'Banana-COVID' – Fusarium Wilt TR4 in India

Scientists are comparing the threat to domestic banana cultivation to COVID-19. With this ‘Corona-virus situation for bananas’, most of the crops will be destroyed due to “fusarium wilt TR4”, a novel fungus. It is setting new hotspots in India, threatening loss of output in India, which produces maximum bananas in the world.

The strain, Tropical Race 4 (TR4), was first identified in Taiwan, and has jumped from Asia to the Middle East and Africa, reaching as far as Latin America. It has been learned that the infected plants show its impact first via its leaves which turn yellow. No effective remedy has been found for it yet.

“One could say it is the Covid-19 of the plant world. Hotspots have been found in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which we are trying to contain,” said S. Uma, the director of National Research Centre for Bananas (NRCB), Trichy.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, TR4 is one of the “the most destructive of all plant diseases”. Like humans are doing during COVID 19, the scientists have prescribed plant quarantine to keep the virus away from plantation.

The spreading disease has jeopardised the $26 billion global banana trade, as India produces 27 million tonnes of bananas annually and grows about 100 named cultivars (varieties). TR4 has infected the most commonly sold variety, the Grand Nain (musa acuminata).

As explained on newsheads.in, most of India’s bananas are consumed domestically. Equador, the largest exporter, is currently the epicentre and scientists haven’t been able to ascertain how TR4 entered India.

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