible to a wide range of abiotic stresses such as excess salinity, heat, flood and water shortage stresses.
Many of these cause serious production constraints and are considered to be a major burden to sustainable production. Much of the injury caused to plants by stress exposure appears to result from a type of programmed cell death known as apoptosis. Based on this knowledge, we have been investigating whether the transgenic expression of anti-apoptosis genes in bananas would confer resistance to abiotic stresses, specifically water stress. We have transformed Lady finger bananas with different anti-apoptosis genes and several of the lines generated were found to be more tolerant to water stress than the wild-type control plants. We are currently in the process of further refining the strategy through the use of plant-and/or plant virus-derived anti-apoptosis genes. The development of bananas with increased resistance to water, and possibly other abiotic stresses, will enable the cultivation of bananas in areas when and/or where water availability is sub-optimal.