Science

The banana killer – Fusarium wilt

Do you like bananas?

If your answer is YES, you are just like me. Every morning I slice a banana in my breakfast, sometimes I have a banana smoothie or I grill a banana filled with chocolate on the barbecue.

Banana plant with Fusarium wilt symptoms.

Banana plant with Fusarium wilt symptoms.

But the banana – that you and me eat every day – is threatened by a deadly disease. This disease is called Fusarium wilt or Panama Disease. Fusarium wilt is caused by a soil borne fungus called Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense. In the 1950ties an outbreak of Fusarium wilt devastated banana plantations in South and Middle America. The banana industry almost collapsed.

Luckily, one banana variety was found that was resistant against Fusarium wilt – the Cavendish banana. This is the banana variety that you can buy in supermarkets around the world. Unfortunately, a new race of Fusarium wilt is now killing the Cavendish. It originates from South East Asia and has already spread to banana plantations in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Australia, Taiwan and far away locations like Jordan and Mozambique.

Saving the banana

At the Sainsbury Laboratory in England, I am researching how the Fusarium fungus is infecting banana plants and how we can save the banana from Fusarium wilt. Please follow this link if you would like to know more about my research.