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Posts Tagged ‘TR4’

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http://www.freshfruitportal.com/2014/04/21/collaboration-key-to-contain-panama-disease-comeback/?country=australia

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Photo: http://www.shutterstock.com

April 21st, 2014

Major banana-producing regions went on alert last week , heeding a warning from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the frightening return of Panama Disease.

The FAO asked traders and producers to step up their monitoring and prevention efforts for Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense, the soil-borne fungus that propagates Panama Disease and brought the commercial industry to its knees in the 1950s.

Although planted for its resistance, the leading Cavendish variety has fallen prey to a recent Fusarium mutation, dubbed Tropical Race 4 (TR4). This evolved strain of Panama Disease has threatened Asian producers since the 1990s.

Fear now grows that this killer fungus could spread further into Asia, Africa and Latin America, following new detections in Mozambique and Jordan.

Gianluca Gondolini, secretariat of the World Banana Forum, said Latin American in particular will need to implement prevention efforts to protect the livelihood of its banana-producing nations.

“Latin America has three of the world’s biggest exporters, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Guatemala. That poses a threat from a market perspective and has companies and governments on alert because it relates to revenue as well as the livelihood of the people working with banana plantations,” Gondolini told http://www.freshfruitportal.com.

“It could create a similar portrait to what happened in Panama 50 years ago when the entire industry was devastated by Fusarium and all the Gros Michel was replaced with Cavendish.”

Although the consequences of Fusarium propagation are hard to predict, Gondolini pointed to historical examples of Panama Disease to demonstrate what could lie ahead.

“We can talk about what has happened in the past and analyze what has been the impact of Fusarium in previous varieties like Gros Michel, which created a sort of crossroad between the industry entirely failing or replacing it with another variety, which was the case in the 60s,” he said.

“There are places in Asia that have been affected for 20 years by TR4 and the consequence is quite impressive for them because the disease is expanding every year. It is estimated in the Philippines, the fourth largest exporter in the world, that the track is increasing by 7% a year.”

TR4 has already been detected in three of the top 10 banana-producing nations: China, the Philippines and Indonesia. In addition to the recent cases in Mozambique and Jordan, TR4 has also attacked plantations in Australia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Click here for a map of where Panama Disease Race 1 and Race 4 are present.  http://panamadisease.org/map/map

“The point is that the industry is not able to manage Fusarium in agronomic terms. Once it gets in the soil of the plant, it is impossible. There are no options unless you abandon the plantation for years,” he said.

“To say that it won’t spread, that’s an issue. It’s a matter of time. It’s expanding because of the different nature of the disease. It’s through movement of equipment and people. There is always potential risk.”

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In response, the World Banana Forum has created a task force that brings together banana companies, NGOs, government bodies and academics to collaborate on an action plan. TR4 is also on the agenda for upcoming meetings in Kenya, South Africa, and Trinidad and Tobago, the FAO reported.

“We need immediate action and long-term action. The immediate action is raising awareness, defining informational materials, defining groups. We also need capacity building, training materials, quarantines,” Gondolini said.

“In the long term, the issue relates to resistant varieties, which could be the best solution. We also need an early warning system to detect the disease and prevent spread to other areas.”

Gondolini emphasized the social and economic importance of bananas on a global level.

FAOSTAT lists bananas as the eighth most important food crop in the world and the fourth most important food crop among the world’s least-developed countries.

Bananas not only rank as the fruit of choice for U.S. shoppers, but it is also a dietary staple for many living in West Africa, Central America and Asia.

“It is a global crop so it has an impact on the livelihood of people in producing countries and actors involved along the supply chain,” Gondolini said.

“This is a risk for the sector but also an opportunity to collaborate, so we should really leverage the support of everyone involved in the banana sector.”

www.freshfruitportal.com

 

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The INDEPENDENT, 09 April, 2014

CAHAL MILMO Author Biography CHIEF REPORTER

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/bananageddon-millions-face-hunger-as-deadly-fungus-decimates-global-banana-crop-9239464.html?dm_i=1ANQ,2D17K,6LPWNX,8KL1J,1

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Disease spreads from Asia to Africa and may already have jumped to crucial plantations in Latin America

Scientists have warned that the world’s banana crop, worth £26 billion and a crucial part of the diet of more than 400 million people, is facing “disaster” from virulent diseases immune to pesticides or other forms of control.

