Take steps to control fusarium wilt disease

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There are two types of banana wilt diseases that cause considerable loss to banana farmers in East Africa. These are the fusarium wilt (also called the Panama disease) and Xanthomonas wilt disease is caused by, a fungus called Fusarium oxysporium which attacks the banana pseudostem and the root system (corms). The fungus can remain in the soil for up to 30 years, which makes it one of the most devastating banana diseases.

The disease occurs in 3 races (types with different characteristics): race 1, 2 and 4. Race 4 is one of the most devastating type of disease, which can even attack the Cavendish banana variety, which is resistant to other races of the disease. The most susceptible varieties of bananas are Gros Michel (Kampala), apple bananas (sukari ndizi), Mararu bluggoe (bokoboko), and Psian Awak.

Symptoms: Yellowing of the leaves, beginning from the leaf margins and progressing towards the midribs. Yellowing starts from older leaves to young ones as plant dries up. The stem of the infected banana plant splits along the stem. The outer leaves of the stems separate and come off and fall off. There is a very bad smell coming from the infected banana stems caused by other fungus that also invade the rotting stems. The stems lose their colour and become reddish brown.

Control measures: Farmers are advised to cut off the affected parts of the banana plant and burn them. Infected soil should not be moved from the area around the plant. Apply hot water around the root base of the banana plant. This reduces the disease by 20 per cent. All the garden tools such as jembes and pangas should be disinfected using a Jik® solution or pass them over the a fire flame to kill the fungus. Plant disease-free material, for example, getting tissue culture material from certified sources such as research institutions or KALRO. Plant banana varieties that have shown resistance to the disease such as the Cavendish variety.

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