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Israel: TR4 Affects Banana Farms

8.10.2019

TR4, the fungus which led Colombia to declare a national emergency, presents a growing threat to Israel's banana crops.

Israel's banana crop, which provides 4,000 people with a livelihood, is at risk due to Tropical Race 4 (TR4), a strain of the aggressive Fusarium oxysporum fungus which spreads Panama disease among the plants.

Dr. Navot Galpaz, a subtropical crop researcher specializing in bananas, said: "It's very important to emphasize this.

The fungus has killed 200 of Israel's 27,000 dunams of bananas, Galpaz added.

Israel is home to 27,000 dunams (6,700 acres) of banana plantations, and 150,000-170,000 tons of bananas are harvested annually, making it one of Israel's most profitable crops. Any crops affected by the fungus are immediately isolated and destroyed, and efforts are made to kill the fungus - a tough job, since it can survive in the soil under extreme conditions for several decades, and a single spore can lead to the infection of another entire region.

As a result, anyone leaving the area risks spreading the fungus to other areas. Since there is no known treatment, any crops affected by the fungus - so far, six banana plantations - are doomed.

The fungus was first noticed in Jordan in 2015, where scientists believe Israel's fungus originated.

Panama disease has devastated banana plants across Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East, causing millions of dollars in damages.

Gert Kema, a phytopathologist at the Netherlands’ Wageningen University, added, "Once you see [TR4], it is too late, and it has likely already spread outside that zone without recognition

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