• Mindanao braces for banana killer disease

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    With fusarium wilt threatening to wipe out banana plantations in Mindanao in southern Philippines, the Department of Agriculture-Region 11 (DA-11) will start deploying plant pathologists to help beef up control measures against the banana killer disease.

    Ma. Febe Orbe, DA-11 assistant regional director, has said at least 10 plant pathologists will be fielded in major banana-producing provinces to conduct trainings on fusarium wilt management.

    Of the 10 pathologists, three will be assigned in Davao del Norte, three in Compostela Valley, two in Davao City, one in Davao del Sur and one in Davao Oriental, Orbe added.

    According to her, the newly hired plant pathologists are expected to contribute to the success of combating fusarium wilt, commonly known as Panama disease.

    Panama disease has been dormant for the past 50 years but has reappeared in plantations in some countries.

    Caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum and resistant to fungicide and other chemicals, it has found its way to Bukidnon in Mindanao where it wiped out 1,200 hectares of banana plantations in 2011.

    It has also contaminated some banana plantations in Compostela Valley and most recently it hit Santo Tomas town in Davao del Norte province.

    Orbe said the plant pathologists will be working with technicians of local government units in identifying infestation and in implementing control measures.

    The pathologists, she added, will also help in recommending alternative crops for farmers.

    Earlier, the DA conducted a training, which aimed to orient the plant pathologists on management and eradication strategies against fusarium wilt, including application of biological control agents.

    “We hope that you could help us in this undertaking because the DA is bent on controlling the disease since banana is a major dollar earner of the country, second only to coconut,” Orbe said.

    “Banana is one of the major gainer agricultural products, we cannot afford to lose the market,” she added.

    The Philippine Statistics Authority said  the country harvested 3 million metric tons of bananas (all varieties) in 2013.

    It added that 220,000 tons a day or 80 million tons of bananas a year are consumed worldwide.

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