Biotech Updates

Breakthrough in Panama Disease Control in Bananas

November 2, 2022

In the 1950s, Panama disease decimated the world's banana industry, which was helped by the introduction of a new Cavendish variety. However, a new race of the fungus, known as Tropical Race 4, recently swept across the continents and through the Cavendish banana plantations. All efforts to control the disease in Cavendish bananas have, so far, failed.

Tropical Race 4 is of particular significance as Cavendish bananas account for about 40 percent of world production and more than 90 percent of all exports. Now, scientists at the University of Exeter provide hope that Panama disease can be controlled by a particular class of fungicides. The Exeter research team led by Professors Gero Steinberg and Sarah Gurr used a multi-disciplinary approach to better understand why chemical control of Panama disease failed. By combining expertise in cell and molecular biology, bioinformatics, and plant pathology, the team revealed that all major classes of fungicides do not work against the pathogen and provide insight into the molecular reason behind this "resistance".

The researchers discovered that a more specialized class of fungicides, not previously used, suppress Panama disease and maintain banana plant health in the presence of the pathogen, opening new avenues to develop efficient control strategies and providing a significant step in the fight to protect this valuable crop.

For more details, read the article on the University of Exeter website.

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