Fusarium Wilt - Importance


Because F. oxysporum is so widespread, it is a significant problem in many crops. It is economically damaging to the banana industry, and the threat of more virulent strains or mutations to damage previously resistant crops is of major concern. F. oxysporum also causes damage to many crops from the Solanaceae family, including potato, tomato, and pepper. Other commercially important plants affected include basil, beans, carnation, chrysanthemum, peas, and watermelon. Woody ornamentals are infected, but are usually not killed by Fusarium wilt alone. Palms, however, are the exception, and there are many species that can die from F. oxysporum infection. Fusarium wilt's importance as a damaging disease on strawberry production is increasing. In South Korea, where Fusarium wilt is the most serious soil-borne disease of strawberry, losses in transplant production of up to 30% have been reported.

There is growing interest in using Fusarium wilt as a form of biological control. Certain pathogenic strains of F. oxysporum could be released to infect and control invasive weed species. This type of control (called a mycoherbicide) would be more targeted than herbicide applications, without the associated problems of chemical use. In addition. F. oxysporum may compete with other soil fungi that act as pathogens of important crops. Introducing specific strains of F. oxysporum that are not pathogenic (or non-infectious mutants of pathogens) to nearby crops could take nutrients from other potential disease-causing fungi.

Fusarium wilt (Panama disease) is the most serious disease of banana, threatening 80% of the world's banana production, most of which is planted with the susceptible Cavendish varieties. Bananas are a staple food in the diet of millions throughout the subtropics and tropics, and the spread of Panama disease could have devastating effects on both large scale production and subsistence farms.

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