The Philippines department of agriculture has allocated P253m (US$5.8m) to address the fungal disease Fusarium wilt, while the industry investigates banana varieties resistant to the disease.
Fusarium wilt – also known as Panama Disease – is a soil borne pathogen identified recently in the provinces of Davao de Norte, Bukidnon and Compostela Valley. It has the potential to cause significant damage to the Philippines banana industry.
The announcement of the funding was made Friday (9 December) and was approved after the Southern Mindanao regional task force against Panama disease submitted a work plan.
Melanie Provido, chief of the department of agriculture’s regional office of the high-value crops division, said P50m would be used for immediate action, such as surveying and monitoring the disease, as well as to quarantine and eradicate it. This money would also be used to provide alternate crops to affected farms, as well as the creation of checkpoints and tire baths to prevent further spread of the disease.
The bulk of the remaining P200m would be invested in research and development. This would include trialling banana varieties over the next five years, which are resistant to the disease, the news source reported.
Initial measures would involve training farm technicians to evaluate, identify and determine the extent of the problem. This would commence in the New Year, said Provido.
Identification of the disease is already underway in the Davao del Norte region - where more than half of Mindanao’s banana farms are located – following the training of local farmers and department of agriculture technicians there.
Panama disease moves through soil attacking the roots of banana plants. It moves more swiftly during periods of flooding. An infestation is usually apparent by the yellowing of the plant's leaves.
According to the report by the Business Mirror, effective quarantining involves heating the soil in the effected area by burning rice husks or charcoal.
The country’s department of science and technology has made available the Taiwanese developed GCTCV 119 and 208 banana varieties, to growers in the Philippines. These were developed in the 1990s after the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) strain of the disease wiped out farms in Taiwan and Indonesia.
Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig said the association was still unsure about whether the varieties would be effective replacements for the existing variety.
“We still have to test it. And even if it really resists the TR4, the next question would be: is it acceptable to the market?” he told Business Mirror.
Biodiversity International Asia Pacific senior scientist Dr Augustin B Molina said plantations of the varieties in China and Indonesia had been successful.
“It is still the same Cavendish, also sweet but a little less smaller compared to the original Cavendish variety,” Molina said, adding that the plants grew almost with the same time span and adapted to the same environment “except that it is resistant to the TR4.”