Colombia declares state of emergency over TR4 fungus in banana plantations

Fusarium wilt tropical race 4 (TR4), The strain of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum that causes Fusarium wilt and which devastated crops in Asia, has been confirmed in Latin America, the world’s largest exporter of bananas. Signs of the fungus were first spotted in June in northern Colombia, and the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA) in Bogotá has now announced plans to eradicate plants on nearly 170 hectares of quarantined farmland.

Fusarium wilt was first spotted on Cavendish cultivars in 1967, trace 1, in Taiwan, but became wider known since. TR4 kills plants by disrupting their vascular system, preventing growth, and it can last for decades. Fungicides don’t kill it.

The disease has been reported in the La Guajira region of the country but they are expanding control efforts country-wide. Efforts will include disinfecting machinery, shipping containers, and footwear in quarantined areas.

Crises often spur innovation. The first commercial plant GMO came about when the papaya in Hawaii was similarly being devastated by nature and land use techniques and chemicals could not stop it. But biology did, and the crop rebounded nicely.

Updated: August 15, 2019 — 7:31 am

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