Friday, October 16, 2015

Panama Disease Outbreak In Northern Mozambique

The Mozambican Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has banned all movement of banana saplings and cane from the two companies in northern Mozambique where Panama disease has been found.A press release from the ministry says that the disease, caused by the fungus Fusarium Oxysporum, was first identified on a farm in Monapo district, in Nampula province in September 2013. In 2014 a second outbreak occurred on a banana plantation in Chiure district in the neighbouring province of Cabo Delgado.Panama disease, also known as fusarium wilt, is harmless to humans, but absolutely lethal to bananas. Where it takes hold, it can destroy 100 per cent of the banana crop. In the 1950s, the fungus wiped out across Latin America the type of banana most commonly grown, the Gros Michel variety, causing enormous losses to banana farmers.Farmers switched to the Cavendish banana variety, believed to be resistant to the fusarium fungus, and this is now the dominant type of banana grown and consumed throughout the world.But a new strain of the fusarium fungus, known as tropical race four (TR4), attacked Cavendish plantations, first in Malaysia in the 1990s, and then across Asia, and into Australia and Africa. 
The fungus had wiped out the Gros Michel variety, and there are fears it could do the same to the Cavendish banana. Fusarium is resistant to fungicides, and there is no known way to control it chemically.Since the fungus lives in the soil, it can easily be transferred on people’s shoes, animals’ hooves, and vehicle tyres. If infected soil gets into shipping containers, the disease can hop from one continent to another.The Mozambican authorities are thus trying to contain the disease to the two known sites of outbreaks in Monapo and Chiure. The Agriculture Ministry release announced that no saplings or other banana propagation material can be moved from the two infected farms, or from Nampula and Cabo Delgado provinces to the rest of the country. Furthermore no soil or any other substrate in which bananas are grown can be moved from the infected areas to places currently free of the disease.Any person visiting the affected areas, the release says, “must guarantee the disinfection of shoes, boots or other materials used in the field, and must not then visit any other banana producing area to avoid possible introduction of the disease from soil particles”.These measures, the Ministry says, are necessary “to protect the banana industry and the food security of the households who depend on this crop”.

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