Growing concerns over a fungus called TR4 or Tropical Race 4 are having people scramble to figure out ways to solve the problem after Columbia declared a state of emergency on August 8th, 2019. The TR4 pathogen causes a wilting disease within banana plants. The common name for TR4 is Panama disease. It was originally identified in Taiwan but has started to spread to many other areas of Asia. Recently the fungus made its way into Latin America, the world’s largest banana exporter.
Panama disease is spread by infected plant material and contaminated soil. 170 hectares of banana farmland have been quarantined by eradicating the plants. Experts recommend creating exclusion zones of all non-essential visitors and using disinfectants on footwear and vehicles. Some research is being done to help solve the problem but a major outbreak of Panama disease in Latin America could drive up the prices globally and have a dramatic effect on the banana industry.
Read more about this problem on the ProMusa website. They are a network of people promoting scientific discussions on bananas. This chart from ProMusa shows how TR4 has spread over time: