UH sophomore is bananas for bananas

By Gizelle Gajelonia and Tanya Rivera

Gabe Sachter-Smith shows that bananas have more than just a peel.

University of Hawaii sophomore Gabe Sachter-Smith is bananas about bananas. For six years he has held a passionate interest for bananas and the numerous uses they have to offer the world.

The Colorado native, who is enrolled in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, said he does not know why he originally started growing bananas, but after doing so for a long time, feels that they are useful plants. Sachter-Smith said bananas are used as a fiber source for making paper and cordage; as ink for dyeing clothes, animal forage; and can even be turned into fuel, which is done in Australia.

He doesn’t recall exactly why he started growing bananas, but he knows the reason behind his research.

“My motivation behind banana research isn’t to help commercial farmers like Dole and Chiquita for more profit…it’s more a matter of food security and viable future for people less fortunate that depend on bananas everyday for their livelihood and survival,” Sachter-Smith said.

His research and work at CTAHR’s Pope Laboratory includes cloning healthy banana plants, which helps to stop the spread of the banana bunchy top virus first discovered on Oahu in 1989. Cloning has been done for thousands of years.

“It’s the same as taking and cutting from a plant except it’s done in a higher scale and is more efficient,” Sachter-Smith said.

Sachter-Smith also gave landscapers at the school’s taro patch, Ka Papa Loi o Kanewai, traditional Hawaiian banana plant seeds in an effort to preserve them, which do not originally grow there.

For future research, Sachter-Smith would like to do collecting and evaluation of more banana plants, as well as breeding. He may get his chance after earning his degree. He is a candidate to replace distinguished Finnish taxonomist Markku Hakkinen, who travels Asia in search of wild bananas.

But with school and work to keep Sachter-Smith busy, he won’t be splitting school anytime soon.

For more information about the banana bunchy top virus, visit


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