On October 17th 2018 Nadia Ordóñez defended her PhD entitled ‘A global genetic diversity analysis of Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense (Foc)’ at Wageningen University. In her research the genetic and geographically diversity of Tropical race 4 (TR4) strain of Foc was mapped out using DNA sequencing methods.
Bananas are an essential staple food and a significant income for agricultural-based economies in developing countries. Fusarium wilt of bananas, popularly known as Panama disease, is one of the most threatening fungal diseases of banana production. Foc is the causal fungal agent of this disease. The TR4 strain of this fungus affects many local banana varieties as well as the Cavendish cultivar, which accounts for 85% of world trade in bananas. Since all Cavendish bananas are clones of each other and there is little variation, they are highly susceptible to TR4, making the sector extremely vulnerable.
In the research of Nadia a molecular detection tool to monitor the spread of TR4 was developed. This assay enables rapid, routine and unambiguous detection of TR4 in the field and is therefore of immense value for charting the progression of its spread. That this is urgently needed, the results provide an image that all TR4 isolates, regardless of the year of isolation and country of origin, were highly infectious on both ‘Gros Michel’ and ‘Grand Naine’ banana varieties , underpinning the risk for banana plantations that only rely on these cultivars.