By: ISABELLA CHECHELE
A new deadly disease is on the rise: not for humans, but bananas.
That’s right; the popular fruit is going through its very own pandemic right now. The infection is known as Fusarium disease, also called Tropical Race 4 (TR4) or Panama disease.
TR4 is a fungus that affects Cavendish bananas, the most common variety, which make up 95% of international banana trade and 50% of worldwide banana production. TR4 spreads to banana plants through soil and attacks the vascular system, hurting the plant and causing it to wilt and die. It’s difficult to control because of how stealthy it appears-TR4 can often spread across an entire plantation or area before showing itself physically. In addition, it currently has no cure; it’s resistant to fungicides, which are normally used to combat fungal diseases.
What does this mean for the future of banana production?
According to Matthew Dunn from News.com.au, “In order to prevent the global banana industry from being wiped out in the next decade, farmers need to make 50 fungicide applications to their banana crops annually.” Although current fungicides do not help cure TR4 (as stated above), one company is working to change that. MustGrow Biologics Corp, a bio-tech company, has treated similar diseases to TR4 using a proprietary bio-pesticide known as TerraMG.
An international research project called Accelerated Breeding of Better Bananas (ABBB), coordinated by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is also trying to make bananas disease and pest resistant, as well as improving banana production.
Will bananas disappear from our markets and grocery store shelves in the next future years? Who knows. 2020 exists; at this point, anything can happen.