Friday, 13 July 2018

Are bananas going extinct?

You may have read in the news earlier this month that bananas are in danger of going extinct due to a fungal disease. This isn't the first time this has been a worry - in fact, bananas have already gone extinct in the 1960's. This time, the worry is about the Cavendish banana, which is being threatened by the Panama Disease. We eat 5 million of Cavendish bananas in the UK alone! So what is going on, and what's being done to ensure those delicious curved yellow fruits are going to stay?

What is Panama disease?

It is a fungal disease which attacks the roots of a banana plant. It originated in Panama in the 1950s (hence its name), and is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.ssp. cubense. A particular strain, tropical race 4, is regarded as a threat to Cavendish bananas.

Why is it bad?

It has spread quickly through Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and Central America. If it reaches South America, it could face extinction. It cannot be controlled chemically, making it very hard to halt its spread. Cavendish bananas are genetically identical to one another, which allows Panama disease to rapidly decimate entire harvest yields. Cavendish bananas are the most popular banana, so if these are wiped out it would cause massive problems across the world in terms of banana consumption

What are we doing to save the banana?

Should the threat become realised, plant biologists are looking to the rare Madagascan tree, which grows an unpalatable, wild species of banana that is immune to Panama disease. There are only five of these plants in existence. These plant biologists are rushing to create a hybrid of the two species of banana in the hope of creating an infection-resistant strain.

Should we be worried?

It is important to note that there have been worries about this in the past, and the banana is still strong. There are also other types of banana that can be sold and consumed.

Do you think bananas will become extinct? Let us know your thoughts @office_fruit

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