Banana disease warning!

Regional countries urged to cooperate in fight against TR4

Thursday, May 01, 2014

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Caribbean banana producing countries have been warned that they need to work together to deal with the threat of the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) of the Fusarium Wilt fungus that has been severely affecting Southeast Asia's banana and plantain crops


The disease has been detected outside of Asia and there are fears that the Caribbean banana industry is now at a severely high risk.


Speaking at a one-day workshop yesterday, consultant Dr Luiz Perez-Vincente said that the disease affects not just bananas and plantain plantations but also the economy and food sustainability.


He told participants to the workshop, held at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and organised by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), that there was need to reinforce the importance of increased awareness to the disease.


"This could be a very serious problem. Our main task is prevention, we all have to work together to prevent the outbreak of Fusarium," Dr Luiz- Vincente said, noting that the main constraints of production systems, and symptoms of the Fusarium wilt disease include yellow leaf syndrome and the distinctive symptoms between bacterial wilt (Moko) and Fusarium.


He said that while the TR4 Fusarium wilt disease is not yet present in the Caribbean, there is a need for cooperation in order to prevent the outbreak of the disease. "We have to work all together to prevent the entry into America," he said.


At the same time, UWI Professor Neela Badrie said the TR4 Fusarium wilt disease could affect everyone, noting that there were a few plant diseases as vast as the TR4, and so there is a need to implement preventative measures.


Dr Marcia Blair-Thomas, head of CARDI's Trinidad Unit said that banana and plantain continued to be important to the economies of the Caribbean as well as for food production and so it was critical that measures be put in place to deal with the TR4 disease.


Trinidad and Tobago's FAO representative, Barton Clarke, also stressed the importance of increased awareness of the Fusarium Wilt disease, adding that the responsibility for the prevention of the disease does not rest solely on members of the agricultural sector.


"... This is everybody's business," he said, pointing out that the disease can impact an entire population. He urged all regional countries to put every possible asset in place to deal with the threat posed by the TR4 to the region's banana industry. "We have a collective responsibility to assist in managing the disease," he said.


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