Fusarium wilt of bananas, commonly known as Panama disease, is a destructive soil borne fungus that poses a threat to the production of all banana and plantain crops. Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race 4 has reappeared and is now a priority pest threatening the region’s banana industry with serious economic, livelihood and food security repercussions.
There are four races of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc):
- Race one spread globally in the first half of the 20th century destroying the Gros Michel Banana, which dominated world trade and also other banana varieties, but not the Cavendish variety;
- Race two affects cooking banana species such as Bluggoe;
- Race three infects only Heliconia species and not bananas; and
- Race four, the lethal fungal disease, not only affects most varieties of bananas and plantain but also the Cavendish on which over 90% of world trade is based.