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Posted 28 December 2015. PMN Crop News.

Devastating New Race of Banana Disease and its Wide-Ranging Impacts Highlighted in Phytopathology Journal Article

Source: The American Phytopathological Society Press Release.

St. Paul, Minnesota (December 9, 2015)--Bananas are among the world's most important fruits, commanding $44 billion in economic value in 2011 alone. But this fruit is more than just a favorite among consumers throughout the world. It is both a nutritional and economic staple for many of the 130 nations that produce it, particularly Costa Rica, Ecuador, Cameroon, and the Philippines.


While many bananas are exported, 85% of them are consumed by producers or sold in local or regional markets, making them a vital dietary component for those in Africa, southern Asia, and tropical America. So, when a historically devastating banana disease threatens this important food supply, it can have a profound local impact.

Case in point: Fusarium Wilt of Banana, an incurable and historically significant plant disease that has re-emerged in the form of a new race, Tropical Race 4 (TR4), which threatens the previously resistant Cavendish cultivars of banana. These cultivars account for approximately 45% of all banana production worldwide.

A new and innovative Phytopathology journal article written by Randy C. Ploetz, Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Florida's Tropical Research & Education Center, provides more than just a thorough summary of current research and what is known about Fusarium wilt and its causal agent, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense; the article also chronicles the re-emergence of Fusarium wilt of banana, aka Panama disease, and the threat that Tropical Race 4 poses to exporters and producers of this important crop.

This in-depth review, titled "Fusarium Wilt of Banana," uncovers a variety of important points for the relatively few researchers who do not study tropical plant diseases:

The TR4 race of Fusarium wilt is dramatically spreading in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Resistance to Fusarium wilt is poor in various breeding targets, including important dessert and cooking cultivars.

Due to the widespread use of the now-susceptible Cavendish cultivar, resistance to this and other diseases is necessary.

Fusarium wilt of banana not only affects exports. It has a profound effect on both the economy and the local food supply for many countries.

More research on Fusarium wilt of banana is required.

"In general, tropical crops and the diseases that impact tropical crops, such as banana, are poorly understood and appreciated by those in the developed world," says Ploetz. "(But) increased awareness of the renewed threat that this disease poses to production may encourage research support from exporters and other stake-holders."

This article can be found in the December 2015 issue of Phytopathology and will be freely available through January 15, 2016.