Blog Institutions in Peru coordinate efforts to combat Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4

Bananas and plantains are essential for food security in most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as a source of income and nutrition for many families that depend on them. In Peru, these crops are an important part of the country's nutrition and the economy. Around 175,000 hectares are planted with these crops. By 2021, banana and plantain production in Peru reached 2.3 million tons, making it the fruit with the highest production volume in the country.

Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 (TR4), confirmed so far in Colombia, Peru and recently in Venezuela, has put banana and plantain growing areas throughout the region on alert. This disease, which acts from the root and invades the plant until it causes death, can affect up to 80% of edible bananas and plantains, contaminating the soil for more than 30 years.

The first outbreak of TR4 in South American, was confirmed in 2019 in La Guajira, Colombia. Two years later, in April 2021, a new case was reported in Sullana, Peru.
In January 2023, the disease was reported in several municipalities in Venezuela.

Efforts to contain Fusarium TR4 in Peru

In the midst of the uncertainty caused by the arrival of Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4, different actors and institutions have joined efforts to generate strategies to help contain the pathogen. Its impact has been seen not only in losses of productive areas, but also on the finances and food security of the families of farmers and workers who depend on this crop.

Currently, there are more than 124 confirmed outbreaks of Fusarium TR4 infection in the organic banana growing area of Sullana, Piura, Peru.

To mitigate the impact and consequences of the disease, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT worked with Peru's National Agrarian Health Service (SENASA) and the National Institute for Agrarian Innovation (INIIA) on the project "Strengthening knowledge, diagnostic capacity, and best practice to combat the threat of Fusarium and other phytosanitary problems for Peruvian banana-producing families".

In the joint effort by the three institutions to combat the disease, plant pathologist and researcher Dr. Miguel Dita of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT (Project Coordinator), Juan Carlos Rojas Llanque (Project Leader at INIA), and Julio Marín (Project Leader at SENASA), worked with the support of the CGIAR Secretariat for Technical Cooperation, the Ministry of Agrarian Development and Irrigation of Peru (MIDAGRI), and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), to strengthen farmers’ knowledge about banana and plantain diseases, focusing on Fusarium TR4.

The project began in 2020, one year before the first case of Fusarium TR4 was found in Peru and included designing strategies aimed at strengthening institutional and farmer capacities ahead of the possible arrival of TR4.

"The scenario that we had anticipated, unfortunately happened in 2021, when the first case of the disease was confirmed in Peru. As the project's technical team, we responded quickly and offered to support SENASA, to validate the disease identification processes and send a message to producers in a very uncertain period," explained Juan Carlos Rojas, Project Leader, at INIA.

During the implementation of the project, we worked together with stakeholders in seven producing regions in Peru, providing virtual and field training to more than a thousand technicians and producers on the identification and management of the disease, in order to strengthen the production of banana and plantain crops.

"It is very important to have these projects, as it helps us to share training with our small farmers and to provide technical support to all the cooperatives," said Balbino Reyes, Technical Representative of the Organic Banana Famers Cooperative in El Monte and Mallaritos (APBOSMAM).

Regions benefiting from the project

To date, more than 1,000 technicians and producers have been trained - strengthening knowledge, diagnostic capacity, and good practice in dealing with the threat of Fusarium TR4 and other phytosanitary problems.

"Despite the impact of Covid-19, the project objectives have been achieved with important contributions to the banana and plantain sector in Peru. These include the support given to SENASA to diagnose and contain the first outbreak of Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 in Peru, the publication of educational guides and videos for the implementation of biosecurity measures, and the identification and management of pests and diseases. In addition, we have established the first collection of microorganisms beneficial for the biological control of Musaceae diseases and we have also published scientific articles in high-ranking scientific journals on this subject," explained Dr. Miguel Dita of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.

Completed in December 2022, the project resulted in a strategy focused on the prevention and containment of Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4. For more than twelve years, the Alliance has been deploying all its capabilities to deal with this pathogen that threatens bananas and plantains in Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently, other projects are being proposed to continue work on research about other diseases that affect these crops in the region.


Identifying plants in the field that may have Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4

Biosecurity Measures to Prevent Fusarium Tropical Race 4

Key facts about Fusarium TR4:

•    Fruit from infected plants do not carry the fungus and there is no risk to human health by consuming fruit that carries the infection. 

•    TR4 can be spread through soil on the soles of peoples’ shoes, tools and vehicles entering fields with crops, and through run off, or irrigation water that carries the fungus from one site to another.