The Banana Board’s technical services units continue to be vigilant and resolute to prevent the entry of Panama Disease PDR4 caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f cubense and several viral diseases capable of equal devastation as the PDR4.  Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) disease is the most virulent of the diseases caused by viruses. PDR4 and BBTV diseases affect almost all commercial varieties and are capable of totally wiping out the productivity of an infected banana and plantain farm within two years.

These two diseases of economic and quarantine importance have existed for many years in Asia, where bananas and plantains also originated.  BBTV was transmitted to Africa in the 1990s but PDR4 was only recently identified on that continent. The diseases are not in Jamaica, nor any country in the Western Hemisphere currently.  However they can be carried across country borders in infected soil, but is most frequently spread in infected plant tissues.

The primary method to keep the Jamaica’s banana and plantain industry safe is to continue to exclude the diseases from entering Jamaica. Therefore, it is extremely important that all visitors and returning residents to Jamaica are aware of the grave implications of violating quarantine and customs laws.  Without the requisite approvals, all fresh banana and plantain plant materials are contraband and all persons are required to declare any recent visits to farms in other countries.

Should entry evade border security, the next best method to manage the diseases is to eradicate it immediately after it is identified.  Farmers and technical officers are being sensitized and trained by the Banana Board to identify symptoms of the diseases. Panama Disease initially affects the outer leaves of the main plant in the mat or root. The leaves wilt (buckle) or become yellow. The wilt progresses to the whole plant, which dies and eventually to the followers or suckers. Chopped corms show reddish-brown vessels. The symptoms of PDR4 are similar to that of Panama Disease Race 1 and 2.

Banana farmers are reminded that Panama Disease Races 1 and 2 already exist in the soils of the main banana regions in Jamaica.  PD, as it is known locally, devastated the preferred Gros Michel and Apple banana varieties in the 1950s. As a result the Banana Board took the decision to replace the export crop with the disease-resistant and now dominant Cavendish varieties: Valery, Lacatan and Robusta and more recently in the 1980s with Williams and Grand Naine.

Farmers are also being reminded not to expand fields of Gros Michel and Apple bananas because PD Races 1 and 2 may wipe out the crop within two years.

PDR4 affects all commercial varieties, including the Horse Plantains and the new FHIA varieties. Currently, there are no resistant varieties that can withstand PDR4.

For further information please contact:


The Banana Board

Research Department

922-2083, 922-5347, 420-1686


The Extension Department

Trinity, St. Mary

994-9868, 482-5629, 420-2819, 420-2222


Boundbrook Wharf, Portland

993-4245, 425-6635, 504-9496


Catherine Hall, St James


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