Banana is one of the most popular fruits enjoyed worldwide. However, not everyone is aware that the Cavendish species, which is also the most common in the market, is in imminent danger. According to researchers, the vast worldwide monoculture of genetically identical plants leaves the Cavendish intensely vulnerable to disease outbreaks.
An interesting fact about bananas is that they are the products of a genetic accident in nature that created the seedless fruit we all love today. It may be hard to believe but nearly all the bananas sold across the Western world belong to the so-called Cavendish subgroup of the species and are almost genetically identical.
The peculiar features of the cavendish species is that they are sterile and therefore, solely dependent on cloning through propagation by using suckers and cuttings taken from the underground stem.
However, this might not be for long as plant scientists report that the species are extremely vulnerable to disease outbreaks. Cavendish is most susceptible to a disease called Black Sigatoka.
The causative organism concerned is fungus Pseudocercospora fijiensis which attacks the plants' leaves, causing cell death that negatively impacts photosynthesis, leading to a reduction in fruit production and quality.
If Black Sigatoka is left rampant like this, the production of bananas can decline by as much as 50 percent. Cavendish cultivators currently manage Black Sigatoka by pruning infected leaves and applying fungicides. However, this isn't entirely optimal as there are around 50 or more applications of chemicals needed to control the disease every year.
Such a prominent use of fungicides has negative impacts on the environment and the occupational health of the banana workers, and increases the costs of production. Furthermore, the fungus strains are becoming resistant to the chemical, creating a dilemma for scientists.
Thus, the state of urgency linked to protecting the Cavendish bananas. Researchers are hard at work finding a way to permanently eradicate the Black Sigatoka and other diseases that pose a threat to the existence of the fruits.
Can you even imagine a world without bananas!