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Ecuadorian Ángel Llerena Nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine

23.11.2018

Thanks to his research in the area of agriculture to improve practices in the management of banana crops, the Ecuadorian academic Ángel Llerena has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine this year.

The nomination has generated interest in the use of ozone as a substitute for pesticides to combat black Sigatoka in banana plantations. It is a disease caused by a fungus that affects the leaves of banana and causes large losses.

Ángel Llerena, 64, is an agronomist and researcher at the Catholic University of Guayaquil. He was born in Quevedo, an important banana area on the Ecuadorian coast. From a very young age he was linked to these plantations because his father had a banana producing farm.

His agro-ecological pesticide alternative uses ozone mixed with water to control the black Sigatoka fungus.

Llerena told CNN that "ozone has a special feature, which is the ability to oxidize all kinds of fungi and bacteria that it encounters."

The researcher says that the banana sector has not been open to environmentally friendly techniques like his, which he has developed in the last 5 years. However, he maintains that in the last 2 years 5 producers in the country which export organic bananas to the European, North American and Asian markets have been using this technique.

According to Llerena, a conventional banana producer who uses chemicals spends between US $ 1,000 and 1,200 per hectare, while the organic producer, who uses his non-polluting technique, invests US$ 600 per hectare and receives 25% more yield. The researcher assures that black Sigatoka is present in 280,000 hectares of Ecuadorian plantations and that his technique seeks to counteract the use of 5 million litres of chemical fungicides in Ecuador that contaminate the banana areas.

The use of ozone to combat black Sigatoka is already a reality and has a patent at the Institute of intellectual property of Ecuador. Llerena believes that it is ready for mass use in banana plantations and in crops of other products such as cocoa, papaya and rice.

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