Published: Sat, July 07, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Bananas Could Become Extinct Due To 'Devastating' Disease


Could a tropical disease spell the end of the world's banana crops?

The Panama disease, a type of fungal infection that invades the soil, is now spreading throughout Africa and Asia.

If the outbreak reaches South America, the Cavendish banana - the species most commonly sold and eaten worldwide - could be wiped out.

Some five billion Cavendish bananas are eaten each year in the United Kingdom alone.

This isn't the first time that the Panama disease has threatened the world's banana supply.

It's proven resistant to chemical treatment so far too, so the only way to stop it spreading is to quarantine off the infected fruit from all their mates.

"If we don't [take] this type of role and save the banana, I'm not sure there's any other way to do it".

But hope lies deep in the jungles of Madagascar, where lives a wild banana that may be able to save the species.

The banana grows in Madagascar, where there are reportedly only five mature trees left existing in the wild.

Richard Allen, a senior conservation assessor at the Royal Botanic Gardens, told the BBC that Gros Michel bananas (Ensete perrieri ) may have genetic traits that protect it from the disease.

Allen stated that the climate on the island has played a part in creating a banana that has tolerance to disease and drought.

The Madagascan banana, an inedible fruit with large seeds in the middle of it, is somehow immune to the deadly plant disease.

Experts state that the Madagascar plant is from the island's rich floral heritage.

Because they are genetically identical, it is unlikely edible bananas will develop natural resistance to defeat it. But if the disease spreads before researchers successfully cross-breed the fruit, then the popular Cavendish banana may be hard to find - and eventually, the fruit could disappear altogether.

Panama disease, which originated in the 1950's is a fungal disease that attacks the banana's roots. The disease started in Panama and the spread to Central America. Panama disease can not be chemically controlled and a particular strain is seen as a threat to the Cavendish bananas that grow in tropical far north Queensland.

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