Panama disease in bananas could be controlled by fungicides, study says

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Panama disease in bananas could be controlled by fungicides, study says

Scientists at the U.K.’s University of Exeter have found that a particular class of fungicides are able to suppress Panama disease in banana plants.

The disease is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum cubense Race 1, and its spread decimated the world’s banana supply during the 1950. Because of its known resistance to other fungicides, the study sought to better understand why chemical control of Panama disease had previously failed. 

Funded by the BBSRC Global Food Systems initiative (GFS), the team led by Professor Gero Steinberg and Professor Sarah Gurr used a multi-disciplinary approach, combining expertise in cell and molecular biology, bioinformatics and plant pathology.

The research team discovered that a specialized class of fungicides, not previously used, can suppress Panama disease and maintain plant health in the presence of the pathogen. This discovery provides a significant step forwards in the fight to protect this valuable crop.

“Bananas are Britain's favorite fruit and Panama disease may 'wipe' them off the supermarket shelves. On top, millions of people in producer countries live on bananas. Providing an important step towards safeguarding bananas from Panama disease gives me great pride," said Professor Steinberg.

Professor Sarah Gurr, the plant pathology expert who led all work on banana infection and pathogen cultivation, said: “Our success is due to an enormous amount of dedicated work over several years with co-workers with hugely disparate skills. We are highly delighted and excited by the outcome of our work and by the glimmer of hope that the beloved banana may remain as part of our daily diet."

The paper, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, is entitled: "Multi-site fungicides suppress banana Panama disease, caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense Tropical Race 4."

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