Fusarium Wilt of Banana and Plantain: A Threat to Regional Economies and Food Security

OECS Media Statement

Fusarium wilt of bananas, commonly known as Panama disease, is a destructive soil borne fungus that poses a threat to the production of all banana and plantain crops. Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race 4 has reappeared and is now a priority pest threatening the region’s banana industry with serious economic, livelihood and food security repercussions.

There are four races of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc):

  • Race one spread globally in the first half of the 20th century destroying the Gros Michel Banana, which dominated world trade and also other banana varieties, but not the Cavendish variety;
  • Race two affects cooking banana species such as Bluggoe;
  • Race three infects only Heliconia species and not bananas; and
  • Race four, the lethal fungal disease, not only affects most varieties of bananas and plantain but also the Cavendish on which over 90% of world trade is based.

Based on the work done by the Caribbean Plant Health Directors’ Technical Working Group on Bananas (Musa species), a highly suspicious case of the Fusarium Wilt TR4 has been discovered in the Americas. This means that everything must be done to safeguard the region from the entry of this disease.

Fusarium Wilt of Banana-Distribution of races

What Can You Do? Don’t Pack a Pest…

As a travelling public you should declare all agricultural items and should not carry any soil or agricultural propagative or planting material without the required quarantine approval and import permits. Also you should report any suspected signs and symptoms consistent with the Fusarium Wilt to your Ministry or Department of Agriculture and follow all prevention and control recommendations.

Read more about this lethal disease: Fusarium Wilt of Banana and Plantain – OECS Media Statement (Website Link)