Frontiers in Plant Science Research Topic on Panama disease

The visibility of the Wageningen Panama disease research, has resulted in “Panama Disease of Banana, a Recurring Threat to Global Banana Production” a Research Topic of Frontiers in Plant Science, one of the leading plant pathology journals.

The editorial team is headed by Prof. Gert Kema and includes Prof. André Drenth, University of Queensland, Dr. Miguel Dita, Embrapa, Brazil, and the Wageningen University and Research colleagues Drs. Jetse Stoorvogel, Sietze Vellema and Kees Jansen, who are all involved in the INREF program.

The Research Topic will comprise a series of papers on the latest progress in Panama disease research which eventually will be available as an eBook. The inaugural article in the Research Topic is titled “New Geographical Insights of the Latest Expansion of Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense Tropical Race 4 Into the Greater Mekong Subregion”, Front. Plant Sci., 09 April 2018 (Subscription or payment may be required), and reveals links between the occurrence of TR4 in China and surrounding countries as well as between Pakistan and the Philippines and Jordan and Lebanon. Hence, genomics research enables forensic analyses on the origin of TR4 incursions.

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National Geographic visits Wageningen University and Research

On January 24, National Geographic visited WUR and filmed during a course that Prof. Kema is teaching on Frontiers in Medical and Veterinary Biology. They were particularly interested in banana research and visited the Unifarm Greenhouse facility to film ongoing trials and experiments of students. The footage will be part of flagship National Geographic Explorer program and results from the NG Magazine article on Future Farming in The Netherlands. The NG Explorer program will be broadcasted in the autumn of 2018 and reaches approximately 400 million people in 171 countries in 45 languages.

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Transgenic Cavendish in the news


The big news of the first transgenic Cavendish banana resistant to TR4 has reached the press.
In the Netherlands one of the main national news channels (NOS) made an item for their website. Fernando Garcia Bastidas, one of the banana researchers at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, explains about the breakthrough in this excellent video made by NOS. Most of the item is in the English language, so we think it is well worth watching.

Some of the other digital media covering the news:

logo the guardian, about transgenic cavendish
The Guardian



logo Science Magazine, about transgenic cavendish,




Science Magazine



logo Kemivärlden Biotech, about transgenic cavendish,
Kemivärlden Biotech in Sweden

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New website

We are proud to present our new website: . will maintain accessible, but there is a serious plea to dissociate the name Panama from the disease in banana. The main reason, though was to keep up with the current requirements to ensure a future proof site that can also be viewed on mobile devices. The positive feed-back on the previous site was overwhelming and hence, we hope you enjoy visiting the new website even more.
The new website is fully responsive, so it will look great on your dekstop, laptop, tablet and smartphone. The new site was designed and built by Neo & Co.

Mail us at for any suggestions or questions about Fusarium wilt.

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Article on The conversation covered by CNN

Ioannis Stergiopoulos, Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis; André Drenth, Professor of Agriculture and Food Sciences, The University of Queensland and Gert Kema, Special Professor of Phytopathology, Wageningen University wrote an article for ‘The conversation’, the communication platform with ‘Academic rigour & journalistic flair’. With the article, Ioannis, André and Gert try to answer the question whether science can help the endangered Cavendish banana to survive. The piece attracted very much interest of news media, it even reached the homepage of CNN.

Check the CNN page here:

You can read the entire article here on The Conversation:

The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public. Their team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.

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Securing the future of the UK’s favourite fruit

The British Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) granted a project to the University of Exeter on “Securing the future of the UK’s favourite fruit”. The UK is highly dependent on imported fruit and vegetables that make up eighty per cent of the market, compared with half of cereals and one sixth of meat and dairy produce. Yet, fruit and vegetables are a key component of a healthy diet, often overlooked in studies of global food security that tend to focus on the major grains. Reliance on imports makes the UK vulnerable to instabilities in international production and supply, placing the issue of resilience of the UK food system firmly in a global context. This vulnerability is epitomized by the banana, the most popular fruit in the UK by consumption, and the most important fruit in the world by production. More than five billion bananas are purchased in Britain each year, and the UK accounts for seven per cent of the global export market. Though hundreds of banana varieties are grown around the world for domestic consumption, only one variety, Cavendish, is internationally traded. The previous export variety, Gros Michel, was eliminated by Panama Disease (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense) in the 1950s, and now a new virulent strain, Tropical Race 4 (TR4), is emerging from Asia to threaten Cavendish. No alternative tradable varieties are available, and no chemical disease controls exist. The vulnerability of the banana trade is an extreme case of the more general issue of imported crops that are vulnerable to emerging pests and diseases.

However, the banana remains under-researched compared with the major crops, there has been little academic analysis of the resilie

nce of the banana trade nor development of mitigation strategies to maintain supply or manage the impact of sudden catastrophe. In this multidisciplinary research programme, the UN FAO World Banana Forum (WBF) will collate detailed data on production levels, disease impacts, and mitigation methods. In this project patterns, trends and drivers of banana production, including pests, diseases, management, and climate, will be analyzed to provide robust models of production and how this could vary in the future as diseases spread and the climate changes. Wageningen University and Research will test a new antifungal compound against TR4, to determine whether chemical control could mitigate production impacts while alternative resistant varieties remain under development.

In addition, an economic model will be developed that characterizes the main features of the UK value chain, forming the basis for assessing the price transmission impacts following shocks in upstream markets and, by extension, the impact on UK consumers and the responses by UK food retailers and other market intermediaries. The theoretical framework will be calibrated and simulates the impact of projected production shocks in exporting countries on UK consumers, and derives the welfare impact for participants at each stage of the value chain.

The banana market is politically sensitive, and over the past decade the price of bananas in the UK has declined, while production costs have increased, placing pressure on producers. Via the WBF, the UK charity Banana Link and the food sector consultancy 3Keel the UK retail sector will be engaged along with other stakeholders in rigorous key informant analysis of potential responses to vulnerabilities in the sector, impacts of prices rises on the UK consumer, feedbacks to producers, and strategies to improve resilience to production shocks. The projects’ goal is to secure the future of the UK’s favourite fruit, and provide a case study for improving the resilience of other vulnerable imported commodities.

See also: the BBSRC flyer about this research

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