Swennen, Rony

Banana Breeder

Email: r.swennen@cgiar.org


Nationality: Belgian

Station: Sendusu (Uganda)

Specialization: Banana and plantain breeding-agronomy-physiology

Initiatives: Accelerated Breeding Initiative

Projects: Breeding better bananas

Awards/Recognitions: 2022 Top Plant Science and Agronomy Scientists Ranking has been released!.
May 2018, ACORBAT award given by the Association for Cooperation in Research and Integral Development of Bananas and Plantains (ACORBAT), Miami, Florida, USA.
May 2015, UNIVEG chair for innovative banana farming and breeding.
March 2011, Flemish Primitives Research Award for banana liqueur of Leuven ‘Musa Lova’.
December 2010, AIPUB fellow award for 2010, given by Association for the Improvement in Production and Utilization of Banana (AIPUB), India.
Cooperation Excellence Award in November 2010 given by The United Nations’ annual Global South-South Development Expo.
October 2009, Kadali Puraskar in India during the Second National Congress of healthy planting materials in banana.
November 2000, Pisang Raja Award given by all the national banana programs in Asia.
A postal stamp was issued in 1995 by the Nigerian government on banana breeding to honor the breeding achievements done by my breeding programme at IITA.
CGIAR King Baudouin Award in 1994 to IITA for the development of Black Sigatoka resistant plantains.
A Nigerian Chieftaincy title was awarded in 1991 to bring tribute to my contributions in South East Nigeria.

Photo of Rony Swennen
Rony Swennen obtained his PhD at KU Leuven, Belgium in 1984. After a brief research stay in the Canary Islands, Spain, he joined IITA in 1979 as the first scientist at IITA’s High rainfall substation, Onne, Nigeria. There he started plantain research initially focusing on physiology in support of agronomy, and taxonomy. He became Associate Scientist (1982), Research Coordinator (1985), and in 1987 Core Scientist. He initiated and run the plantain breeding program that resulted in black sigatoka-resistant plantain for which IITA was awarded the International King Baudouin Award.

He collected worldwide banana and plantain varieties that laid the basis for the International Transit Centre of banana, Leuven, Belgium. In 1990 he became Senior lecturer at KU Leuven and by 1997 full professor. His Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement hosts the world banana collection, Bioversity International, with collaborations in 103 countries. Cryopreservation techniques were developed for banana and later for another 27 plant species. His group also developed the first transgenic bananas in the early 90s with field tests in two locations.

In 1995 he became a member of the Royal Academy, Belgium, and Honorary Research Fellow of Bioversity International. He received several international awards and a chieftancy in Nigeria. Since 2013 he leads the Musa (plantain, matooke, mchare) breeding at IITA.