Du Roi Laboratory, a South African banana tissue culture facility, has been granted the exclusive commercialization rights of Formosana, a variety with moderate resistance to Fusarium Oxysporum Cubense Tropical Race 4 (FOC TR4) Panama disease. The agreement with the Taiwan Banana Research Institute (TBRI) enables Du Roi to exclusively supply Formosana plants into Africa, the Middle East, Caribbean Islands, French West Indies and South and Central America.
Panama disease is currently a major concern to the global banana industry, severely impacting banana growers’ profitability and the success of the banana industry on a worldwide scale. The much-feared FOC TR4 is already present is Southeast and South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It continues to move internationally with recent reports of its spread in South America.
Thorough and ongoing evaluation proves reliability
The TBRI has achieved success in the selection and use of disease tolerant somaclonal variants of Cavendish as part of the integrated approach to sustain the banana export industry in Taiwan. In Taiwan, Mozambique and the Philippines Formosana is already commercially planted to mitigate the losses caused by FOC TR4 with big success.
Commercial evaluation trials in Mozambique (Viljoen et al., 2020) and the Philippines (Molina et al., 2011) have also shown that Formosana has a significantly higher resistance to FOC TR4 than other well-known Foc TR4 susceptible varieties such as Grand Nain and Williams.
In South Africa, Du Roi Laboratory’s field trials evaluating the variety under sub-tropical climatic conditions have shown very good results. The field adaption commercial evaluation trials were preceded by a strict quarantine programme by the Agricultural Research Centre VOP (Vegetable and Ornamental Plants) facility in Pretoria, where it was first tested for indexing of various viral, bacterial and fungal diseases to ensure the complete safety of the variety in the South African environment.
According to Suné Wiltshire, Du Roi Laboratory General Manager, the big advantage of Formosana is that the shape and taste of the bananas is still the same. “Therefore, the product remains very acceptable for the export market. We are excited to be able to support our clients and the international banana industry in this way. It serves to reaffirm our commitment to innovation to the benefit of the industry. We are especially excited to support growers whose plantations have been devastated by FOC TR4, to replant their plantations with Formosana with the potential to achieve high yields despite the land being ridden with FOC TR4.”
“It is important to note that Formosana has an intermediate resistance to FOC TR4,” says Wiltshire. “It shows less severe symptoms or damage than susceptible varieties when grown under similar environmental conditions and inoculum pressure. The use of a variety like Formosana with moderate resistance to FOC TR4 should form part of an integrated approach to the management of FOC TR4.”