A novel variety of Cavendish banana resistant to the Fusarium Tropical Race 4 virus is under study in the Philippines. The new banana variety, which was developed by the agrobiotechnology company Rahan Meristem, was obtained through the mutation induction method. According to Jorge Sandoval, the research director of Costa Rica's National Banana Corporation (Corbana), the team led by Dr. Eli Khayat, the scientific director of the Rahan Meristem company, managed to activate a recessive banana gene that is resistant to the disease.
The Fusarium Tropical Race 4 virus is resistant to pesticides and can last on the ground for more than thirty years. Costa Rica's banana industry accounts for 8.8% of the country's total exports and 42.3% of the country's agricultural gross domestic product (GDP), according to MAG data. The variety developed by Dr. Khayat could be viable for Costa Rica if the fungus affected the country's plantations, Sandoval said.
However, the country is also analyzing other promising varieties, as Corbana has been analyzing the performance of the 2-18 banana variety, a Cavendish banana that shows some tolerance to the lethal fungus, in Rita de Guapiles for more than a year.
Currently, the MAG is working hard to prevent the entry of the fungus into the country, which could arrive through airports or seaports. This second route is the most sensitive point as the Moín Container Terminal is only 1,000 kilometers away from the Port of Santa Marta in Colombia, a country in which this virus was detected last year. Among the proposed measures, the MAG intends to place disinfection rugs at airports - which are currently in tender - so that the arriving travelers can clean and dry their footwear; and have trained dogs that are capable of detecting the fungus in the soil, to stop it from entering the country.
The MAG has implemented vehicle fumigation arcs at border centers and banana producers have standardized the use of pediluviums on farms as a disinfection measure at the entrance of the plantations.
If the containment measures failed, Bloom Agro has developed a system that disinfects the water contaminated by the spores of this lethal fungus; a system that has been used in the Philippines since 2016. The company provides services to Dole Philippines, Del Monte, and Unifrut, stated the CEO of Bloom Agro. The investment cost of this system stands at around $1,500 per hectare.