What is Panama disease?
Panama disease (also known as fusarium wilt) is caused by the soil-bor\
Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense .
There are four races of the fungus:
• Race 1 infects Lady Finger, Sugar and Ducasse, but not Cavendish
• Race 2 generally infects cooking bananas like Bluggoe and Blue Java
• Race 3 infects only Heliconia species and not bananas
• Race 4 infects most varieties including Cavendish. There are two important strains
of this race:
– Subtropical Race 4 usually produces symptoms in Cavendish after a period of cold stress
– Tropical Race 4 is a serious threat to the Australian Cavendish banana industry
Panama disease is considered to be the most destructive disease of banana in modern times.
Subtropical race 4 has been under quarantine control in south east Queensland, northern New South
Wales and Western Australia for some time. Tropical race 4 has been detected near Darwin in the
Northern Territory and in Tully, Queensland, where it is under strict quarantine control. Both strains
represent a significant risk to the North Queensland production area, but Tropical race 4 is particularly
What could it be confused with?
In the early stages Panama disease can be
mistaken for nutritional problems or water stress.
Panama disease can also be confused with
endemic bacterial wilts and exotic bacterial
diseases such as Moko or blood disease.
However, neither of these diseases currently
occur in Australia.
What distinguishes Panama from
nutritional problems, water stress,
Moko or blood disease?
Nutritional problems and water stress do not
normally cause internal discolouration of
Panama disease can be differentiated from
Moko in that Panama does not discolour fruit.
Panama disease does not cause the production
of bacterial (blood-like) ooze from cut stems.
How is it spread?
The disease is most commonly introduced in
infected planting material. Panama disease can
also spread over short distances via root to
root contact, and through soil. Spread from an
infected parent plant into the suckers can also
occur. It can also spread with soil and water
movement or on contaminated pruning tools.
Once established, the fungus persists in the soil
for many years.
Internal browning of stems and corms is the key diagnostic symptom of Panama disease
Initial external symptoms of Panama disease include yellowing leaf margins on older leaves
What does it look like?
The first external symptom of Panama is the irregular yellowing of the margins of older leaves,
which later turn brown and dry out. These leaves eventually collapse along the leaf stalk o\
r at the
junction of the stalk and stem, resulting in a skirt of dead leaves forming around the lower part of
the plant. Heart leaves may remain unusually upright giving the plant a spiky appearance. Following
this, plants can take on a generally wilted appearance. The stem may spl\
it, which is often followed
by death of the parent stem, but suckers do not necessarily die.
Internal symptoms of Panama include discolouration of the inner tissue in the\
pseudostem. The discolouration is usually seen as reddish-brown or black lines running up and
down the pseudostem, or rings running around the cross section of tissue.
Affected plants rarely produce marketable bunches.
Where is it now?
Race 1 – under quarantine control in banana
production areas of Queensland, New South
Wales and Western Australia.
Race 2 – under quarantine control in banana
production areas of Queensland, and New
Race 3 – Northern Territory.
Subtropical Race 4 – under quarantine control
in banana production areas of south east
Queensland, northern New South Wales and
Tropical Race 4 – under strict quarantine
management in the Darwin area. It was detected
on a single property at Tully in Queensland in
2015, and on another property in Tully in 2017.
How is it controlled?
The most effective control measure for Panama
disease is the exclusion of the pest and simple
farm hygiene procedures.
Prompt detection is essential, and affected
plants must be destroyed because the disease
cannot be cured. Minimal site disturbance after
the affected plants have been destroyed (e.g.
by herbicide injection) is crucial to avoid further
spread of the pest via movement of soil or
plant material. There are strict quarantine
regulations to prevent spread of infected
material to clean areas through movement
of soil, water or plant materials.
As the disease progresses, older leaves die and form a skirt around the lower part of the plant
Splitting of the pseudostem associated with Panama disease infection
How do I protect my farm from
Prevention and farm hygiene
• Protect land currently free of the pest.
• Use clean planting material, such as tissue
• Avoid sharing farm machinery and equipment
with other growers. A common way
of spreading Panama disease is in soil
attached to equipment.
• Wash and disinfect all machinery, equipment,
vehicles and footwear before entry to the farm.
• Erect signs at your front gate to notify visitors
of your farm biosecurity requirements.
• Fence growing areas to restrict movement of
workers, machinery and equipment.
• Train your staff and family about your farm
Have you seen signs of Panama
disease tropical race 4?
Regularly examine your crop for signs
of Panama disease. Early detection and
reporting of symptoms are the key elements
in controlling the pest.
In Queensland, under the Biosecurity Act 2014 ,
Panama disease tropical race 4 is category 1
restricted matter. This means that by law plants
showing signs of disease must be reported to
Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 as soon
as practicable and not more than 24 hours after
becoming aware of the symptoms.
Do not attempt to remove or destroy affected
plants or cut plants to inspect them internally, as
this increases the risk of spread.
For more information about Panama disease
tropical race 4 contact Biosecurity Queensland
on 13 25 23 or visit bit.ly/PanamaTR4
EXOTIC PLANT PEST HOTLINE
1800 084 881
Aerial view of Panama affected banana plants
Record keeping should be a routine part of on-farm biosecurity practices
If you see anything unusual, call the
Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, QLD