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Panama Disease


Daniela Chaves

The food industry is subject to many controls that ensure the quality of the product that the final consumer is going to purchase; countries around the world have various requirements for their producers to sell products suitable for human consumption.

In this blog we will talk about one of many diseases that can affect crop plantations and that can cause an entire plantation to die due to poor management of the pest. We are referring to Panama Disease, a disease that can occur in bananas and plantains.

The Panama disease is an infection that affect the banana farms. It is caused by a fungus called Fusaryum Oxysporum f. sp. cubense (FOC), and it is a pathogen very resistant to fungicides and it only can be control by taking phytosanitary measures in the plants where the people have bananas.

Right now, a new variety of the fungus appeared, called Foc TR4 (Fusarium oxysporum f. Sp. Cubense Tropical Race 4), this new variety of the fungus is very aggressive and that’s why entities around the world are taking preventive measures to prevent the plague enters their countries.

The main problem here is that do not exist something to kill this fungus, so without having a cure or a treatment, there is no chance to save a plantation once the disease is in the place. The bananas are almost identical according to the genetics, so if one plant becomes infected, all the others are also susceptible to have the same disease, so this would be expanded fast.

What would be the symptoms of Panama disease in the banana?

  • The green leaf would start to turn out yellow in the border of the leaves and eventually this will be bending and falling of the stem of the plant.
  • If the infection continues, the banana stem can split in two and eventually the whole plant will collapse.


What are countries doing to avoid this disease of banana plants?

Although this fungus has not yet been detected in a lot of countries, the governments are taking some strict measures to stop the spread of the disease, because the fungus can survive during 30 years in any surface.

Some of these measures are:

  • Keep a record of the people that are visiting the farms.
  • Have a place in the farm where the people can change the clothes they are using and leave their shoes.
  • Have some rubber boots completely disinfected and clean, so the visitors can go to the farms with this type of shoes.
  • Forbid the visits to the farms if it is not necessary.
  • Forbid the visits to the farms of the people that was in a country with FOC.
  • Clean and disinfect all the tools and machinery before entering the farms and once is out.

Also, the governments are training the farmers to keep the measures and how they must act to control this and avoid that the Panama disease.

Therefore, is necessary that the farmers, visitors, and community are committed with the controls and follow the recommendations dictated by each of their governments for the prevention of this fungus in their farms.

This should be a joint effort around the world, where nations unite to prevent the disease from spreading. Producing and exporting countries of bananas and plantains that depend on the income from their commercialization, have special interest in the fact that this destructive fungus does not appear in their plantations. For buyers of bananas, it is also vitally important to know if their suppliers are assuring you of a quality product free of this type of disease. Working together is vital to win the battle against Panama Disease.

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