Research Topic

Panama Disease of Banana, a Recurring Threat to Global Banana Production

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About this Research Topic

Panama disease, or Fusarium wilt, is a devastating disease of banana and caused havoc in banana plantations in Central America in the previous century where it killed thousands of hectares of the favored “Gros Michel” banana. This evolved in one of the worst botanical epidemics of all times. The discovery of ...

Panama disease, or Fusarium wilt, is a devastating disease of banana and caused havoc in banana plantations in Central America in the previous century where it killed thousands of hectares of the favored “Gros Michel” banana. This evolved in one of the worst botanical epidemics of all times. The discovery of resistant “Cavendish” bananas eventually quenched the epidemic and was so successful that they disseminated around the world until its current predominance in the global banana trade.

Over time the industry dealt with Panama disease by planting and diversifying “Cavendish” clones in a suite of genetically very similar varieties and tailoring the logistic chain to primarily Western markets. Meanwhile, due to their productivity, “Cavendish” clones also increasingly expanded in many domestic markets. The risk of such a global monoculture is evident and surfaced once other pathogenic strains of the causal agent Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. oxysporum killed “Cavendish” varieties. This epidemic started in the 1960s in Taiwan, subsequently expanded into South East Asia and recently leaped into Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

The strain causing the current epidemic is called Tropical Race 4 (TR4) and also affects many local banana and plantain varieties, thereby unveiling the need for effective management options and eventually diversification of the banana crop. This requires research and development for this important fruit and food crop. As Panama disease is a soil-borne disease, control options are limited and hence, its recurrence significantly changes the current business climate and banana production practices. Also, production systems vary substantially. Moreover, in many environments bananas are abundant weeds. In addition, the awareness around Panama disease is generally low. This mix of complexities requires a typical multidisciplinary approach.

The Panama disease Research Topic contributes to a unified vision and science-based strategy for disease management by specifically inviting original research articles that address this complexity. Contributions may include plant science, social science and environmental science as well as business reflections.


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