Yes, We’ll Have No Bananas

Cavendish Bananas
Cavendish Bananas

America’s favorite fruit may soon be extinct.

According to the NewsDaily, on April 14, 2014, “The United Nations warned on Monday of the potential ‘massive destruction’ of the world’s $5.0-billion (3.6-billion euro) a year banana crop as a plant disease spreads from Asia to Africa and the Middle East.”

Part of the problem is that Americans eat only one variety of bananas, called the Cavendish, and it amounts to 47% of the world banana crop. The Cavendish variety is subject to being killed off by a mutated fungus called the TR4 variety of Panama disease.

Panama disease struck earlier, in the 1950s, and wiped out popular banana varieties then. But it was a different strain of the disease, and Cavendish was immune. This time, the TR4 mutant strain of the fungus disease is destroying Cavendish crops.

“There is no cure for TR4, which particularly affects the Cavendish variety that accounts for 47 percent of world banana production — by far the biggest,” according to the article.

So far, the fungus is limited to Southeast Asia and has not reached South America where most Cavendish bananas are grown; but Gert Kema, director of the banana research programme at Wageningen University in the Netherlands said, “It’s not a question of whether it will arrive but when. There’s no prevention.”

The disease is soil borne and can remain alive in the soil for decades, so quarantines are in place where it already exists, with methodologies including foot washing when leaving an infected field. But there is no known cure, once a tree is infected.

Eat your bananas while you can.

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