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Banana under threat from New Wilt Disease

Banana cultivation is one of the most popular agricultural practices in India as well as in the world. In India, it is widely grown in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala, Karnataka, West Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. There are many varieties of bananas grown in India like Robusta, Dwarf Cavendish, Poovan, and Nendran, etc. The fruit grows all round the year irrespective of other fruits, which are usually seasonal in nature. Fertile soil is important for its cultivation, so it is best grown in volcanic and alluvial soils. The fruit can be cultivated in the temperature range between 10°C and 40°C, and high humidity conditions. Yield is higher when the temperature is above 24° C. 

The banana is responsible for sustaining more than 30,000 direct and indirect jobs in the outermost regions of the European Union. Where the production is of around 700,000 tons and is essential to protect the Rural and Social Balance of these territories.  Canary bananas, which have a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), are one of those productions and its contribution to the economy of the islands is relevant, since it sustains 12,000 direct and more than 3,000 indirect jobs. Moreover, there are about 9,000 producers, according to sources within the sector. The banana production in Guadeloupe and Martinique relies on the work of 600 growers, with 6,000 direct and 4,000 indirect workers. Meanwhile, in Madeira, the crop allows 2,800 producers to make a living and sustains 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Currently, a deadly fungal disease threatens the banana cultivation in all parts of the world. It is known as the Panama disease. The main infectious agent is the Fusarium soil fungus that enters the banana plant through the roots via the water stream. It travels into the leaves and trunks. In result, it produces gels, gums that usually cut off the flow of nutrients and water, and results in premature wilting of the plants. Since this disease cannot be stopped by application of fungicides or other chemicals, farmers are advised to cultivate their crops with great precautions to prevent the fungus from contaminating their banana plants. 

The National Research Centre for Bananas (NRCB) has said that the widely consumed banana variety called Grand Naine (G-9), which had been resistant to Fusarium wilt disease for the last three decades, has finally become susceptible to a new strain called Fusarium wilt TR4. If left unchecked, it could cause a serious threat to the banana industry as the variety accounts for $20 billion in global trade. The NRCB says that efforts are being made to manage the disease through various programmes. 

Addressing a high-level workshop in Trichy, NRCB director S. Uma said that the Tropical Race 4 of Fusarium wilt had a potential to devastate the banana industry within a short time span, if not contained on a war footing. She emphasized the need to sensitize the tissue culture companies about the disease as it was confined to some parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and TC companies had the responsibility of producing quality disease-free planting material for banana farmers. 

Whereas in Peru the president of the National Banana Board, Valentin Ruiz Delgado, said that the ALA wasn't providing enough water to the Users Board of Chira, which in turn must distribute the resource to the Miguel Checa hydraulic sub-sector, so that the farmers water 600 hectares of organic bananas. The problem dates back more than a month in some places, and almost three months in other areas. This situation has been causing concern among the producers of bananas for export. 

The official said the ALA offered them water for December 1, and farmers said that, if they didn't get the water, they would protest and block several sections of the northern highway. He also said that the lack of water affected the owners of the plots and workers in several sectors of the districts of Marcavelica and Ignacio Escudero. 



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