A field test that is faster and more practical than laboratory tests for detecting Tropical Race 4 (TR4) – the Fusarium strain that causes the much-feared Panama disease in bananas has been developed by researchers from Wageningen University & Research. This so-called LAMP test (from Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification assay) allows banana farmers and authorities to take immediate measures once suspect plants test positive for the fungus in order to prevent further spreading. The LAMP test was developed by a research team led by professor Gert Kema (WUR).
Researchers from Wageningen University & Research are harvesting the first Dutch bananas this week. Boerenhart, a supplier of fresh and local products will offer the bananas as ‘regional product’ to restaurants and hospitals in the region of Wageningen. The cultivation took place on two types of substrates: coco peat and rock wool. This allows the growth of banana without the settlement of aggressive fungi.
In the greenhouses of the experimental farm Unifarm in Wageningen a unique research experiment has been carried out since January. Bananas grow in the greenhouse in pots and on a substrate, both artificial media for plant growth. “For the 100th anniversary of WUR, we developed this plan together with the local cooperation Boerenhart: the cultivation of a regional banana in the Wageningen greenhouses,” says Professor of Tropical Plant Pathology Gert Kema. “With this experiment we will investigate whether this cultivation offers prospects for further research into mastering Fusarium wilt. This is due to a soil borne fungal pathogen that threatens the banana production throughout the world. So we took the banana out of the soil.”
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. https://nos.nl/op3/artikel/2204634-waarom-je-straks-misschien-geen-banaan-meer-kan-eten.html
Some of the other digital media covering the news:
In 2015 Dr Gert HJ Kema made aerial images of banana plantations in the Davao region of Mindanao, the Philippines; the heart of commercial Cavendish banana production for the export trade. The Tropical Race 4 lineage of the devastating fungal plant pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense that causes Panama disease has left its scars in the landscape. Parts of plantations have been wiped out by the fungus that is an increasing and continuos threat to Philippine banana prediction as it also affects many local cultivars.
In 2015 Gert Kema made aerial images of Panama Disease in Philippines.
In November 2015 we received a German TV crew at WUR who also visited our partners in Indonesia and the Philippines. On 5 January 2016 the TV program Quarks & Co of WDR1, a national TV channel in Germany, devoted a full broadcast to bananas. The threat of fungal diseases was beautifully covered. We expect that millions of German viewers now know much more about the importance of banana for food supply, income of people and societies around the globe, and about the plant diseases that threaten bananas worldwide.
Katharina Nickoleit, who was in the TV crew, also made a radio-item about the issue.
On Tuesday the 17th of February, the Dutch kids program “Het Klokhuis” will broadcast an item about the banana recorded in the greenhouses of Wageningen UR. TV-presenter Dolores and Dr. Gert Kema, teach the kids a lot about bananas and the impact of Panama disease and Black Sigatoka on global banana production.