A deadly fungus that has decimated banana plantations in southeast Asia for 30 years has finally done what scientists have long been fearing, and made its way to Latin America—the heart of the global banana export market.
On August 8 the Colombian Agricultural Institute announced that it had confirmed that the fungus—a strain of Fusarium oxysporum called Tropical Race 4 (TR4)—had been found in plantations in the north of the country.
Now 99 percent of all exported bananas are Cavendish—with almost all of them grown in Latin America.
“What we’re having is an almost apocalyptic scenario where we’ll probably lose Cavendish as well,” says Sarah Gurr, Exeter University’s chair in food security.
Initially discovered in Taiwan in 1989, TR4 is rife throughout southeast Asia and has since been found in Lebanon, Israel, India, and Australia.
TR4 lives in the soil and can be transmitted on unclean tires or boots, or spread from banana plants when they are replanted in different farms.