Fusarium wilt is a common fungal disease that attacks many types of herbaceous plants, including banana trees. Also known as Panama disease, fusarium wilt of banana is difficult to control and severe infections are often deadly. The disease has decimated crops and has threatened an estimated 80 percent of the world’s banana crop. Read on to learn more about banana fusarium wilt disease, including management and control.
Banana Fusarium Wilt Symptoms
Fusarium is a soil-borne fungus that enters the banana plant through the roots. As the disease progresses upward through the plant, it clogs the vessels and blocks the flow of water and nutrients.
The first visible banana fusarium wilt symptoms are stunted growth, leaf distortion, and yellowing, and wilt along the edges of mature, lower leaves. The leaves gradually collapse and droop from the plant, eventually drying up completely.
Managing Fusarium Wilt in Bananas
Fusarium wilt control in bananas depends largely on cultural methods to prevent spread, as effective chemical and biological treatments aren’t yet available. However, fungicides may provide some help in the early stages.
Managing fusarium wilt in bananas is difficult, as the pathogens can also be transmitted on shoes, tools, vehicles tires, and in run-off water. Clean up growing areas thoroughly at the end of the season and remove all debris; otherwise, the pathogen will overwinter in leaves and other plant matter.
The most important means of control is to replace diseased plants with non-resistant cultivars. However, the pathogens can live in the soil for decades, even after banana plants are long gone, so it’s critical to plant in a fresh, disease-free location.
Ask your local University Cooperative Extension Service or agronomy expert about fusarium-resistant cultivars for your area.