University of Florida, IFAS, Department of Plant Pathology, Tropical Research & Education Center, 18905 SW 280th Street, Homestead 33031
Fusarium wilt of banana (also known as Panama disease) is caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense. Where susceptible cultivars are grown, management is limited to the use of pathogen-free planting stock and clean soils. Resistant genotypes exist for some applications, but resistance is still needed in other situations. Progress has been made with this recalcitrant crop by traditional and nontraditional improvement programs. The disease was first reported in Australia in 1876, but did the greatest damage in export plantations in the western tropics before 1960. A new variant, tropical race 4, threatens the trades that are now based on Cavendish cultivars, and other locally important types such as the plantains. Phylogenetic studies indicate that F. oxysporum f. sp. cubense had several independent evolutionary origins. The significance of these results and the future impact of this disease are discussed.