Brazil in search of new banana varieties resistant to Panama Disease

The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply stated that the measures taken to prevent the entry of the Panama Disease into Brazil should suffice. It must be wishful thinking (or else a meaningful disregard for the obvious facts), because the disease is causing the banana plantations in Asia and Africa to lose billions of dollars.

According to Alexei Dianese, researcher from Embrapa Cerredos, it is only a matter of time before the pest arrives in the Americas.
Dianese stated that they had reasons to worry. According to him, the fungus could destroy a banana plantation in a few months. Once it reaches the ground it penetrated the roots and makes them rot, then, as the leaves no longer get nutrients, the plant dies.

"It depends on the location and the variety of the plants. It might take longer if the soil is well drained. For example, the apple banana variety, which is extremely susceptible to the Panama disease, developed the typical symptoms of the Panama disease in their second year, when the plants were 1.80 meters tall, then, they died," he explained.

Embrapa is betting on developing new varieties resistant to the disease via genetic improvements. Two years ago, Embrapa, in collaboration with universities of the countries where the disease has already spread, started an investigation. According to the Dianese, the prata (Musa x paradisíaca) and apple varieties, which account for 70% of Brazilian production, are the most susceptible varieties to this disease.

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