Fusarium TR4 threatens to wipe out global banana production in next 5-10 years

Fusarium TR4 threatens to wipe out global banana production in next 5-10 years

Fusarium TR4 is extremely aggressive and there is almost no way to stop it from spreading throughout South and Central America where most of the bananas for the United States and Europe are grown.  Once in a field, it must be quarantined, it takes decades to eradicate and will render the area useless for banana production, destroying the livelihoods of farmers and eliminating an important food source.  It will wipe out the entire global banana industry in 5-10 years if no solution is found.

There is no solution to this crisis until Evolutionary Genomics recent discovery of the FusR1 gene discovered in wild bananas which we have now patented.  One version of FusR1 exists in 100% of resistant varieties of wild banana relatives while a different version exists in all susceptible varieties.  The global banana industry can be saved by using our gene through a variety of methods including marker assisted traditional breeding, gene editing or transformation.  Due to the clonal reproduction methods, this gene can be widely deployed in large numbers in two to three years.

October 3, 2019 United Nations press release: “The TR4 (Tropical Race, 4) strain of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense was first detected in Ecuador’s neighbor, Colombia, in July, where 175 hectares of banana farms were put under quarantine” AND “FAO warned that the possibility of the disease spreading “would have devastating impacts for farmers and their families across the region.” AND “The fungus’s ability to wipe out entire plantations could threaten critical food sources, household incomes and export revenues.” AND “Though research is ongoing, there is no fully effective treatment of soil or plants to control or cure Fusarium disease.” AND “The agency recommends fortifying soil health and strengthening genetic resources to build resilience to the disease in the future.”

August 10, 2019 National Geographic – The Banana is One Step Closer to Disappearing: “A fungus that devastates banana plants has now arrived in Latin America, the Colombian government confirms.” AND “The announcement was accompanied by a declaration of a national state of emergency.” AND “Once you see it, it is too late, and it has likely already spread outside that zone without recognition” AND “No known fungicide or biocontrol measure has proven effective against TR4.” AND “The region contains four of the top five producers of bananas for the export market, and all of the top 10 banana exporters to the United States. Ecuador, which shares a border with Colombia, is the world’s largest exporter. The proliferation of TR4 in South and Central America could cause widespread economic distress.” AND “Unlike in the earlier Panama disease epidemic, this time, there’s no ready replacement banana to bail out the industry. Although thousands of banana varieties grow around the world, only a few have the precise characteristics necessary to withstand the rigors of large-scale commercial cultivation, long-distance transport, and international marketing. A banana with those characteristics, a taste and appearance similar to the beloved Cavendish, and resistance to TR4 does not exist.” AND “Because bananas reproduce asexually, breeding new varieties is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming task.” AND “Other scientists—most notably, James Dale of the Queensland University of Technology in Australia—are testing genetically modified disease-resistant Cavendish bananas, but public acceptance of GMOs could prove a significant obstacle to their widespread adoption. Varieties created in Asia through a method called somaclonal variation are only partially resistant and have less-than-ideal agricultural qualities.”

August 12, 2019 Science Magazine: “Colombia confirms that dreaded fungus has hit its banana plantations” AND “TR4, for which there is no treatment, kills plants by disrupting their vascular systems, and it can persist in soil for decades. Experts at Wageningen University and the biotech company KeyGene, both in the Netherlands, used genome sequencing and molecular diagnostics to confirm the TR4 diagnosis in infected plant samples from Colombia. The fungus strikes both bananas and closely related plantains.” AND “Colombia is the fourth largest exporter of bananas in Latin America, with sales of $866.2 million in 2018. Only coffee and flowers are more valuable agricultural exports for the nation. Banana plantations cover roughly 50,000 hectares of land.”

August 13, 2019 Forbes Magazine: “We might lose bananas as an affordable part of our diet. A dreaded new strain of a soil-born fungal disease that has already severely hurt the industry in Australia and Africa has now been confirmed to have reached the Americas.” AND “Once the fungus is introduced into a given plantation’s soil, there is no way to get rid of it. The industry tried really hard to keep the pest out, but all it takes to spread it is a bit of dirt on someone’s boot.” AND “No one can do “conventional breeding” of bananas with any efficiency because, in case you hadn’t noticed, the bananas we like don’t have the big black, hard seeds of wild bananas.”

August 13, 2019 Independent: “Colombia has declared a national emergency after a fungus that can devastate banana crops was found in its soil” AND “Some 168 hectares of the infected crop have been eradicated already, Ms Barrero told journalists on 8 August. The TR4 version of the Fusarium fungus has previously run rampant in parts of Asia and Australia, devastating plantations due to their monocultural nature.”

October 3, 2019 The Times of Israel: “So far, the fungus has claimed six banana plantations in Israel.” AND “Once a plantation has been infected little can be done, he said. “We’re looking at a very real chance that eventually, this will spread nationwide,” Minz warned. “All it would take is a strong windstorm to blow the spores or animals treading through the area. There’s no stopping it.” AND “The banana plants must be uprooted and sprayed with herbicide, then petrol is injected into the plant, to kill it, and the plantation has to be closed until further notice. Sometimes 10-20 years. Fusarium spores are so aggressive, so indestructible, that if they hit a banana plantation the entire area effectively becomes a dead zone for decades.”

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