Taiwan is helping Central and South American countries fight fusarium wilt in bananas, and was involved in a video conference earlier this month attended by nearly 500 experts from 28 nations, the International Cooperation and Development Fund (ICDF) said yesterday.
The banana trade is vital to the economies of Central and South American countries, and the disease poses a great threat to their banana production, ICDF Deputy Secretary-General Alex Shyy told a news briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei.
The fungal disease, which devastates plants’ vascular systems, could be described as the “cancer” of bananas and spores can survive in soil for decades, a report by the Taiwan Banana Research Institute said.
Taiwan first identified the disease in bananas in Pingtung County in 1967, the institute said, adding that it destroyed nearly 4,000 hectares of banana trees in Pingtung and Kaohsiung in a few years, dealing a severe blow to the nation’s banana exports.
The disease was linked to soil degradation caused by the use of chemical fertilizers, the report said.
After Colombia last year reported its first case of the disease, Central America’s International Regional Organization for Plant and Animal Health (OIRSA) asked to work with the ICDF again, after the two fought citrus greening disease together, Shyy said.
Taiwan has an edge in fighting fusarium wilt because of certain disease-resistant banana strains developed by the institute, as well as research and testing techniques developed by National Taiwan University (NTU), he said.