New methods to efficiently monitor Panama disease, also known as Fusarium wilt, caused by Fusarium species in bananaswere developed during the PhD research of Fernando Garcia-Bastidas at Wageningen University and Research. These new methods and trials enabled a close monitoring of the international and intercontinental dissemination of the so-called Tropical Race 4 (TR4) strain of Fusarium odoratissimum, a new species originating from Indonesia that devastates banana plantations of Cavendish as well as many other local varieties around the world. 

Fernando Garcia-Bastidas defended his dissertation entitled ‘Panama disease in banana: Spread, screens and genes’ on March 19, 2019 at Wageningen University. The thesis describes the developing pandemic of a Fusarium species, which causes Panama disease in banana. He focused his research on the genetic diversity for resistance towards a panel of Fusarium strains representing global pathogenic diversity and aspects of the molecular interaction between the fungus and the host.

The thesis further explores the resistance to TR4 in a wide panel of banana accessions and the possible use of a resistance gene from a wild banana ancestor by genetically transforming Cavendish bananas, thereby providing a potential solution for sustainable disease management. Lasting disease management, however, relies on genetic diversity and the research described in this thesis is the basis for developing such new varieties.

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