The survival of the ubiquitous and popular fruit, banana, is now at stake owing to Panama Disease, a fungicide-resistant pathogen that’s crossed continents and breached quarantine efforts to spread across South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia.
In the 1960’s, Gros Michel, the most popular variety of Banana was driven to extinction owing to Fusarium oxysporum, a fungal pathogen. However, the effects of disease was observed in Australia in 1876, many years before it translated into a global epidemic.
The Panama Disease can be transmitted though soil and water. The pathogen can remain dormant and undetected in soil for a period of over 30 years. Once the pathogen finds a suitable host, it latches onto the plant and travels through the xylem vessels – the plants transporter vessels. It then attacks the vascular system of the plant. The plant begins to wilt quickly and dies of dehydration.
As the Gros Michel was becoming extinct, an alternate had to be found. A suitable replacement was found in the Cavendish Banana. However, the Cavendish Banana that was once resistant to the Panama Disease is not resistant to a particular strain known as VCG01213, or Tropical Race 4 (TR4),
The TR4 strain originated in Indonesia and has since spread to China, Taiwan and other nations in South East Asia. Though the effects of this disease cannot be observed overnight, the consequences will be drastic once the decline progresses.
In order to counteract the effects of the fungus, a strategic plan involving the quarantining of infected crops and quick diagnosis needs to be identified. Additionally a new variety or strain of banana may be discovered.
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