The Most Common Banana Variety Is Under Threat

Ngebray.com,- Easy to carry, sweet, and very tasty. The banana is one of the world’s most popular fruits. In the US market, there are more bananas than apples and oranges combined. But today, the most common variety of the banana, the Cavendish, is under threat. Yes, that’s probably the one you usually put in your fruit bowl.

A fungus known as Fusarium Wilt, started out affecting plantations in Asia and Australia, and has made its way to the Middle East and Africa. If the disease reaches Central and Latin America, where the majority of exported bananas come from, it could be game over for the Cavendish and for a number of local varieties that are also affected.

Picture from phys.org

Why can’t we just stop the fungus? The problem is unlike many other fruits, banana don’t have seeds. So most sweet bananas consumed around the world are clones that originate from just two varieties, and both show little resistance to the disease. It’s not the first time the banana is being threatened by a disease. The Cavendish became popular after an earlier strain of the fungus attacked its predecessor, the Gros Michel, in the 1950s. The Cavendish was smaller than the Gros Michel, but resistant to the disease.

So what happens if the Cavendish is wiped out? This time around, there is no clear replacement. Scientists around the world are searching for alternatives. In Honduras, scientists are trying to cross-breed two varieties to come up with a new breed that’s more resistant to this disease. And in Australia, work is underway on a genetically-modified super-resistant Cavendish, although consumers in markets like Europe and Japan are wary of genetically-modified products.

Still, some scientists say that genetically-modifying the Cavendish is the only way to keep these bananas available for everyone. You may not have noticed yet, but the battle to keep bananas in your fruit bowl has just begun.