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Author Damien Wilde
Posted On 25th January 2016


The banana is one of the most popular and most-exported fruits in the world. However, despite it being a favourite everywhere from Britain to Japan, there is a real threat that the banana as we know it may be facing extinction.

In the 1950s, Panama disease (also known as banana wilt) eradicated the majority of the world’s stock of Gros Michel bananas. At the time, that variety was the world’s go-to banana of choice.

As a result, the majority of commercial growers switched to the Cavendish banana. A slightly smaller a less tasty variety, but one that was incredibly resilient and could withstand global travel and, importantly, could grow in Panama disease-infected soils.

Statistics indicate that just under half of all bananas grown in the world are Cavendish.

However, a recent study reveals that Panama disease is on the verge of making a comeback. Over the decades, the fungus has evolved. It now appears to be capable of wiping out the Cavendish – just as it did the Gros Michel all those years ago.

According to one website, 10,000 hectares of Cavendish fields have already fallen to the fungus.

The fungus is resistant to the vast majority of commercial fungicides and attacks the root system of the banana plant, dehydrating it. Worryingly, it can lay dormant in the soil for around thirty years.

“I try to avoid dramatising this story but look at what happened previously with the Gros Michel,” said Dr Gert Kema, an expert in plant production from the Netherlands’ Wageningen University

“This is going to take some time [to solve], but that time is extremely pressing; we have nothing to replace the Cavendish right now.

Will a new variety emerge to save the world from bananageddon?