Banana May Rapidly Become Extinct From Fungus: Death of the Seedless Banana

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By Cassius Methyl

Cavendish banana” is the primary species of banana that remains on Earth: a sterile, seedless banana you can commonly find at a grocery store in the United States. At least commercially and in the west it remains prevalent, while the old species of banana remains available in small local crops.

An outbreak of disease continues to devastate crops of the prevalent Cavendish Banana. Some predict the species will become either much more rare or extinct, as it continues to spread in the Americas.

News outlets sport headlines such as “Here’s why bananas could soon be wiped off the face of the planet” from Metro.uk, or “Australia’s west could become last refuge of world’s most popular banana” from Sydney Morning Herald.

The outbreak is particularly devastating the Philippines.

According to the Independent:

“The spread of a banana disease to the American continent could have a “potentially devastating” impact on the global production of the world’s favourite fruit, an expert has warned. 

A fungus, dubbed Tropical Race 4, has already decimated the crop in Southeast Asia over the last decades and is now threatening to wipe out banana crops across the globe. 

The Tropical Race 4 has had a damaging effect for growers in places like the Philippines and awareness about the disease is growing in the Americas, which have not yet been hit, explained Alistair Smith, international co-ordinator for Norwich-based Banana Link, a group which works with growers and farmers around the world.”

“The potential for devastation if it does reach them [American crops] is almost total,” Alistair Smith, international co-ordinator for Norwich-based Banana Link told the BBC.

“I try to avoid dramatising this story but look at what happened previously with the Gros Michel,” said Dr Gert Kema, an expert in global plant production from the Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands.

Did you know that a species of Banana called the Gros Michel used to dominate markets in the US and elsewhere?

It has been said that the Gros Michel is a sweeter banana, and the now prevalent Cavendish is more bland and commercially viable.

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This Gros Michel banana was hit with devastating “Panama Disease” in the mid 20th Century, and now it is not nearly as prevalent. Cavendish became the dominant banana because the Gros Michel was threatened with extinction similarly to the Cavendish in 2016.

This is a Gros Michel Banana, plump and round.

Gros Michel

According to an article from Raw Food Health:

“The Gros Michel banana was probably a staple of your grandfather’s or great grandfather’s diet, but chances are you haven’t had the pleasure of a taste.

I’ve been lucky enough to feast on this almost-lost fruit, and in this article I’ll tell you a bit about it.

Nicknamed Big Mike, the banana was the first to be cultivated on a large scale, and started appearing in North American and European cities in the late 1800s.

Yet the monocrop production of the plant doomed it; Panama disease descended and started devastating the plantations where it was primarily grown, and supplies of Big Mike became disrupted in the 1940s. By 1960 no commercial operations were able to grow Gros Michel in the Americas, Caribbean, and many other parts of the world.

Almost exclusively in Southeast Asia, where it developed, has it remained disease free and productive on a large scale. Parts of rural Africa, islands in the Pacific and Carribean, and small pockets in Florida, California, and central and south America can still grow the fruit in small farm and garden settups, but large-scale export production has mostly stopped.”

If you look at the nature of botany, it seems there’s an inherent danger to having one, uniform species of fruit or plant that we consume like bananas. If you have one predominant species like the Cavendish Banana, one specific new fungus or outbreak of disease could devastate an interconnected global population of the species. The banana appears to be relatively fragile, too.

If you think about it, these species of fruit are some of the greatest gifts humanity has ever known. Bananas, apples, kale, pears, grapefruit, tomatoes, bell peppers, what are these life forms? They are truly an intense thing if you can be at awe at the nature of life; fruit.

Enjoy your fruit, remember to not take the processes of life for granted. It feels good to be in awe at nature and life. Humanity tends to forget about critical unspoken structures of nature that support our life.

Image credit: Wikipedia, Bananas.org – modified by Natural Blaze

This article (Banana May Rapidly Become Extinct From Fungus: Death of the Seedless Banana) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Era of Wisdom.org.

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