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October 1st, 2019

Bananas may be the world’s favourite fruit, but plantations worldwide are increasingly under threat from a new fungus, which destroys banana plants threatening farmers’ livelihoods and the industry.

Confined to Southeast Asia for decades, the Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 (TR4) was spotted for the first time in Africa recently and in Latin America earlier this year. Its outbreak in Colombia in August led to the declaration of a national emergency.

The IAEA – in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – has worked with researchers from all around the world to support the development of new varieties of various banana species that would be resistant to the disease.

“Modern bananas can’t grow seeds and so are difficult to improve using cross breeding,” said Ivan Ingelbrecht, Head of the FAO/IAEA Plant Breeding and Genetics Laboratory. Therefore, the use of techniques such as irradiation or chemical mutagenesis to produce new varieties with favourable traits is often a favoured option to combat the disease. Read more …