Fusarium wilt disease caused by the soil borne fungus, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense is considered one of the most destructive diseases of banana in the world. The Tropical Race 4 (TR4 race) has been causing extensive losses in banana production in Southeast Asia since the 1960’s. On August 8, the Colombian Institute of Agriculture (ICA) officially announced that TR4 was found on six farms in the North East of the country.
Its arrival in this hemisphere is of major concern to the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region given the importance of bananas and plantains to many countries.
Ecuador a neighbouring country to Colombia is the biggest exporter of bananas in the world. The potential impact of the threat is particularly severe because of the prevalence of the Cavendish bananas which are highly susceptible to the TR4 disease. The Cavendish banana variety makes up around 47% of global production. The disease also affects other non-commercial, local cultivars, plantains and other Musa species such as Heliconias.
No effective control measure has been identified that can eradicate the pathogen once it is established in the soil. The pathogen can remain in the soil for decades even in the absence of a host plant. Once established in a banana field, total loss of yield can result.
TR4 is spread by movement of infected plant material and infected soil. Farm tools, clothing, shoes, vehicles and animals can help spread the disease through infected soil that become attached to them. Other modes of spread include drainage and irrigation water.
Caribbean countries must be very vigilant and step up their on farm biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction and establishment of this dreaded disease.
CARDI has pledged it commitment to collaborate on the development of awareness campaigns and surveillance and management measures to prevent the introduction and spread of the disease.