Preventing and Managing Fusarium
Courtesy of David Gardella: www.rainforestvanilla.org
Vanilla is a magnificent tropical crop, but it comes with challenges. Most vanilla producers fall in love with vanilla as she draws everyone under her spell. Vanilla requires no special fertilizers or pesticides. It thrives on a simple mulch of leaves, twigs, coconut husks, etc. While it does have problems with insects in its native habitats, these problems are generally not severe, especially if the vines are getting the right balance of sun and shade and protection from wind and heavy downpours. It does require adequate water and a dry spell during pollination. Otherwise, it is a very pleasant crop to grow.
There is only one significant disease in vanilla; root rot disease caused by the pathogen Fusarium oxysporum. All other diseases are insignificant in importance or merely minor pests with little economic affect on yield. Fusarium is “the scourge” of vanilla. It can and does completely destroy vanilla plantations in a matter of weeks-to-months. When it appears in your plantation there is nothing you can do to stop it. Plant another crop or… take the following recommendations to heart and start all over again but this time manage your plantation correctly.
Fusarium isn’t actually the culprit in this drama. Fusarium is just an opportunistic fungus that arrives after the damage has already been done. The theory of vanilla root rot disease goes like this: