Israel may be in for a banana shortage

TR4, the fungus which led Colombia to declare a national emergency, presents a growing threat to Israel's banana crops.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Bananas
Bananas
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Israel's banana crop, which provides 4,000 people with a livelihood, is at risk due to Tropical Race 4 (TR4), a strain of the aggressive Fusarium oxysporum fungus which spreads Panama disease among the plants.

Panama disease cannot harm humans, and attacks the root of the plant, killing it. However, the fungus does not affect the fruit itself, researchers pointed out.

Dr. Navot Galpaz, a subtropical crop researcher specializing in bananas, told Zman Yisrael: "It's very important to emphasize this. The fungus doesn't reach the fruit at all. But even if it did, it's a banana fungus. It doesn't affect other crops and it certainly cannot harm humans."

The fungus has killed 200 of Israel's 27,000 dunams of bananas, Galpaz added.

Israel is home to 27,000 dunams (6,700 acres) of banana plantations, and 150,000-170,000 tons of bananas are harvested annually, making it one of Israel's most profitable crops. Any crops affected by the fungus are immediately isolated and destroyed, and efforts are made to kill the fungus - a tough job, since it can survive in the soil under extreme conditions for several decades, and a single spore can lead to the infection of another entire region.

As a result, anyone leaving the area risks spreading the fungus to other areas. Since there is no known treatment, any crops affected by the fungus - so far, six banana plantations - are doomed.

The fungus was first noticed in Jordan in 2015, where scientists believe Israel's fungus originated.

In August, Colombia, a major source of banana exports, declared a national emergency due to TR4, after first noticing the fungus in June.

Panama disease has devastated banana plants across Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East, causing millions of dollars in damages, Smithsnonian Mag said.

Science magazine pointed out that TR4 spores can last for decades in soil, and there are no known fungicides or other methods proven effective against it.

Gert Kema, a phytopathologist at the Netherlands’ Wageningen University, added, "Once you see [TR4], it is too late, and it has likely already spread outside that zone without recognition."




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