Ecological Engineering in the Tropics

Costa Rica – MSU / UCR – December 27, 2014 – January 10, 2015

Jan. 6 – Corbana La Rita – Nate

Corbana La Rita

¡Bienvenida! Hoy es 6 de Enero 2015 (I think we can all translate that….). Today we will be at Corbana La Rita in La Rita de Guapiles, Costa Rica.

Ubicacion: (Location)



Located in the heart of Costa Rica’s banana growing region, Guapiles is the nations gateway between the central highlands and the Caribbean coast. Because of its proximity to many small ecological reserves, Guápiles is a great base for visitors interested in exploring the biodiversity of the Santa Clara plains. The average temperatures for Guapiles are 82 and 70°F.


corbanaCorbana La Rita is a non-governmental public institution who’s major objective is the development of the banana industry in Costa Rica and to serve the banana producers. Corbana is short for Corporación Bananera Nacional (National Banana Corporation) and is located in La Rita de Guapiles, Costa Rica. Since 1971 when Corbana was established, the institution has been strengthening the quality of banana farming and creating new technologies for producers.

Bananas Significance:

The banana is much more than a yellow fruit to Costa Ricans. It is one of their top primary products and generates millions in revenue for the Costa Rican economy, thanks to the annual export of over 106 million boxes.

What to do here?

  • EAT BANANAS (everyone likes a fresh banana)
  • Explore the processes taken to grow bananas
  • Examine the technology used to modify bananas and the research being done

Daily Itinerary:

  • Rise and shine at OTS (Biological Station)
  • Grab a cup of joe and some breakfast at OTS
  • 9:30am-1pm we will be at the Corbana banana plantation
  •  Around the same time frame (9:30-1) we will make our way to the packing house with Dr. Jorge Sandoval.
  • Eventually make our way back to the Adventure Inn. Hopefully enjoy a relaxing hot tub.

Contacts for Today:



Jose Pablo Rojas- lead UCR student

Adventure Inn, San Jose, Costa Rica Website:  http://www.adventure–

Adventure Inn Listed Phone Number: +506 2239 2633

For more additional information on Corbana and Guapiles/Sources:


January 6 in the Beautiful Rich Coast

This morning we woke up at OTS where we had a MIGHTY Costa Rican breakfast before heading to Corbana La Rita. By 9:30 we had arrived at Corbana with help from our bus driver Roger who is a true Tico (name given to native Costa Ricans) and really knows the roads here in CR which are very treacherous (Thanks again Roger). Not a second went by and we were split into two groups and off on our tour of the Corbana research facilities.



Costa Rican Bananas are the best in the world.

Lab #1

My groups first stop on our tour was in a small lab with Claudia! She went on to tell us that the two main focuses of this lab were investigation and service. Most of her work dealt with the diagnosis of many new forms of diseases that were causing troubles with the banana. The FRAC (Fungi Resistance Action Commitee) has set certain restrictions and codes Corbana must follow when creating fungi and basxterias to fight these diseases. Once diagnoised she would work to create a bacteria or fungi that would hopefully succesfully fight and kill this disease as long as it passes with FRAC. Claudia shared with us that the latex bags that the bananas are placed into are sprayed with an anti-bacterial resistance substance to keep the bacteria away. She also added that boxes are preferred for shipping of bananas because the latex is awful for the enviornment especailly if left in the fileds.


Claudia explaining the latex bag affect.      

IMG_2906                                                                                                                                Three fungi forms in petri dishes.                                                              

Interesting facts:

– Close to 40% of Corbanas profits go to fighting dieases.

-It cost nearly $2200 per acre of banana plantations to fight these diseases.

– Corbana has reduced the pesticide use in CR by 50% since 2005.


Lab #2

The next lab we visted at Corbana was the soil and organic material labs. Here Veda Obazdo showed us what procceses are taken to find which elements are in the soil. It takes multiple days of heating in an oven before they are taken out and sent into a optic spectrometer. Here the soil is placed in a vial and lite by an argon flame and after the electrons are pulled away a light is emitted. The machine reads the emitted light and shows calculates its wavelength. As most would expect the more popular elements in this soil are zinc, coppper, and iron. Anyone thinking about calculating the wavelenth of their soil in their flowering plants? You can if you want to spend $150,000 on the spectrometer!

unnamed    The spectrometer! It can read almost all elements in the periodic table.

