KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar 28, CMC – The Banana Board is urging farmers to implement measures to protect their holdings against the TR4 disease even though the disease has not yet been detected in any Caribbean country.
TR4 disease, which is also known as Fusarium odoratissimum, is a threat to commercial varieties of the local banana, plantain and ornamental Heliconia crops.
“It is not in Jamaica and it is not yet in the Caribbean but in 2019 it came to South America to Colombia and it stayed there for a while. In 2021, it moved from Colombia to Peru and in January 2023, just two months ago, it jumped into Venezuela,” said Banana Board general manager, Janet Conie.
She said that the disease has the real danger or potential to wipe out the entire industry and that the TR4 is a soil-borne fungal disease that can stay in the soil for 30 years for which there is no cure and no resistant commercial varieties.
“What we need to do is to keep it out. What happens when it comes is that it spreads in the soil, in water, on tools and equipment and by people moving. We are very concerned that it is in Venezuela, because the traffic between Venezuela and Trinidad is real and the traffic between Jamaica and Trinidad is very real,” she added.
With the potential effects of the TR4, farmers are being encouraged to ramp up border security, farm biosecurity, as well as diagnostic and surveillance measures, which are critical to preventing the spread of the disease.
“We are motivating our farmers to secure their farms in Jamaica. We are telling them to fence them and put foot paths for persons that come on the farms, that they walk in these footpaths and to disinfect their shoes,” Mrs. Conie said, noring that the Banana Board is also encouraging Jamaicans who travel to be mindful of their movements in countries where the TR4 is present.
“Anybody can bring it in if they are unaware of what they do. If you go to a South American country now, into a banana field, we ask you not to bring your clothes and shoes back, because you may bring it inadvertently,” Mrs. Conie said.
So far, the Banana Board has been working to strengthen the industry against the threat of the disease.
“We have been preparing. We have varieties that are not so commercial but are fairly resistant and we have been multiplying those in Jamaica, so we have something for food security should we be affected,” she added.