Monica Gallo, the general coordinator of Ecuador's Plant Health Service, said that the country's efforts to prevent the spread of the Fusarium race 4 fungus after being detected in the Colombian department of La Guajira in August of 2019 are bearing fruit. The pest continues to be a threat, but it's still contained in Colombia and it has not been detected in other countries in the region, she added.
“Since the presence of the fungus was detected in Colombia, Ecuador has managed to maintain its exclusion status, that is, the disease has not reached the country,” she said. The measures that the country adopted and is still implementing are being effective, she added.
These measures include passenger control in ports and airports, disinfection of vehicles at land borders, disinfection mats in airports, disinfection of containers in seaports, controlling propagation material that is imported, and the implementation of measures phytosanitary at production sites. She also said that they were carrying out a strategy to incentivize the implementation of measures by conducting training, delivering footbaths, and conducting phytosanitary surveillance in the territory, among other measures.
However, the official said, the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us keep the fungus out of the country. “The partial restriction of the movement of people helped prevent the Fusarium race 4 from moving in the region. In addition, the pandemic has also contributed to raising awareness of the importance of disinfection and biosecurity,” she stated.
Banana production is of great importance to the country. Ecuador has nearly 220,000 hectares devoted to this crop and the threat of Fusarium has led to research on the viability of cultivating alternative varieties to the Cavendish banana, which could be resistant to this pest. Raul Jaramillo, the Director of Research at the National Agricultural Research Institute (Iniap), said that Iniap's Banana Program had presented a project to develop resistant varieties to the Anatomical Energy Agency in Vienna in search of funding.
According to worldwide studies, the GCTCV-218 material is moderately tolerant to this pest and Iniap is currently managing its evaluation in the country. This banana variety is native to Taiwan and is already being used in the Philippines and in different Central American countries, such as Honduras and Costa Rica, according to experts.
There is also a Cavendish variety that is resistant and that was developed in Australia. However it is a transgenic banana and Ecuadorian laws do not allow the use of these crops, Jaramillo said. Meanwhile, the Center for Agronomic Research in France (Cirad) and Brazil are evaluating the resistance of different experimental materials.