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Lethal Fungus Killing Banana Crops Might Be Spreading from Asia • Mirror Daily

(Mirror Daily, United States) – It’s not yet time to panic, but a lethal fungus killing banana crops might be spreading from Asia to the rest of the world, prompting some scientists to raise a red flag over the popular fruit’s extinction.

According to co-author the study Gert Kema, a banana expert at Wageningen University and Research Center, the origin of the fungus Tropical Race 4 is most likely Indonesia, which enabled it to spread quickly into Taiwan and then China – and before we know it, the rest of Southeast Asia’s banana crops will be plagued.

The banana is universally recognized as one of the most popular fruits, but it might go extinct –again. Back in the 1960s, the fruit was reintroduced as replacement for another variety that was almost wiped out by a fungus. Researchers claim that if this rampaging plant-killer cannot be stopped, the fruit staple will be threatened worldwide.

There’s a reason why commercial bananas – the ones present in every home – are so vulnerable to diseases. Given that they are basically identical clones due to their inexistent sexual reproduction, bananas hadn’t got the chance to evolve resistance.

Published in the PLOS Pathogens, the study said that protecting the banana production must start with exclusion, which requires accurate diagnosis. Regular visual inspection is no longer enough, as researchers are more worried now about the important aspects of its epidemiology and genetic diversity.

This fungus problem isn’t exactly news, but the researchers are now worried they can’t contain the infection. Kema explained the information provided around the globe and the quarantine measures are apparently not enough, and this study is proof of that.

In some parts of the world, the Cavendish banana populations have been plagued with the fungus since 2013, leaving banana growers dealing with major outbreaks that destroy entire crops in Australia and Southeast Asia.

Banana populations are grown in monoculture, which means that nothing else is being grown in the same field at the same time. According to author Dan Koeppel who wrote “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World,” monoculture is at least as harmful as the TP4, because it deprived the fruit of its once robust taste.

When the first reports about the banana’s collapse started circulating in 2003, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) declared bananas are fine – we’ll have to see whether or not this means researchers are looking for the next Cavendish or creating a hybrid.
Image Source: Flickr

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