Alarm at the most potent threat – a fungus known as Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4) – has risen dramatically after it was announced in recent weeks that it has jumped from South-east Asia, where it has already devastated export crops, to Mozambique and Jordan.

A United Nations agency told The Independent that the spread of TR4 represents an “expanded threat to global banana production”. Experts said there is a risk that the fungus, for which there is currently no effective treatment, has also already made the leap to the world’s most important banana growing areas in Latin America, where the disease threatens to destroy vast plantations of the Cavendish variety. The variety accounts for 95 per cent of the bananas shipped to export markets including the United Kingdom, in a trade worth £5.4bn.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will warn in the coming days that the presence of TR4 in the Middle East and Africa means “virtually all export banana plantations” are vulnerable unless its spread can be stopped and new resistant strains developed.

In a briefing document obtained by The Independent, the FAO warns: “In view of the challenges associated with control of the disease and the risk posed to the global banana supply, it is evident that a concerted effort is required from industry, research institutions, government and international organisations to prevent spread of the disease.”

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An aircraft sprays fungicide over a plantation (Getty Images)

 

Scientists are particularly concerned about the impact of TR4 across the developing world, where an estimated 410 million people rely on the fruit for up to a third of their daily calories.

According to one estimate, TR4 could destroy up to 85 per cent of the world’s banana crop by volume.

Since it emerged in the 1950s as the replacement for another banana variety ravaged by an earlier form of Panama disease, Cavendish has helped make bananas the most valuable fruit crop in the world, dominated by large multinational growing companies such as Fyffes, Chiquita and Dole.

But the crop – and many other banana varieties – have no defence against TR4, which can live for 30 years or more in the soil and reduces the core of the banana plant to a blackened mush.

It can wipe out plantations within two or three years and despite measures to try to prevent its spread from the original outbreak in Indonesia, it is now on the move. Such is the virulence of soil-based fungus, it can be spread in water droplets or tiny amounts of earth on machinery or shoes.

Professor Rony Swennen, a leading banana expert based at Leuven University in Belgium, said: “If [TR4] is in Latin America, it is going to be a disaster, whatever the multinationals do. Teams of workers move across different countries. The risk is it is going to spread like a bush fire.”

Another senior scientist, who asked not to be named because of his links with the banana industry, said: “There are good grounds for believing that TR4 is already in Latin America.”

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Professor Rony Swennen, leading banana expert based at the University of Leuven

The Panama fungus is just one of several diseases which also threaten banana production, in particular among smallholders and subsistence farmers.

Black sigatoka, another fungus to have spread from Asia, has decimated production in parts of the Caribbean since it arrived in the 1990s, reducing exports by 90 to 100 per cent in five countries.

READ MORE: WHERE SEEDS OF THE FUTURE ARE GROWN

Researchers say they are struggling to secure funding to discover new banana varieties or develop disease-resistant GM strains.

Professor Randy Ploetz, of the University of Florida, said: “The Jordan and Mozambique TR4 outbreaks are alarming but have helped increase awareness about this problem.”

But the large producers insist the problem can be controlled. Dublin-based Fyffes, which last month announced a merger with America’s Chiquita to form the world’s largest banana company, said: “While we continue to monitor the situation, as of yet we do not foresee any serious impact for UK banana supplies.”

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A lab holding the World Banana Collection at the University of Leuven A lab holding the World Banana Collection at the University of Leuven

The Cavendish: A top banana under threat

When the world banana industry found itself in crisis in the 1950s, it was saved by a fruit cultivated in Derbyshire and named after a duke.

The Cavendish banana was grown by the gardener and architect Joseph Paxton while he was working for the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth House.

Paxton managed to acquire one of two banana plants sent to England in around 1830 and began growing the fruit in the stately home’s glasshouses. He named his banana Musa cavendishii after the 6th Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish.

The Chatsworth bananas were later sent to Samoa and the Canary Islands, providing forerunners for the variety which emerged in the 1950s to succeed the Gros Michel or Big Mike – the banana sub-species wiped out by an early version of Panama disease between 1903 and 1960.

Cavendish is now the world’s single most successful – and valuable – banana, accounting for 47 per cent of all cultivated bananas and nearly the entire export trade, worth £5.3 billion.

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