Banana plants’ defense against deadly wilting disease may be in the soil

Fusarium wilt, a soilborne fungal disease popularly known as Panama disease, is one of the most devastating diseases of banana. It is responsible for the crop’s declining yield in the Great Lakes region of Africa, where banana is a major source of food and income for millions of smallholder farmers.

The disease is spread by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc), which enters the root systems of banana plants and blocks the uptake of nutrients and water. It causes yellowing of leaves, splitting of the pseudostem, and eventual death of the banana plant. Furthermore, the disease cannot be managed by synthetic pesticides/fungicides and easily spreads through the exchange of planting materials (banana suckers), water, and movement of people and equipment.

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