Banana seller at the Ywama floating market on Lake Inlé, Shan State, Myanmar.
Photo: ©Cirad, J-C. Maillard

Alliance to fight TR4

A new alliance associating stakeholders from every part of the value chain aims to address the issues facing banana production worldwide.

In the hope of rapidly finding solutions to the threats to banana production globally, the World Musa Alliance was launched by the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development CIRAD in February 2020 at the Fruit Logistica trade fair in Berlin, Germany. 

The alliance is intended to associate as many stakeholders as possible to generate the knowledge required to develop new varieties and production systems, and to create new TR4-resistant varieties.

TR4 is incurable and spreads rapidly


TR4 fusarium wilt is threatening to devastate banana plantations worldwide. It recently reached Latin America, which produces 80 per cent of the dessert bananas exported worldwide. The disease, also called Panama disease (Tropical Race 4), is incurable and spreads rapidly, and Cavendish varieties, which account for 100  per cent of the dessert bananas produced for export, are powerless to resist. 

Diversifying the range of varieties and changing cropping practices


The "all Cavendish " approach has demonstrated its limitations: the variety currently used worldwide is highly susceptible to TR4 fusarium wilt. To avoid reproducing what happened with Gros Michel, which was the dominant varietal group until it fell victim to Fusarium Race 1 in the 1960s, CIRAD recommends introducing genetic diversity in the export sector.

However, banana genetic improvement, which is highly complex, will not be enough to safeguard the value chain, CIRAD says. Controlling TR4 fusarium wilt also means developing appropriate cropping systems. In the final instance, it also provides an opportunity of revisiting production systems with the aim of boosting their biodiversity and cutting pesticide use.

In view of the potential economic and social impacts of the disease, CIRAD proposes working on both varietal diversity and the cropping practices required to contain the disease, within the global network World Musa Alliance.

(CIRAD/ile)

Read more at CIRAD website