By Dr. Graciela Gomez Vizcay
According to the Italian site Fairtra, entire plantations of Asia have been brought to their knees by the fungus Tropical Race 4 (TR4) that attacks the lymphatic system of the plant causing his death.
A year ago it seemed that the epidemic could gradually be contained, it has now become clear that there is no knowledge to stop it. At least that’s the conclusion of a new study published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, which confirmed widespread fear among researchers.
The fungus, which is causing serious damage in Asia, Africa, Middle East and Australia, has also come to South America, the researchers say, where most of the cultivation of bananas in the world is concentrated.
Bananas for retail market, have the same genetic heritage and Cavendish type property; the fungus spread like wildfire, but once it begins the epidemic to farmers will be almost impossible to find among millions of identical plants one that has developed resistance to parasites.
Franco De Panfilis of ORGANICSUR, one of the licensees for fair trade organic bananas, described the epidemic as “Ebola Banana”. As well as Ebola, also the fungus TR4 is difficult to cure, diseased plants once eradicated, its spores remain in the water and what is likely to return the disease to the ground.
When the parasite reaches South America, in a few decades the most popular bananas will disappear from the market. Ironically, if the Cavendish is now selling bananas in the world it is only because it seemed to be resistant to Panama disease hence the TR4; Now even the Cavendish is destined to disappear is increasingly clear that the problem is not the result of the type of banana, but the method of cultivation
Someone mentioned “Bananageddon” to bananas. which is caused by a fungus called Tropical Race 4 (TR4), which attacks the lymphatic system of the plant to death.
The Washington Post insists that this slaughter is attributable to the fact that today 99% of the bananas sold in the world are of the Cavendish cultivars, a monoculture in which the genetic equality fruit makes them more vulnerable to attack diseases like this.
Franco De Panfilis of ORGANICSUR said “Imagine the paths of our forests, which are to prevent the spread of fire: the TR4 for banana plantations is a fire that outstanding biodiversity can not stop”
As Ebola, Fusarium oxysporum, the fungus species, whose range is part TR4, it is difficult to treat. For De Panfilis, immediate measures are needed to address the spread of TR4, as phytosanitary controls more precise boundaries. I have just returned from the region of Piura, Peru, where ORGANICSUR has its own office and staff support of local producers in their organic crops, Panfilis said from the neighboring country of Ecuador enters nursery stock to Peru, pathological controls are few and imprecise. De Panfilis advocates a system certified and guaranteed nursery where plant health checked before export.
– “Perhaps what lies ahead in the long run is the massive shift of banana crops in semi-desert areas where a less humid climate prevents the spread of this and other fungi.”
The World Banana Forum is open to all stakeholders of the banana sector and includes the participation of producers, transporters and traders, retailers, scientists, civil society, trade unions and government representatives. FMB many partners are aware of the threat of the strain Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense, tropical race 4 (TR4) that causes Fusarium wilt (also known as Panama disease) on bananas of the Cavendish variety. Also other banana crops are susceptible to TR4. Fusarium wilt TR4 is a threat to the livelihoods of millions of farmers, workers and the banana industry.
The social consequences of Fusarium can be serious: bananas are an important source of food, income, employment and government revenue in many tropical countries.
Bananas (Musa spp.), Including dessert banana, plantain and cooking banana are the eighth most important food crop in the world and the fourth largest in the least developed countries (FAOSTAT, 2013). They are produced in 135 countries and territories in tropical and subtropical areas. The vast majority of producers are small farmers who farm for home consumption or for local markets (less than 15% of the total production is exported, a total of more than 130 million metric tons). Today, international trade in banana exports (17 million metric tons approximately) amounts to more than 7 billion US dollars per year (FAO Stat).
Almost all export bananas and a substantial part of cultivated bananas for own consumption or local markets are Cavendish banana and other crops susceptible to Fusarium wilt TR4.
* There is no fully effective treatment feasible soil or plants to control or cure Fusarium wilt in the field.
* Fungal spores are resting on the ground and remain active for decades .
* Research is in progress, however, both biology and genetics of the fungus is not yet fully understood.
* There are resistant varieties that can replace the favored Cavendish banana exports,
* The only preventive measure available today is quarantine, preventing the transfer of affected soil or plant material from infected areas to free zones TR4.
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