Bananas, one of the most beloved tropical fruits out there, may seem bountiful, but according to some scientists, the yellow fruit is in danger of going extinct. According to a recent study by Dutch researchers, bananas are at serious risk from Panama disease, a fungicide-resistant pathogen that has crossed continents and spread to South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia.
Scientists believe that a cross-ocean leap of the deadly contaminant to South America could be imminent. If the disease does make its way to South America, where 82 percent of the world’s Cavendish banana crop is grown (the most popular variety of the fruit), it could spell trouble.The last time this disease cropped up in the late nineteenth century in Australia, it wiped out our former favorite banana variety, the Gros Michel, by the mid-twentieth century.
The remedy back then was the Cavendish banana variety: The sunshine-yellow, extra-large bananas saved the day, and were identified as more resistant than the Gros Michel. But now the Panama fungus is back and the new strain is stronger than before.
"Developing new banana cultivars requires major investments in research and development and the recognition of the banana as a global staple and cash crop (rather than an orphan crop) that supports the livelihoods of millions of small-holder farmers," researchers concluded.