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Ground cover management alters development of Fusarium wilt symptoms in Ducasse bananas


Many banana producing regions around the world experience climate variability as a result of seasonal rainfall and temperature conditions, which result in sub-optimal conditions for banana production. This can create periods of plant stress which impact on plant growth, development and yields. Furthermore, diseases such as Fusarium wilt caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense, can become more predominant following periods of environmental stress, particularly for many culturally significant cultivars such as Ducasse (synonym Pisang Awak) (Musa ABB). The aim of this experiment was to determine if expression of symptoms of Fusarium wilt of bananas in a susceptible cultivar could be explained by environmental conditions, and if soil management could reduce the impact of the disease and increase production. An experiment was established in an abandoned commercial field of Ducasse bananas with a high incidence of Fusarium wilt. Vegetated ground cover was maintained around the base of banana plants and compared with plants grown in bare soil for changes in growth, production and disease symptoms. Expression of Fusarium wilt was found to be a function of water stress potential and the heat unit requirement for bananas. The inclusion of vegetative ground cover around the base of the banana plants significantly reduced the severity and incidence of Fusarium wilt by 20 % and altered the periods of symptom development. The growth of bananas and development of the bunch followed the accumulated heat units, with a greater number of bunched plants evident during warmer periods of the year. The weight of bunches harvested in a second crop cycle was increased when banana plants were grown in areas with vegetative ground cover, with fewer losses of plants due to Fusarium wilt.

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This work was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research through project Hort/2008/040, with additional support from the Queensland Government through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Mr Michael Dunne and Ms. Vicki Kippin-O’Connor are gratefully acknowledged for allowing this work to be conducted on their properties and the contribution they have made to ensure the experiment reached a conclusion. Thanks are also given to colleagues Dr. Leanne Forsyth, Mr. Sebastian Recabarren, Mr Wayne O’Neill and Mr. Stewart Lindsay for their technical assistance and expert knowledge.

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Correspondence to A. B. Pattison.

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Pattison, A., Wright, C., Kukulies, T. et al. Ground cover management alters development of Fusarium wilt symptoms in Ducasse bananas. Australasian Plant Pathol. 43, 465–476 (2014).

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  • Disease suppression
  • Disease symptoms
  • Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense
  • Musa sp
  • Panama disease
  • Plant stress
  • Soil management