Fusarium Wilt of bananas
Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense
Common names: Panama disease of banana, Fusarium wilt
Fusarium Wilt is a vascular wilt disease; it attacks a plant’s vascular tissues, which contain water, nutrients and sap. The common fungal soil-borne pathogen that causes Fusarium Wilt in plants is Fusarium oxysporum; different plant species are susceptible to different strains of Fusarium.
One of the many strains is Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense which causes Panama Disease, is host-specific, growing only on bananas and is one of the most destructive diseases in banana crops globally.
Panama Disease is incurable
Fusarium Wilt was the first banana-specific disease to spread worldwide in the first half of the 20th century. The epidemic began in Central America on ‘Gros Michel’, a variety that dominated the global banana export trade. It had no cure; however, a resistant cultivar ”Cavendish” was discovered and replaced Gros Michel all over the world wherever bananas are grown.
Growers can no longer save their skins with Cavendish Bananas
In the past, Australian growers relied on Fusarium Wilt resistant cultivars such as the Cavendish Banana to avoid financial and crop losses due to Panama disease. Unfortunately a new strain of the fungus “Tropical Race 4” has evolved to attack Cavendish bananas and is now spreading around the world threatening banana production. The race is on now to discover disease resistant cultivars to replace Cavendish bananas.
Fusarium is derived from the Latin 'fusus', meaning a spindle, which references the shape of the microscopic spore of the fungus.
'Oxus' is from the Ancient Greek word for sharp and 'sporos' for seed. 'Cubense' tells us that it comes from Cuba.
f. sp. (forma specialis) indicates that this is a special form of the pathogen. Botanists use this fungi naming protocol to distinguish between different, usually pathogenic, fungal strains.