The Colombian government on Thursday confirmed that a deadly fungus threatening banana plantations in the Eastern Hemisphere has officially arrived in the Americas, prompting a declaration of a national state of emergency. Latin America is the hub of the global banana export industry, according to National Geographic.
Officials with ICA, the Colombian agriculture and livestock authority, reported lab tests identified the presence of Panama disease Tropical Race 4 (or TR4), a form of Fusarium wilt caused by Fusarium oxysporum. This fungus, which was first identified in 1990s Taiwan, is known to infect the roots of banana plants and ultimately kill them. Once a banana plant plot is infected, the fruit can no longer be cultivated there.
According to experts with the International Society for Horticultural Science and ProMusa, this soil-dwelling fungus strain can’t be controlled with fungicides, nor can it be eradicated using fumigants.
“As far as I know, ICA and the farms are doing a good job in terms of containment, but eradication is almost impossible,” Colombian phytopathologist Fernando García-Bastidas told NatGeo.