Lab #3

Lab #3’s focus was on the enviormental protection aspect of the banana plant. Currently, the researchers including leader Pedro Torres are working with nematodes. Nematodes are small worm like mulitcelluar organisms that feed on the roots of many plants and can cause diseases while feeding (Organic Gradening). The nematodes are getting into the soils and damaging the bananas roots. The only way to eliminate the pests effiecntly is by using nematicides which are toxic for human health. Organophosproate is one of the toxic nematicides but it does its job and kills off these pests that can really ruin the production of the banana. The process of finding these microscopic wormlike organisms is by using a three layered sieve. The debris from the soil and roots will get filtered out in the first two layers and the nematodes will appear at the bottom of the third layer. A high powered microscope is then used to see and study these banana killing organisms.

IMG_2913Healthy banana roots

IMG_2915                                   Roots attacked by nematodes IMG_2917                                  Microscope view of nematodes.


Lab #4

The final lab we visted today at Corbana was where Corbana was reseaching breakthrough methods using bacteria and fungus. Lab reseacher Anthony Rodriquez gave us a tour of the lab and discussed many new ways to use bacteria and fungus benefical for bananas. Anthony brought up a incredibly interesting form of microorganism they have ecologically engineered. This organism has not been named yet but it feeds on plastic! The organisms were fed only plastic untill many had died off but a few plastic eating microorganisms remained. The living organisms had been manipulated to eat only plastic and now after reproduction of two living plastic eaters the offspring continues to surive on only plastic. The reason for this organism is to eliminate all plastic that accumulated 20 years ago when latex banana bags were left in the fields instead of being recycled like today. This organism could lead to reducing plastic contants in all sorts of enviornments around the world. Pasteuria penetrans, as seen in the photo below, is the new bacteria used to elimanate nematodes.

IMG_2920                                           Pasteuria penetrans!  

                                                                                            IMG_2919    John focused very closely on Anthony and what he had to say.


After departing Corbana we headed straight to the nearest local lunch spot. It sure was very local due to the fact the restaurant had to bring in tables and chairs for our group of near 20! None the less the service and food was unbeilievably great! Next stop Banana Tica.

Banana Tica

Banana Tica is a banana plantation that exports bananas to all the banana brands we know and love. The bananas are picked, cleaned, and package all at Banana Tica. When the bananas appear to be the right color, usually a greenish color, they are picked and sent in on a “Banana line” as seen in the photo below. The bananas are then cut from their stalk and thrown into floating chlorinated ponds based on there grade. The grade of the banana depends on its shape, weight, and apperance. Certain companies like Chiquita only sell grade A bananas while others sell B. Those bananas that fail both tests are sent to anouther enterprise to be made into baby food.

IMG_2925                                           The “Banana Line”! 

IMG_2926                                   Grade determination chart


IMG_2928                         Thousands of grade A floating bananas!

The students and the professors all had a wonderful day at Corbana and Banana Tica. Thanks to Don Miguel from Corbana and Juan Carlos Mora from Banana Tica for letting us tour their companies.

IMG_2940                          Flag picture in the back of a semi truck.

 Additional Resources and Sources




Costa Rican bananas

Plastic Organisms

Banana Tours


2 thoughts on “Jan. 6 – Corbana La Rita – Nate

  1. I thought it was really interesting to learn that you need to add organic matter to the farms to increase the yield of organic matter of the crops. Although, you need to make sure you don’t add too many nutrients because that can also harm the plants. It makes me curious about the difference in the amounts of nutrients that need to be added to the soil in Costa Rica compared to in Michigan.


  2. CORBANA es un institución que está trabajando muy bien. Tiene gran porcentage de su dinero destinado a la investigación bananera para ayudar a los agricultores a cosechar mejores bananos.
    Los laboratorios están muy bien equipados, tanto en equipos nuevos como en la mano de obra calificada.
    CORBANA presta un servicio directo y efectivo a los agrocultores.
    A mi me gusta esta institución porque todos los días se piensa en el futuro y como mejorar la industria bananera para beneficiar la economía local y nacional.

    CORBANA is an institution that is working fine. Has large percentage of your money for banana research to help farmers reap better bananas.
    The laboratories are well equipped, both in new equipment and in skilled labor.
    CORBANA provides direct and effective service to agrocultores.
    I like this institution because every day thinking about the future and how to improve the banana industry to benefit the local and national economy.


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