Production of East African highland banana (EA-AAA banana) ( Musa
spp.) is limited by scarcity of planting materials, attributable to their low natural proliferation ability. Under natural field conditions, the EA-AAA bananas greatly differ in suckering ability. In vitro
micropropagation has been adopted as an alternative means for production of banana planting materials. In this study, the in vitro
proliferation potential of seven EA-AAA banana cultivars, with different suckering ability was determined on Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium, to enhance development of micropropagation protocols for their multiplication. Commonly cultivated non EA-AAA banana cultivars were used to compare proliferation of the seven EA-AAA cultivars. There was a wide variation in the number and morphology of shoots and buds produced by the different cultivars. The EA-AAA banana cultivars produced 3-4 new shoots in each subculture cycle, and 57-169 recoverable shoots from one starting shoot-tip explant in 18 weeks. Non-EA-AAA banana cultivars, namely Sukali Ndizi (AAB) and Yangambi Km5 (AAA), showed higher proliferation levels, 5 and 9 shoots, from each subculture cycle and 322 and 352 recoverable shoots, respectively. The EA-AAA banana cultivars showed higher efficiency to produce recoverable shoots from shoot buds (53 - 66% except for cv. Kabula at 36%) compared to Sukali Ndizi (52%) and Yangambi Km5 (32%). The study demonstrates the potential of in vitro
approach for production of banana planting materials. In vitro
proliferation ability and in particualr efficiency to produce recoverable shoots of the different EA-AAA banana cultivars could be improved by varying the culture conditions during the subsequent subculture cycles.