The Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. Cubence (Foc TR4) also called Panama disease or Fusarium wilt of banana is a fungal disease caused by a soil-borne fungus. TR4 is one of six strains of plant pathogens that attack Cavendish bananas. Cavendish bananas account for 90% of the world’s bananas that is used for trade.

The fungus can spread via dissemination and production of the fungal spores, which are formed on dying or dead host plants. The spores can survive up to 30 years in plant soil and debris. They enter plant hosts through their roots and grow long hyphae (each of the branching filaments that make up the mycelium of a fungus), which extend and grow into the plant’s xylem vessels. The fungus is spread in contaminated rhizomes and suckers, water, soil, and farm machinery. The main hosts for TR4 are the species of Heliconia and Musa.

Phytosanitary measures are the biosecurity and quarantine measures that can be taken to protect plant and animal life, protect human health from risks, and the establishment and spread of plant diseases and pests from contaminants, toxins, and additives in feed and food. Phytosanitary measures for Foc TR4 can include importing plants that are disease-free or ‘certified’ clean planting material. Other measures consist of eradication and isolation of infected plants, should they show symptoms of the wilt disease.

Currently, recommendations have been provided to countries afflicted with TR4 and their trade partners. These recommendations range from effective risk management plans, TR4 alerts, and protocols, maintaining contact with the Regional and National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOs), implementing biosecurity through international guidelines such as the IPPC Standard for Phytosanitary Measures, and strengthening breeding programmes focused on the development of hybrids and varieties resistant to TR4.

Presently, Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race 4 is not in the Caribbean, and everything possible must be done to keep this disease out of the Region.

Read more about this from our sources below!


FAO – TR4 Task Force Communication: Phytosanitary alert for Fusarium TR4 in Peru
CABI – Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense tropical race 4
CPHD Forum – Fusarium wilt of bananas and plantains – tropical race 4