Since the early 20th century, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense (Foc) TR4 has been the cause of Panama disease in bananas. The disease has been known to cause high losses in crop yields. Banana makes up a large percentage of export income for countries like Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, and the Philippines. The fungus enters the plant through the roots and destroys the xylem vessels. The xylem vessels are responsible for the movement of nutrients and water to the plant. Once the xylem vessels are destroyed that banana plants begin to slant, prematurely drop, or wither away. Around the world training in the detection, surveillance, and management of TR4 has been undertaken.
TR4 has devastated the banana industry for over thirty years. It affects the Cavendish variety of bananas, for which 47% is used for global production. Plant diseases and pests can seriously affect the livelihoods of rural people and agricultural production. Fusarium wilt of banana is a prime example of crop devastation by plant disease.
To detect the disease, the first symptom is the irregular yellowing of older leaves. This is followed by the collapse of the leaves along the leaf stalk and stem, resulting in dead leaves around the lower part of the plant. Finally, splitting of the pseudo stem at the base of the plant and eventual plant death.
Surveillance measures have been undertaken by countries to prevent the spread of the virus. Ministry or Departments of Agriculture have begun recommending that all travellers should declare all agricultural items and should not carry any agricultural planting material or propagative nor soil. Additionally, required import and quarantine permits must be approved. Other recommendations included cleaning farm tools, vehicle tires, and shoes to spread the movement of infested soil particles and plant tissues.
Through local Ministries or Departments of Agriculture, effective phytosanitary measures can be applied and implemented at various ports of entry to prevent the spread of the disease into other areas.
The Fusarium wilt of banana is currently not in the Caribbean but measures are currently being implemented to prevent spread.
Read more from our sources below!
Caribbean Invasives – New TR4 Portal on the CABI Invasive Species Compendium
OECS – Fusarium Wilt of Banana and Plantain: A Threat to Regional Economies and Food Security
ProMusa – Tropical Race 4
FAO – Preventing the spread and introduction of banana fusarium wilt disease Tropical race 4 (TR4)