Devastating Disease Could Make Bananas Go Extinct

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Bananas could go extinct, say health experts. It’s all because of a deadly tropical disease that keeps on spreading to crops all over the world. The disease is called the Panama disease, and it has spread to Africa, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Central America.

If the disease reaches South America, the Cavendish banana – which is the banana consumed worldwide, could become extinct.

Unfortunately, the fungus that attacks the roots of the banana has proven to be resistant to chemical treatments, and it can only be stopped by quarantining the land affected by it. The disease originated in the 1950’s. It is called the Panama disease because it started in Panama and it then spread to Central America.

The Madagascan Tree Could Be a Solution

Cavendish bananas are similar to the other bananas, so the disease can easily spread to harvest fields. Researchers believe that there could be a way to save bananas after all, by using the Madagascan tree.

The Madagascan tree has wild species of bananas, and they are immune to the disease. Researchers hope to create a hybrid of the species to create one resistant to the infection.

Scientists know only of five Madagascan trees. According to Richard Allen, who is the senior conservation assessor at the Royal Botanic Gardens, the species is rare and has some characteristics that make the tree more durable than the plantable bananas. Part of why they’re durable is the climate on the island. The Madagascar banana has a bad taste, and it grows seeds. However, scientists could combine the strains from the Madagascar banana and the Cavendish bananas to get a hybrid that tastes good and resists diseases.

Steve Porter is the head gardener at Chatsworth, hopes that “the work being done by scientists around the world to find a cure for the disease threatening the Cavendish banana will be successful.”

He added that in the greenhouse, they grow a Madagascar plant to ensure the future of the Cavendish bananas.

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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