The susceptibility of bananas to disease has been plaguing the industry for a long time – and the fungi TR4 and Black Sigatoka have affected crops all over the world. Recently, TR4 was discovered in Colombia and authorities have since put a lot of time and effort into preventing the spread into other Latin American countries. Simultaneously, much research has gone into finding ways to eradicate these fungal diseases. The Mexican company Bioaplicaciones specializes in creating and trading ecologically sustainable solutions to fight these fungi and have been distributing these solutions with much success.
Indirectly targeting the fungus
BT Enzym is an organic product marketed by Bioaplicaciones that works as a fungicide and bactericide. It is made from a cactus-like plant native to the northwest of Mexico. “It is applied by adding it into the irrigation systems and is distributed throughout the soil. Once it reaches the plants, the product works to burn up the cell walls of the fungus, which then exposes the pathogen to oxygen. In the end, it isn’t the product that kills the pathogen, but the oxygen,” product formulator engineer Raul Esquinca explains.
He adds: “The product is highly effective and works against more than 200 different pathogens, with the two most important ones being, of course, TR4 and Black Sigatoka. But it’s also a certified organic product and is made of vegetable oils and extracts, so the crops themselves remain completely unharmed.”
The product is aimed at being preventative, but, Carlos Salazar explains that even if there is already a high population of the pathogens present it can also be applied as a corrective rather than a preventative method.
Many more protective products
The BT Enzym isn’t the only product marketed by the company aimed at improving and maintaining banana crop health. Salazar says: “Each of our products could be potentially useful for growers, but which ones they will use depends on their specific situations. For example, our product IT Enzym, also formulated by engineer Raul Esquinca, works to reduce the risk of infection through vectors – acaricidal or insecticidal action. Then we also have products that disinfect the soil or the irrigation waters, which also work to contain any spread of infection through waste or run-off.”
Traditionally, the product was used to fight Black Sigatoka and already many customers use the product for this purpose. Esquinca shares: “These customers are mainly in Mexico in the state of Colima, covering around 3,000 hectares. But the biggest market for the product currently is the Dominican Republic where we sell around 80 metric tons of the product every year.”
Expanding to Asia
The company is expanding into Colombia and the BT Enzym already works to protect asparagus, grape and pomegranate crops against fungus in Peru. “The goal is to expand to Asia too. There are many experts from the Philippines and other Asian countries familiar with TR4 that are currently in Colombia to help contain the fungus there. We want to introduce the BT Enzym to these experts so that they can bring it back home with them and help introduce it to the Asian markets there,” Salazar concludes.
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