Published: Sat, July 07, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

A Tropical Disease Could Put Bananas On The Brink Of Extinction

A Tropical Disease Could Put Bananas On The Brink Of Extinction

Cavendish bananas, the breed that's widely consumed in North America and Europe and produced in South America, are at an increased risk of the disease because genetically the plants are clones, which means the disease can spread rapidly from one plant to another.

Banana crisis as tropical disease threatens to wipe out crops. In the United Kingdom, over five billion Cavendish bananas each other.

Panama disease is a fungus (yep, that'll put you off your lunch) that affects the root of the Cavendish banana - the most common type in the world, with about five billion eaten every year in the United Kingdom alone.

Known as Panama disease, or Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense, the fungal infection has already spread throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and Central America.

It's proven resistant to chemical treatment so far too, so the only way to stop it spreading is to quarantine off the infected fruit from all their mates.

Halting exports bananas from affected countries could be one way to help curb the spread of disease.

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Scientists have found that a rare species of banana in an isolated island in Madagascar is immune to Panama disease.

Richard Allen, a scientist at Kew's Royal Botanic Gardens, said: "It doesn't have Panama disease in it, so perhaps it has genetic traits against the disease".

'We don't know until we actually do research on the banana itself, but we can't do the research until it's saved'.

Allen stated that the climate on the island has played a part in creating a banana that has tolerance to disease and drought. The Madagascar banana is different from the Cavendish bananas because it grows seeds and is distasteful, but if both strains are combined, it could create a hybrid that edible and durable.

Last time the disease reared its fungally head was back in the 1950s, when it successfully killed off the Gros Michel species of the fruit.

Porter continued that they are proud of the banana's heritage and still grow the Madagascar plant in the greenhouse so that any development could ensure the future of the Cavendish bananas. Panama disease can not be chemically controlled and a particular strain is seen as a threat to the Cavendish bananas that grow in tropical far north Queensland.

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