How the Panama Disease can destroy Caribbean Banana Farming by 2020

 

“This is not a threat only that Saint Lucia is concerned about, so therefore at the regional level, the governments, through the ministries of agriculture, are discussing, first of all to see how best we keep this disease out of our islands”

Minister of Agriculture, Moses Jn Baptiste commenting on spread of deadly Panama disease

Bananas are in trouble yet again.

This time it’s the deadly (The Jamaica Observer, 2015, December 17), Panama Disease (Fusarium Oxysporum) which the UNFAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) says can wipe out Bananas in the Caribbean. In fact, this may be the biggest single threat to the Banana industry since the Black Sigatoka disease in 1991.

Banana is the 8th most important food crop in the world. It is also the 4th most important food crop among the world’s least-developed countries. This includes such small Caribbean nations like Jamaica and St. Lucia in the Caribbean where farmers make a living from growing bananas.

 

In the years before the 1950, the Gros Michel which means “Big Mike”, was the most common variety of banana. The most flavourful of banana fruits was then wiped out by the Panama Disease (Fusarium Oxysporum) in South and Central America.

The banana producers then introduced the less tasty but Panama Disease (Fusarium Oxysporum) resistant Cavendish variety in the 1900s, which we are eating to this very day.  They basically saved the  Banana Industry using this hardier variety, making changes to accommodate the Cavendish’s different growing and ripening cycle.

But by the 1990’s, a new strain of the Panama Disease (Fusarium Oxysporum) came along and began to kill off the Cavendish banana strain, all of which are genetic clones. The new disease seems to have originated from Taiwan and quickly spread around the world to places that grow bananas such as:

  1. China
  2. Indonesia
  3. Malaysia
  4. Philippines
  5. Australia.

The Cavendish variety is slowly succumbing to the Panama Disease (Fusarium Oxysporum). If a treatment isn’t developed soon, the Cavendish Banana may become extinct.

Panama Disease – Banana extinction by 2020 in the Caribbean

The Panama Disease (Fusarium Oxysporum) caused by a fungus and is soil-borne. Because of its hardy nature, spores can remain viable for decades. If your banana patch becomes infected Panama disease, you’ll probably have to abandon that field; there are no practices or fungicide that can cure a banana plan of this infection.

MICO Wars - How the Panama Disease can destroy Caribbean Banana Farming - 17-12-2015 LHDEER

In effect, you’ll have to quarantine your field and prevent people from walking through the field, as soil contaminants on their shoes carrying the spores of the Panama Disease (Fusarium Oxysporum) fungus, which can be spread to other fields and banana plants this way.

Hopefully the islands in the Caribbean can work together to face this common threat, as the Panama Disease (Fusarium Oxysporum) fungus threatens to wipe out the Banana Industry as we know it by the year 2020.

References:

  1. The Jamaica Observer. (2015, December 17). Panama disease threatens Caribbean banana production. Retrieved from http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Panama-disease-threatens-Caribbean-banana-production
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