Throughout history, few plant disease epidemics have devastated production of an agricultural commodity as severely as Panama disease, i.e. Fusarium wilt, of banana. The disease is caused by the soil-borne fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (FOC). In contrast to black Sigatoka, the other fungal threat of banana, FOC cannot be controlled with fungicides and produces infectious spores that survive in soil for decades. Currently there is a new outbreak of Panama disease that is caused by the so-called Tropical Race 4 (FOC TR4). This new vicious race of Panama disease is extremely virulent, widely infecting banana germplasm destined for domestic and international markets, including Cavendish, and spreads rapidly in South East Asia. Therefore, the international research and policymaking community on bananas has been alarmed and is calling for concerted action to control this disease. In this INREF consortium research institutes, representatives of different types of growers and international policy-related banana networks work together, convinced that control of Panama disease requires concerted action.

INREF is the development oriented Interdisciplinary Research & Education Fund of Wageningen University (The Netherlands). The projectPanama Disease in Banana: Multi level solutions for a global Problem’ was granted research funding in 2012. ClearDetections is involved as INREF partner and has co-developed a molecular detection test (Real-time PCR) for the detection of FOC TR4 in plant material and identification of fungal cultures. More information about FOC TR4 and the project on the Panama Disease specific website.