Two years ago (November 2015), I went to visit northern Vietnam with Dr Tranh of FAVRI and Dr. Chao of TBRI. We visited a 300-hectare plantation of Tall Williams in Lao Cai province, a hilly plantation in the border of Vietnam and Yunnan province of China. It was a very panoramic plantation curbed on the hillsides. From a panorama from the top of the hills, the banana plantation could be an agro-touristic place. Beautiful!
But looking closer on the plots, a deadly disease was lurking all over. This is the same disease caused by a fungus damaging our Cavendish plantations in China and the Southern Philippines. I made an internal report of this disease to Bioversity International, and initiated a move to report or publish this first report of Fusarium oxysporum fsp cubense (FocTR4) in Vietnam. This has to be led by our Vietnamese partners. In scientific publications, things do not move as fast as we would like. We expect this to be published in Plant Disease journal anytime in the next couple of weeks.
FAO and other international research organizations should help Vietnam to mitigate this disease. They should not only focus on Latin America or the Cavendish that enter the international trade.
The movement of this disease to the south of the border of China is due to the expansion of Cavendish plantations to Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and even Thailand, by mostly Chinese businessmen in joint ventures with nationals. This is to supply the increasing demand of bananas in China, whose production is now constrained by Foc TR4. The rivers coming from China streaming south may have carried the fungus from infested farms in China to the south of the border also.
The Philippines Cavendish industry has been suffering from the damage of Foc TR4 since 2000. With Bioversity-Philippines office/BAPNET R&D interventions, the disease is now reasonably managed. The use of resistant varieties from Taiwan Banana Resarch Institute, that have been evaluated and promoted by Bioversity and its national partners are getting big headway in the management of Foc TR4 in the Philippines. This model should be adapted in Foc TR4-affeced countries in Asia.
It needs a sustained and good collaboration…
Agustin B. Molina
Honorary Research Fellow
Bioversity International – Philippine Office