The banana sector is threatened by the Tropical Fusarium Race 4, which is also known as the Panama disease. The fungus is lethal for plantations and renders the affected croplands unusable as it survives for decades in the soil. So far, there is no effective solution to eradicate it. As a result, the sector currently is working to develop banana varieties that are resistant to this fungus, which was detected in Taiwan in the 1990s and affects the Cavendish banana, the most commercialized variety in the world.
According to recent reports, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (Australia) developed a line of bananas of the Cavendish variety with resistance to the Panama Disease.
However, the transgenesis process is not a simple task and requires a period of many years. Replacing crops with transgenic plants that are resistant to the fungus will take a long time, as it involves many delays and bureaucratic processes. In the meantime, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation for the Agriculture (IICA) has led the Global Alliance for Cooperation in the Fight against Fusarium R4T. The goal of this alliance is to support the banana sector face the challenges posed by the fungus through the development of knowledge, technologies, and mechanisms that allow finding a definitive scientific solution to eradicate the fungus.
The alliance is made up of entities such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the National Banana Corporation (Corbana), of Costa Rica, the Solidaridad Network, and the University of Wageningen (Netherlands), as well as the Bayer and Chiquita Brands companies (producer and marketer of bananas), stated the director of IICA, Manuel Otero.
"We are strongly motivated to work with the alliance in the search for solutions for a disease that we have seen spread throughout the world in recent years and that has strong economic and social impacts because bananas are strongly linked to global food security" Otero pointed out.
The alliance already has three groups working on the subject: the Training and Prevention group, the Genetics and Culture group, and the Chemical and Biological Control Methods group.
According to IICA, bananas are grown in 135 countries on five continents. They play a central role in food security at the global level and are also the livelihood of the people that grow, transport, and market them. An estimated 400 million people depend on bananas for food or a source of income.