Farmers encouraged to guard against the TR4 disease
General Manager of the Banana Board, Janet Conie, is calling farmers to guard against the TR4 disease. Photo: JIS

KINGSTON, Jamaica - The Banana Board is urging farmers to implement measures to protect their holdings against the TR4 disease. Fusarium odoratissimum, more commonly known as the TR4 disease, is a threat to commercial varieties of the Jamaican banana, plantain and ornamental Heliconia crops.

General Manager of the Banana Board, Janet Conie, said the disease has the real danger or potential to wipe out the entire industry.

“It is not in Jamaica and it is not yet in the Caribbean but in 2019 it came to South America to Colombia and it stayed there for a while. In 2021, it moved from Colombia to Peru and in January 2023, just two months ago, it jumped into Venezuela,” she said.

TR4 is a soil-borne fungal disease that can stay in the soil for 30 years.

Conie pointed out that there is no cure and there are no resistant commercial varieties.

“What we need to do is to keep it out. What happens when it comes is that it spreads in the soil, in water, on tools and equipment and by people moving. We are very concerned that it is in Venezuela because the traffic between Venezuela and Trinidad is real and the traffic between Jamaica and Trinidad is very real,” she explained.

With the potential effects of the TR4, farmers are being encouraged to ramp up border security, farm biosecurity, as well as diagnostic and surveillance measures, which are critical to preventing the spread of the disease.

“We are motivating our farmers to secure their farms in Jamaica. We are telling them to fence them and put footpaths for persons that come on the farms, that they walk in these footpaths and to disinfect their shoes,” Conie said.

Meanwhile, the Board is also encouraging Jamaicans who travel to be mindful of their movements in countries where the TR4 is present.

“Anybody can bring it in if they are unaware of what they do. If you go to a South American country now, into a banana field, we ask you not to bring your clothes and shoes back, because you may bring it inadvertently,” Conie said.

So far, the Banana Board has been working to strengthen the industry against the threat of the disease.

“We have been preparing. We have varieties that are not so commercial but are fairly resistant and we have been multiplying those in Jamaica, so we have something for food security should we be affected,” she said.

The Banana Board, as mandated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in 2020/2021, has also continued to lead the TR4 Task Force on preparedness, exclusion, and emergency management of the disease.


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