By:
23-02-2016

The Future Of Bananas Is Under Threat With A Deadly Fungus

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The world’s most popular and favourite fruit, the banana, is faced with an untreatable disease that’s threatening to wipe out the entire banana crops in Asia. Scientists warn that a new version of the fungus (Tropical Race 4) is also spoiling banana plantations in Australia and South Africa.

The TR4 fungus hasn’t spread to Latin America yet, but if a small particle of diseased soil is brought in to America, it can ruin every banana tree in sight. Another soil-borne fungus known as Panama Disease is also threatening banana plantations worldwide. In fact, this lethal disease has the potential to wipe off every variety of bananas on this planet. This is why scientists at the Puerto Rico Agriculture Research Station are starting their search for a banana that’s immune to Panama and Tropical Race 4 fungus. By analysing an infected banana’s genetics and comparing them with a healthy banana, researchers can find the key to stop the fungus from spreading.

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Panama disease starts destroying the roots of the banana plants and is a type of Fusarium wilt. The fungus pathogen is resistant to pesticides and cannot be killed chemically. Panama disease was first discovered in Queensland, Australia back in 1876. It wiped out the Gros Michael banana variety before spreading to Asia. During the 1950s, a new fungus called Panama disease began threatening the banana production. So what’s been the economic impact of this fungus for the world markets?

The economic impact of Panama disease has been huge. Many types of bananas are exported to different parts of the world. Ecuador is one of the biggest exporters of bananas so if their crops are damaged, it can cost the suppliers millions in losses and cripple economies. In fact, 55 million tonnes of bananas are grown every year, 47 per cent of which are the Cavendish variety. In the UK alone, up to 5 billion bananas are consumed every year.

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