Bananas Threatened By Deadly Fungus


August 23, 2019

There is growing concern that America’s most popular fresh fruit could be threatened. A deadly fungus that has been ravaging banana farms in southeast Asia has recently been reported in Latin America. On August 8, the Colombia Agricultural Institute confirmed that a strain of the Fusarium oxysporum fungus (also called Tropical Race 4) had been detected, prompting a state of emergency in which farmers have been instructed to quarantine plantations and destroy trees in areas where the fungus has been found. And, as alarmist as it sounds, extinction is a very real possibility.

As helpfully explained elsewhere, banana trees are especially susceptible to disease. This is because virtually all commercially grown bananas are of the Cavendish variety, and come from trees which are all clones from the same orignal stock. Any serious disease, such as the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) strain of the Panama Disease fungus that is currently wreaking havoc on the trees, has the potential to rapidly spread across the entire population due to the lack of genetic resistance.

The good news is that the industry has seen this coming for a while, and this isn’t, in fact, the first time the banana has faced near extinction and survived. It took billions of dollars of research, development, and infrastructure changes, but the Cavendish variety itself was brought online for wide-scale cultivation only about 50 years ago due to a similar crisis which wiped out its predecessor, the Gros Michel (aka “Big Mike”).

According to 2016 numbers from USDA, the U.S. populations consumes 27.55 pounds of bananas per capita each year, making it by far the most popular fresh fruit: apples com in a distant second at 18.55 pounds per capita; oranges, third place, are consumed at a rate of 9.17 pounds per capita.

(Source: New York Post)


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